The Toronto Blue Jays came into 2017 with expectations of making the postseason for the third year in a row. However, dreams of getting over the ALCS hum have diminished. With a 2-10 start to their season, the Blue Jays are off to a terrible start to their season.
After back-to-back ALCS appearances, Toronto had a forgetful winter. They lost their All-Star slugger when Edwin Encarnacion left for Cleveland as a free agent. Also, their other offseason goals didn’t come to fruition; they couldn’t get any younger or make critical free-agent signings to help their veteran lineup.
Nonetheless, they were still a team that could contend for a Wild Card spot; with an outside chance at winning the AL East. Now, with one win in their first ten games, the organization appears to be at a crossroads. But how did they get this bad?
Well, let’s take a look and find out why Toronto finds itself in this predicament.
The offensive struggles
Although the offense took a loss with Encarnacion leaving, the front office decided to replace him with Kendrys Morales. In nine games this season, the 33-year-old has a batting average of .235 with one home run and six RBIs. Not bad numbers in some ways, as Morales has never really hit for average, but Toronto should expect more in the power department.
Another veteran who has struggled is Jose Bautista. After a terrible 2016 season, the 36-year-old re-signed with Toronto in hopes of a bounce-back season. Those dreams haven’t gone as planned, with a batting average of .152, zero home runs, and six RBIs. Bautista has become a shell of his former self. Here are some visuals of his AVG, wRC+, and SLG that show the decline.
If Bautista is having a rough start to the season, then Russell Martin has fallen off a cliff. In eight games, the 34-year-old holds a batting average of .042 (yes, you read that right). Also, to go along with that awful average, this is how bad it looks for Martin — terrible once again. Furthermore, he has zero home runs, zero RBIs, and a -0.2 WAR; yeah, not pretty whatsoever and he has two more years on his $82 million contract.
The veteran woes don’t stop there. Troy Tulowitzki also joins the struggling list of bats. Through nine games, he possesses a batting average of .212 with one home run and nine RBIs. Compared to his previous two teammates, it’s not bad. However, more is expected of the former All-Star in his second full season in Toronto. He has dazzled the fans with the glove but remains inconsistent with the bat. Since arriving in Toronto before the trade deadline in 2015, Tulowitzki has struggled at the plate. Here’s how he has fared at the plate in his near two seasons up north.
The injuries are mounting
Any team that loses a former MVP, the American League ERA leader, and a 20-game winner will feel the loss. Josh Donaldson exited from Saturday’s game versus Baltimore with a calf injury. That’s the same calf that bothered him during spring training, and with the offense struggling this is a massive blow to Toronto’s lineup. In nine games, Donaldson has posted a batting average of .310 along with two home runs and five RBIs.
Aaron Sanchez has struggled a bit, posting a 4.38 ERA 12.1 innings pitched this season. Nonetheless, he remains the best pitcher on the staff with a WHIP of 1.22 in those innings, but before he can regain his form from last season, the 24-year-old will spend some time on the 10-day disabled list due to blisters on his pitching hand. Losing their young ace is another blow. For a team that cannot outslug their opponents, they will have to rely on pitching and opportunistic chances for runs.
If the loss of their ace didn’t hurt, the loss of a 20-game winner to go with him will. J.A. Happ left Sunday’s debacle with soreness in his left elbow. With an ERA of 5.40, a WHIP of 1.20, and a 0-3 record, Happ has had his share of struggles so far.
If Toronto hopes to get out of this hole they have dug for themselves, they’ll have to remain healthy. Along with their bats waking up, the health of their important contributors will factor into whether they can make a turnaround.
No team wins a division title in April, but they can lose it. Sitting 6.5 games back of the Baltimore Orioles, Toronto’s 2017 season is sinking fast. Injuries to vital pitchers like Sanchez and Happ are turning a molehill into a mountain. The offense needs to get going, and Toronto cannot afford to lose any more starters if the hope to get themselves out of this situation.
Toronto did overcome a ten-game deficit in 2015 and caught the division-leading New York Yankees. With most of the players from that year still on the team, it’s not out of the question that they can duplicate that performance. However, they need to start giving their fans a reason to believe they can get their act together.
On Saturday, Morales hit a walk-off homer to end their losing skid. Nonetheless, they followed that victory with a stinker, losing 11-4 to close out the series with Baltimore. The walkoff win could have sparked Toronto’s resurgence and boost the morale of the fan base, but Sunday’s loss took the wind right back out of their sails.
Toronto sits at a crossroads right now. A good portion of their prospects aren’t ready for the show, so no youth will get injected into this team. Also, it’s too early to make a trade; no one will make a major move less than a month into the season. Furthermore, Toronto lacks the prospects to make a move of consequence. If their veteran group cannot get it together, expect a rebuild to occur and veterans to be shown the door.