Looking ahead…

I think it’s fair to say that 2013 season has been a disappointment for the Toronto Blue Jays.

And I’ll admit, coming into this season I was more excited than I think I’ve ever been for a season. I knew it was going to be tough but I was loving the thought of being in a dogfight down the stretch. Yet here we are, watching September baseball like we always do: looking towards next year.

Perhaps I have some mental problem. Maybe being a Toronto sports fan has conditioned me to think this way, but I don’t think the Jays are in much trouble next year.

Sure, payroll’s a concern. Some guys are getting raises and there’s already a substantial amount committed to next year’s squad. But to me, the difference between this offseason and others is that it’s now just a matter of filling in the roster. 

The Jays boast more than their fair share of elite players. Bautista, Encarnacion and Reyes make up a fine top tier. Rasmus and Lawrie are not far behind. In fact, I’d say Rasmus belongs in the same group. His 4.1 WAR, per Fangraphs, puts him 12th in all of baseball for outfielders. 

Lawrie could certainly be in that group too, if you consider his second half to be close to his true talent level.

So that’s a core of five players you can be pretty confident about. Throw in guys like Cabrera, Lind and even Izturis, and you’re starting to see solid role players and guys with potential.

Really, and this is little surprise, the Jays need to find a catcher and second baseman.

The key, though, is they don’t have to find a top level player at either position. Finding legitimate starters or a good platoon situation at those positions are all you really need to make this one of the best lineups in baseball.  It’s certainly much easier to find those complementary pieces than it is to find all stars. AA has his all stars. He has everything he needs in terms of top rate talent.

The pitching is a slightly different story, but it’s not – in my mind – as dire as many think. Yes, it’s been bad this year. Only nine pitching staffs have collected fewer WAR this year than the Jays. Strangely, one of those teams is the Orioles, showing you don’t need to have great pitching to have a good team.

However, there are few teams, if any, that will be getting the reinforcements the Jays will get this offseason without having to acquire anyone. Nolin, Stroman, Hutchison, Drabek, and Morrow will all be 100 per cent healthy and ready to go next year. And honestly, I could be content with a rotation made up of those four plus Dickey and Buehrle. That’s seven guys who could hold down a starting job in a good major league team.

Plus, guys like Rogers and Redmond have show they’re capable fill-ins. Throw in JA Happ and you have some decent depth.

Now that doesn’t mean the Jays should sit idle on the pitching front. I’d be rather disappointed if he doesn’t acquire a single pitcher. However, to me it doesn’t have to be as drastic as many think.  Depending on what Josh Johnson is asking for, if the Jays resigned him and and some mid-range, 3/4 type, I’d be more than happy. 

This offseason is all about tweaking. It’s about finding the right mix. No major overhauls. No trading of core pieces.

Just tweaking.

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