After one of the most exciting seasons in the last 22 years, the Toronto Blue Jays head into 2016 hoping to bring a championship back to Toronto. Even though their GM Alex Anthopoulos has departed, he built a team that could win for a long time and left a strong core that will be back again in 2016. Here are the 5 reasons why the Blue Jays will be back in the playoffs again in 2016.
- Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, still have one year left, due to team options. After the 2010 season, Jose Bautista signed a friendly 5-year, $65 million, which, given his production, is a discount. Edwin Encarnacion signed a 3-year, $27 million deal at the end of the 2012 season, which keeps him around for next season. Combined they are the core of the Blue Jays’ potent offense, batting third and fourth, respectively, with 225 RBIs and 79 HRs. They are extremely important to the Blue Jays, and having them back is a huge lift to the team. Their presence in the middle of the lineup will allow Toronto to have the same powerful offense, which led the league in runs (+127 over the Yankees) this season.
- A full season of Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis. Acquiring Troy Tulowitzki, five-time All Star and two-time Gold Glove shortstop at the trade deadline, provided a huge boost for the Blue Jays during their unbelievable second half. Although Tulowitzki, was not himself at the plate, he came up with huge hits and quietly had the record for most RBI’s in a postseason. He also played stellar defense, and saved runs for his pitching staff. Tulowitzki is a perennial All Star and his bat and glove will really improve the Blue Jays offensively and defensively. He has a career .297 batting average with 193 home runs and almost 700 RBIs. Adding that to an offense, which includes Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, and Edwin Encarnacion, is almost otherworldly and a huge asset to the Blue Jays. Devon Travis was acquired last offseason to battle Ryan Goins for the second base job. After turning heads all spring training and winning the job, Travis had an unbelievable month of April and brought hope to Blue Jays fans everywhere that they have finally found a second baseman who can stick. Injuries plagued his season and he could only manage 217 at bats, but hit .304 with eight home runs and 18 doubles while playing solid defense. This sample size, although small, gives hope that he would give the Jays more production from the second base position in the lineup than Ryan Goins. A full season of Devon Travis, hitting after the big boppers, near the bottom of the lineup would make the lineup exponentially more dangerous and productive.
- Full season of Marcus Stroman: When Marcus Stroman went down in Spring Training, Blue Jays fans grimaced and thought it to be the end of their season as Stroman dominated in his rookie year and was destined to be the Opening Day starter as well as the ace of the pitching staff. His remarkable return to the majors, and pitching in the biggest games of his team’s season, Stroman looked nothing short of spectacular. His flair on the mound stole fans’ hearts again and he propelled his team into the playoffs. He pitched two elimination games, including the Game 5 spectacle that took place at the Rogers Centre. He went 4-0 in the regular season after his return, with a 1.67 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. He showed poise, confidence and great stuff coming back from injury and should be penciled in as the Opening Day starter next season, if David Price does not return. A full season of Marcus Stroman will be a massive lift to an already championship caliber team.
- Roberto Osuna as the closer: During the first half of the season, the Blue Jays experimented with Brett Cecil as closer and that didn’t pan out. They then made rookie Miguel Castro as their closer and that didn’t work either. The entire first half of the season was full of blown saves and missed opportunities for wins. Roberto Osuna then took the reigns of the closer role in the middle of the first half of the season and he ran with it. He saved 20 games out of 23 opportunities and was dominant. When he entered the ninth inning, the game was pretty much over and it gave fans the sense of calm that was not attainable at the beginning of the season. A full year of him being the ninth inning guy will guarantee the Blue Jays more wins and less winnable games getting out of their hands. ‘Osuna Matata’: it means no worries.
- Josh Donaldson is back: After his MVP caliber season, Josh Donaldson will return to the Blue Jays and anchor the offense. There isn’t much more you could say about the surefire MVP, except for the fact that he will have similar numbers as the 2015 season if not more. With Ben Revere and Troy Tulowitzki leading off the game, Donaldson would have more opportunities to drive runners in and pad his stats. With Bautista lurking in the on-deck circle and Edwin in the hole, Donaldson will receive more hittable pitches and should have another great season. His great defense at third base, along with Tulowitzki, really makes the left side of the infield invincible and will save a ton of runs.
Honorable Mentions: They have one of the best middle-of-the-field defenses witnessed in a long time with Russell Martin, Troy Tulowitzki, Kevin Pillar and Ryan Goins/Devon Travis. This makes them an even tougher team to beat. Kevin Pillar’s highlight reel plays and Gold Glove-caliber defense improved the team substantially, while also putting up reasonable enough offensive numbers to play center field everyday. His defense calms the pitchers and ignites the crowd which goes crazy over every diving catch. His addition in center field everyday strengthens the already strong Toronto Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays are built to win for a long time, as Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin are locked up for four years or more, allowing them to keep the same core for a number of years. The time to win is now in Toronto, and there is real belief in this team. They’re a starting pitcher and a reliever away from being World Series favorites. And who can doubt baseball’s best offense?