I remember that night quite well. It was a Monday. I know that because I was sitting in Port Colborne council chambers waiting to cover what was sure to be another enthralling city council meeting.
What I don’t remember, is what the hell any councillor, the mayor or staff member said the entire evening. That’s because just as the meeting was about to start, Twitter exploded with news of some blockbuster trade between the Jays and the Marlins. Buehrle, Johnson, Bonifacio, Buck and Reyes. They were now all of a sudden members of the Toronto Blue Jays.
The front office paid a steep price, trading away a number of promising young players. But. Holy. Shit.
I spent the rest of the evening and ensuing months as excited as ever about the upcoming season.
Yada, yada, yada, another season down the drains. And despite the fact you can still take a fairly strong positive out of this season – young pitching looks good, Bautista and Encarnacion remain among the best hitters in baseball – the glee of The Mathis Trade has long since vanished.
But let’s play a quick game of What If. Namely: what if Josh Johnson and Emilio Bonifacio produced anywhere close to what was reasonably expected.
Well, if that happened, and if the Jays were able to resign Johnson (big if) you’d have a great team. Johnson was coming three of four healthy seasons, ranging from very good to downright dominant. Bonifacio, though lacking any power, had exhibited enough of an ability to get on base to make his formidable speed useful.
So, just considering those two being somewhat close to what they had been, you’re looking at quite the different 2014, eh? Suddenly you have one of Happ or Hutchison (or possibly Stroman) in the bullpen, improving both the rotation and the bullpen. And you have a legitimate second baseman.
To be honest, I’m not sure why I wrote this. Perhaps I enjoy the misery. But, I think perhaps it’s because I’m trying to make the point that this team is very close to being a contender.
It’s not time to blow this team up, as many seem to want. As constructed, you shouldn’t expect much difference in the lineup next year. Bautista and Encarnacion will be another year older, true, but it doesn’t appear either is on the verge of a sharp decline. Reyes could be a worry. But I think if they’re able to add some legitimate infield depth and give Reyes some more days off then he could return to the .350-plus wOBA player he has been.
Assuming they resign Melky, then, there’s little to suggest they’ll get less next year than they did this year. And with any luck, Brett Lawrie can stay on the field and be productive, Adam Lind’s power returns, Dioner Navarro stays healthy and whoever they bring in is better than the black holes at second and centre field.
In the rotation, Mark Buehrle could finally let age and no velocity get the better of him. But other than that, I think you can expect the same or better from the rest of the crew. The excitement of Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris, and potentially a few others that are currently in A and AA, only adds to that. And the bullpen is one of those things that can turn around quickly.
If Johnson and Bonifacio panned out then I’m certain we’d still be in this year’s World Series hunt. However, all it’ll take is a Johnson- or Bonifacio-like acquisition to make 2015 a promising season.