In 2015, the Blue Jays dominated the trade deadline, acquiring big names like David Price and Troy Tulowitzki en route to making the ALCS that year and the year after that. However, as what happens to most teams that go “all-in” for short-term success, the team slowed down with back to back seasons without making the playoffs. It was clear this season that the team was heading for a rebuild, and on Sunday, they took a big step forward in it, trading fan favorite Marcus Stroman to the Mets. This may be a sad moment for Blue Jay fans to see such a key player go, but fear not, this is simply the beginning of a new era of Toronto Blue Jays baseball, and the future is as bright as it gets.
Without a doubt, the face of this new era is the team’s young infield. We’ve already discussed to a great extent the upside and polish of third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who has Hall of Fame potential written all over him. The 20-year-old is the face of this rebuild, and with a 120 wrc+ in the second half, he’s clearly adjusted to the major league level. Then, comes the 24-year-old Cavan Biggio, who has shown his elite plate discipline with a 17.2% walk rate in 209 plate appearances, and was an elite producer at the minor league level. His 94 wrc+ is a little low right now, but his .269 BABIP is a little low, especially when considering his 45.9% hard contact rate. The X-Factor of this new era will be Bo Bichette, the third son of a former successful major leaguer. The 21-year-old shortstop is a consensus top ten prospect, and although he’s been a good, not great offensive producer at the minor leaguer, his offensive potential is off the charts. Heck, the team even has minor league depth with prospects Jordan Groshans (166 wrc+, 13.5% walk rate), Orelvis Martinez, and Miguel Heraldo; they’ll almost certainly have the most talented group of infielders three to five years from now.
Though the Stroman trade brought back a small return than expected, it added to a recent theme of this rebuild, which has been to bring in more pitching prospects. The two pitchers acquired in the deal, Anthony Kay (24-years-old) and Simeon Woods-Richardson (18-years-old) could both find their place in Toronto’s rotation eventually. Kay’s development was staggered a bit after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he still could settle in as a middle of the rotation starting pitcher eventually. Meanwhile, Woods- Richardson has an incredible ceiling with high strikeout numbers and lively pitching arsenal, and he could rise quickly and become one of the game’s better pitching prospects if he continues to have success. Furthermore, the team drafted Alek Manoah in the first round of this year’s draft. He has front-line starting pitcher potential and has Gerrit Cole/ace potential, which adds to their impressive collection of high-end pitching prospects. We haven’t even gotten to the best part yet; Toronto has an absolutely elite pitching prospect in “Nasty” Nate Pearson. The 22-year-old possesses a 100+ MPH fastball and a wipeout breaking ball, and even better, has solid command. After dominating with an 11.67 K-BB ratio in High-A, he’s regressed but still remained dominant with a 2.56 FIP and 4.09 K-BB ratio in Double-A. He’s clearly heading towards an ace trajectory in a hurry and could quickly become one of the top pitchers in baseball. Add in 18-year-old pitching prospects Eric Pardinho, Adam Kloffenstein, Kendall Williams, and it’s clear that the future pitching staff is in good hands.
It’s clear that Toronto has the talent necessary to be a force in the future, but do they have a quality front office that will take advantage of this opportunity. At the charge of this is president of baseball operations Ross Atkins, who makes the decisions with the assistance of president Mark Shapiro. This regime hasn’t made any splashy moves, and actually failed to capitalize and trade some of their core players at the right time, such as Josh Donaldson. However, they drafted Bichette, Pearson, Groshans, and Manoah, signed high performing utility player Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and struck gold on contracts to starting pitcher JA Happ, who they traded to the Yankees last year, and first baseman Justin Smoak. They’ve built this core, so there’s no reason to think they aren’t capable of helping take it to the next level. Plus, they are still some trade chips on this roster in the way of closing pitcher Ken Giles, Smoak, shortstop Freddy Galvis, and reliever Daniel Hudson; more young talent is on the way, and at this point, it’d be crazy not to assume that this team will eventually take over as the kings of the American League East, and possibly as the kings of the entire American League.
With Stroman gone, and Bichette promoted to the big-league level, we’ve officially reached a new era of Toronto Blue Jays baseball. With the young offensive talent getting established at the big league level and high-end pitchers soon to follow, this team has the makings of a future powerhouse. Toronto fans may be suffering from the loss of Stroman, but don’t worry, the Raptors’ recent NBA Finals title won’t be the only championship won by a Toronto sports team; the Blue Jays are on their way to winning the 2021 or 2022 World Series.