The Toronto Blue Jays of 2016 will not be the same team of last season, they were a hair away from looking at their first World Series since 1993.
They lost a few parts of their October Postseason powerhouse status in David Price (signed to a 7 yr./$217 million contract with the Boston Red Sox), Alex Anthopoulos (hired as Vice-President of Baseball Operations by the L.A. Dodgers), Paul Beeston (retirement), Mark Buehrle (retirement), LaTroy Hawkins (retirement), Dioner Navarro (signed 1 yr./$4 million with the Chicago White Sox), and Munenori Kawasaki (signed a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs).
We saw a couple notable Jays leave last season through trades including Jose Reyes (trade with the Colorado Rockies), and Ben Revere (traded to the Washington Nationals).
Still, the Jays regained their core lineup from last season, both on the field and in the bullpen, and look to make another run back into the postseason.
Their infield still consists of Josh Donaldson (2015 AL MVP) at 3rd, Troy Tulowitzki at SS, Chris Colabello to take over more of a role at 1st, Edwin Encarnacion to play mostly DH this year, and Russell Martin at C. The only off position is 2nd, but it will be mostly thrown to Ryan Goins, with Darwin Barney second on the depth chart, and Devon Travis third (due to shoulder surgery after last season, and due back in May).
The outfield is mostly set with Jose Batista in RF, Kevin Pillar in CF, and Michael Saunders as the projected LF starter, with most likely Ezequiel Carrera getting the fourth outfielder slot.
The starting rotation has been a huge question all season about who will get that fifth role with starters R.A. Dickey, Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada and the recently re-acquired J.A. Happ filling the first four. The race has been tight with the final slot looking to be given to either Aaron Sanchez, Gavin Floyd, Drew Hutchison or Roberto Hernandez. Hernandez, I see being the odd man out of the 4, and believe Gavin Floyd will be thrown to the minors to start out the year. The way Aaron Sanchez played down the stretch coming out of the bullpen, believe that’s the role he would be best suited for again this year, and would give the nod to the fifth and final starter, Drew Hutchinson.
The bullpen entails newly acquired Drew Storen (trade deal involving Ben Revere with the Washington Nationals, proven closer) and Roberto Osuna battling it out for the closer role this season. Roberto Osuna played very well as the Jays closer in the regular season, and playoffs, despite last season being his first in the bigs. Drew Storen has now been around for awhile now, but knowing Osuna, he’ll have to prove he’s good enough to pry the role away from the youngster. The rest of the bullpen consists of newbies and now seasoned veterans that have had a taste of the postseason, and know what it takes to succeed at the highest level.
With the departure of Beeston and Anthopoulos, comes two new names and faces. Mark Shapiro looks to replace the legendary P.B., while Ross Atkins looks to fill a very big hole left by A.A. with his successful time left with the Blue Jays organization, helping build a team that saw their first postseason in way too long.
Injuries are part of any season, and even though the Jays lost a lot of their pivotal minor leaguers last season, they still have a bunch of talent that at a simple call, could come up, fill whatever role needed, and look to supersede the critics.
Spring training is looking bright for the Jays, and only time will tell what John Gibbons is looking for in comparison to last year. Pete Walker with have his hands full with the pitching staff again this year.
All in all though, the Jays have but one thing on their minds, one successful season that leads to two things, first, the postseason and hopefully another division title. Second, to prove that they are contenders in the East to beat and that much closer to a full season towards that World Series title.