Toronto Blue Jays

Blue Jays Trade Deadline 2018 Gradebook

Source: ABC

Source: ABC

Well it's no secret that the 2018 version of the Toronto Blue Jays has been nothing short of disappointing. With a record of 51-59 heading into Sunday's action against the Mariners, the Jays dipped into the "sellers" market for the first time in a few years. In this article, I'm going to hand out a grade for every Blue Jays trade made thus far, plus give my predictions for potential August trade candidates and provide an overall thought on the Jays and the 2018 deadline.

Without further ado, let's get started.

Trade Gradebook

Roberto Osuna

Source: NBC News

Source: NBC News

Trade:

To Houston: Roberto Osuna

To Toronto: Ken Giles, Hector Perez, David Paulino

In one of the more stunning and most controversial trades across the MLB during this deadline, young Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna was shipped off to Houston for Ken Giles and a couple of solid pitching prospects.

I am honestly shocked that this trade happened. I'm not shocked that the Blue Jays were willing to trade him, I am shocked at the fact that there was another team willing to trade for him, in particular the Houston Astros. The Astros recently have had to deal with their own domestic violence issues with one of their minor league players, which can be read about here. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow claims that the organization has a "zero tolerance policy" on domestic violence issues, but because the issue occured prior to the Astros acquiring him, this issue does not fall under the same scrutiny.

I purposefully waited a few days post non-waiver deadline to publish this article for the sole fact of gauging fan and media reaction on this trade. The Astros have been crucified for making this trade and having poor reasoning as to why they made the deal. Jeff Luhnow and the Astros deserve all the criticism coming their way, especially for an organization that just dealt with this issue recently internally. They clearly prioritize winning over ethics, and all it takes is one team in this league to make a deal. The Blue Jays jumped all over the opportunity, and got a great return for a "problem pitcher". Kudos to Shapiro and Atkins for valuing ethics over assets.

I've seen some Blue Jays fans upset that the front office traded away a player like Osuna, with years of control remaining and stellar numbers on his resume. If you're going to be mad as a fan, that's okay. Just don't direct your anger at the front office, direct it to Osuna. He put himself and his club in this position, and there's nobody else to blame but Roberto himself. Do you think the Jays would trade a 23 year old with a 2.87 lifetime ERA if he wasn't a problem? Of course they wouldn't. Instead, they turned their problem into a struggling yet young former closer, and two top tier pitching prosects that have good potential, with Perez becoming the 11th ranked Jays prospect and Paulino becoming the 20th ranked prospect. Great for them to give away their massive problem to another organization, and great for them to receive a package of any value back for him.

Grade: A+

J.A. Happ

Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

Trade:

To New York: J.A. Happ

To Toronto: Brandon Drury, Billy McKinney

Jays fans and media alike were going into this trade deadline saying that J.A. Happ was our most valuable piece that was likely to be traded before July 31st. While he did struggle over his last couple of starts as a Blue Jay, he did put together a solid campaign that saw him make his first ever All-Star appearance. The original ask of a top-3 prospect from the Blue Jays was never realistic, but I stated on the last South of the 6ix podcast that I believed J.A. Happ could fetch a top 5-7 prospect, top 20-30 prospect and a long shot, hoping that one of the prospects coming back was a pitcher. My reasoning for the return was simple: J.A. is a proven veteran lefty who can provide you with solid innings in the playoffs as your 3rd or 4th starter, and having that lefty option in the playoffs is massive.

When the trade was announced and the details were confirmed, I was a little disappointed in the return. I have never been sold on Brandon Drury's game, but he has just entered into the league so hopefully for the sake of the Blue Jays, he can return to similar form that he had in Arizona. I don't see him as a piece for the future. I believe the Jays are hoping he can rebuild some value here in Toronto with regular playing time so we can trade him away for something of use. McKinney has been in a few blockbuster trades as a key prospect, but has never really panned out. He did crack the Yankees roster at the beginning of the year, but that all came crashing down (literally) when he crashed into the outfield wall at the Rogers Centre during the opening series against the Blue Jays. You can never have enough depth however, and he is a fringe MLB-ready prospect at this point (19th on Blue Jays prospect list). I felt like Shapiro and Atkins could have gotten a better return, especially from trading to an in-division rival such as the Yankees, which should have commanded a higher premium.

Grade: C-

Seung-hwan Oh

Source: Frank Gunn / CP

Source: Frank Gunn / CP

Trade:

To Colorado: Seung-hwan Oh

To Toronto: Forrest Wall, Chad Spanberger

For the bullpen trades, I won't go too in-depth with them, just because there's not as much substance or storyline to them. Saying that, the ROI from Oh was enormous for the Blue Jays. They signed him to a $1.75 million contract late this offseason (pennies in baseball terms) and they have now been able to convert that asset into two prospects, with Wall sliding into the 26th spot on the Blue Jays top-30 list. This is just another example of a smart "low-risk, high-reward" move that most casual fans hate at the beginning of the year, and then love when they see good results or a good trade package in return. Moves like these are what help to build a more deep farm system and a sustainable winning team.

Grade: A-

John Axford

Source: Sportsnet

Source: Sportsnet

Trade:

To Los Angeles: John Axford

To Toronto: Corey Copping

One of the hottest commodities in baseball lately is solid bullpen arms. Looking to capitalize on that trend, the Jays shipped out reliver John Axford to the Dodgers for minor league reliever Corey Copping

This trade seemed to have caught Axford off guard, as he had done some "asking around" and thought that he would be staying put with the Blue Jays. You can read more about that story here. I understand the need to trade expiring contracts for younger assets, so this deal on paper makes complete sense. Not to mention that Copping is putting up impressive numbers across AA and AAA this season (2.52 ERA, K/9 at 9.9). If they were to have kept a veteran reliver behind, I would have liked to have seen it be Axford because of his love for the city and experiences with the game. I believe it could have benefitted some of the new bullpen arms and September call-ups, but I digress.

Grade: B+

Aaron Loup

Source: Sportsnet

Source: Sportsnet

Trade:

To Philadelphia: Aaron Loup

To Toronto: Jacob Waguespack

The longest tenured Blue Jay is no longer. For those that follow me on Twitter (@TO_SportsViews in case you're wondering, or just follow me here), you know that I have been openly against Aaron Loup pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Club. He is only a shell of his former 2012-2014 self, and has been ineffective for quite sometime now. He is brought in to face lefties, and quite frankly sucks against them. Danny Barnes is a better lefty specialist and he's a right hander.

The Jays received minor leaguer Jacob Waguespack back in the deal. His numbers aren't anything to boast about (4.75 ERA, 1.46 WHIP between AA and AAA in 2018), but I honestly would have been okay receiving a bag of balls back in return for Loup. In Loup's first and only appearance so far for the Phillies, he hit the only batter he faced. Chalk this one up as a win for the Blue Jays.

Grade: A-

Bonus Trivia Question: Who is now the longest tenured Blue Jay currently on the roster? I'll provide the answer at the bottom of the article.

Steve Pearce

Source: John Sokolowski / USA TODAY Sports

Source: John Sokolowski / USA TODAY Sports

Trade:

To Boston: Steve Pearce

To Toronto: Santiago Espinal

Ahh, the trade often forgotten about in the shuffle and commotion of trade deadline. This was the first major move the Blue Jays made this season, and it was an in-division trade. Once Steve Pearce returned to the Jays healthy, there was really no room for him, and it was time to ship him while the value was high instead of letting his rust away on the bench.

Pearce was batting .291 with an OPS of .868, 4 HR's and 16 RBI's in 79 AB's for the Blue Jays. Respectable numbers for a small sample size. Boston has seen exponential returns on investment here, as Pearce is batting .357 with an OPS of 1.162, 5 HR's and 14 RBI's in 56 AB's for the Red Sox. I always liked Pearce. He is a truly "clutch" player... *cough* two walk-off grand slams in one week *cough*. He even hit 4 HR's in 2 games for the Red Sox. I'm happy he is succeeding there and being put in positions to not fail.

The return for the Blue Jays on this deal is not something to be overlooked either. In A and AA baseball this year, Espinal is batting .299 with an OPS of .817 along with 9 HR's and 50 RBI's. Anyway to add valuable youth to the organization at this stage is imperative, and Shapiro and Atkins were able to do just that with this deal.

Grade: B+

Potential August Trade Candidates

Editor's Note: When listing "potential suitors" I have put them in the order in which I believe is the best fit for said player, based on player cost and acquiring team need.

Josh Donaldson

Source: The Canadian Press

Source: The Canadian Press

One of the most intriguing names entering into the 2018 season was Josh Donaldson. He was the key, and arguably biggest difference maker, for the Jays having either a competitive season or a bad season. If the team were to be sellers at the deadline, it was expected that JD would be the most valuable asset that can be moved and the rebuild could be accelerated a little bit.

Fast forward to August 2018, and here we are talking about an incredibly devalued asset. Playing only roughly a third of the season (36 games played out of 110 total games), Donaldson has looked old and worn on the defensive end with his shoulder issues, has appeared to be a liability on the basepaths with his calf injuries, and has shown no offensive flashes of his former MVP self from three years ago, batting just .234 with 5 HR's, 16 RBI's and an OPS of .757. Remember the dream trade packages we were all mock creating last season? You can take those and throw them in the trash.

Despite all of these poor numbers, there are still teams that showed interest in Donaldson before the July 31st deadline. According to Yahoo! Sports Canada, Atkins tolf Gregor Chisolm of MLB.com that there were "lots of discussions" on Donaldson. He continued by saying "The challenge is, with any player that is not playing, is understanding that risk and that timeline, with not the same access to information that we have." You can read the entire article here.

A return for Donaldson is still tough to gauge at this point, mainly because if he were to be traded in August, it would be closer to the end of the month as teams would need to see him healthy and playing for longer than a week at a time. They need to see that he still has the ability to play at an elite level and be a difference maker. If he can prove that in a short window, then I'm sure some competing team will take a shot at him. I don't necessarily think that JD will be traded this month, as I believe it will be tough to build up value in a short period of time, but as I stated earlier there was interest in him before the July 31st deadline, so anything can happen.

Expected Trade: Josh Donaldson and cash for a top 20-30 prospect

Potential Suitors: Braves, Cardinals, Pirates, Diamondbacks

Marco Estrada

Source: Sportsnet

Source: Sportsnet

This move might come later on in August just because of the recent strained glute injury that put him on the 10-day DL as well as the $13 million contract that he has for this year. Prior to the injury, Marco was putting up impressive numbers, so it was a shame that he had to get hurt. This circles back to my point of selling high on starters. You never know when they can get hurt and missed starts closer to the deadline are amplified. Saying this, I'm sure a team that is looking to bolster their pitching depth and add a reliable, proven playoff starter into their 3rd or 4th spot will pony up for Marco. In his last start in Seattle, Estrada was looking like ACEstrada once again, going 7 innings and giving up 1 earned run. I'm sure this caught the attention of plenty of competing GM's across the league looking to add starting depth. Houston just lost Lance McCullers to the 10-day DL, so maybe they now enter the market for starting pitching depth? I wouldn't expect either the Red Sox or Yankees to be interested in him, as he hasn't done well in their ballparks as of late, especially Yankee Stadium. The return will not be as much as Happ's was, but if healthy, Marco could be considered a "trade deadline steal" come October.

Expected Trade: Marco Estrada for a top 25-30 prospect, single A prospect

Potential Suitors: Mariners, Athletics, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Astros, Nationals

Curtis Granderson

Source: Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press

Source: Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press

I don't know if there's a more likeable duo in sports than Granderson and Solarte (more on Solarte later). Granderson is a true professional. At the age of 37, he still finds ways to bring value to a ball club. This article written by Jon Paul Morosi at the beginning of the year perfectly summarizes why Granderson is still MLB's top teammate. He's a teacher, he's a mentor, he's a counsellor for not just the youth, but for the vets too.

Saying all of this, it's not like he only contributes off the field. On the field, Granderson is batting .234 with 10 HR's and 31 RBI's and can still contribute on the defenisve end as well. He also doesn't ground into many double plays (only three this year). So it's no wonder that a team like the Phillies is calling Shapiro and Atkins about Granderson. Granderson would be a perfect fit for the Phillies, a young up-and-coming team that could use a vet like Granderson to help mentor them for the later part of the season and help them through the playoffs. I don't expect too much of a return for Granderson, probably something just below what Pearce got for the Blue Jays.

Expected Trade: Curtis Granderson for a top 30-40 prospect

Potential Suitors: Phillies, Braves, Dodgers, Mariners

Yangervis Solarte

Source: Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press

Source: Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press

Before I dive into this, I just want to say how fond I've grown towards Solarte. This is a person who could have let his past troubles affect him, but he challenged the adversity head on and kept on persevering. If you don't know what I am talking about, this Jays Journal article does a great job in summarizing Solarte's story. This is a player who has an infectious smile, some pretty cool dance moves, and is the "spirit animal" for all the other Blue Jays players in the clubhouse. In a short period of time, he has become the heart and soul of the Jays, and embodies what it means to be a blue bird. Oh, and he's a pretty good baseball player too.

He's currently hitting .233 with 17 HR's and 53 RBI's in 106 games played this season. Not only can he contribute with the bat, but he can essentially play any position on the field that you want him to. He's a true "super utility" player, and I believe that championship teams need a player like this on their roster in order to win a World Series (ie. Ben Zobrist and Marwin Gonzalez). With the newest Blue Jays infield addition in Brandon Drury, this leaves five men for three spots. I expect one of these men to be dealt before at some point, especially with Tulo recently stating his intentions of returning to the field, which leaves Solarte being the likeliest out of the bunch.

Expected Trade: Yangervis Solarte for a top 25-30 prospect and "long shot" single-A prospect

Potential Suitors: Diamondbacks, Phillies, Braves

Overall 2018 Trade Deadline Thoughts

I have to say that as a fan that was expecting these "seller" moves to happen, I am impressed with the most part about the return for the players we traded away. I was expecting more for Happ, as I think he will be dominant for the Yankees in the regular season and playoffs, but otherwise the Jays did a great job of acquiring some MLB-ready pieces to not field a completely awful team, and a lot of prospects that provide value, some more than others. I'm sure that we will be able to look back on this deadline in a few years and see how some of these moves helped to put the Blue Jays back into World Series contention.

Overall Grade: A-

Bonus Trivia Question Answer!

For those who didn't cheat, the answer to the bonus trivia question is...

Source: Frank Gunn / CP

Source: Frank Gunn / CP

Superman himself, Kevin Pillar!

RIP Roy Halladay, My Childhood Idol

Source: MLB

Source: MLB

I couldn't believe my eyes. I went on Twitter like I do dozens of times each day, but this time, there was one topic dominating social media.

"Roy Halladay's plane involved in a crash. One body discovered. More details to follow."

Obviously, my first instinct was to mourn the loss of whomever was in that plane. Either way, someone had lost their life on the afternoon of November 7th, 2017. Selfishly, I didn't want it to be him. "Please, not my childhood idol. Not Doc."

At 4:15pm, it was announced that the body discovered was indeed Roy Halladay. He was just 40 years of age.

I took a break from writing. I needed to focus my energy and attention elsewhere, and writing was impeding my day to day life. The Jays were doing me no favours, and the Raptors and Leafs have just begun their respective seasons. Nothing had motivated me to return to writing...until now. 

This is the first time I have ever had to write a piece like this. I'm relatively young in the eyes of the sporting world, and I have never seen one of my sports idols pass away. Until now.

There's a lot that's been said about Halladay over the past few days by people with far more information about the type of person and player that he was. I'm here to give you the perspective of a young boy, who loved the game with a passion and admired the man they call "Doc".

He was a great pitcher, and a wonderful human being.
— John Gibbons

Growing up as a child who just missed the Blue Jays World Series run by a year, I didn't get to witness much quality baseball until 2015. The main reason why I was a Blue Jays fan can be accredited to one man...Roy Halladay. Every fifth day, you knew that the Jays were the best team in baseball with him on the mound. They could have the worst offensive day, but as long as you scored him a couple of runs in the game, it was essentially game over. The opposing pitchers knew they had no room for error, because Halladay would baffle offenses across the league.

It was obvious to anyone that watched the game that Halladay was incredibly gifted, but it was just more than raw talent and ability. You would hear stories of Halladay completing workouts in the morning before anybody else was at the complex. How he devoted every waking moment to improving a near perfect craft, as he felt like he could always be better. He handled adversity better than others, after being demoted to single A Dunedin, then coming back to be a Cy Young pitcher. You could see how he carried himself with confidence, not cockiness.

As a young boy watching on, I witnessed first hand how hard work, determination and humbleness can bring upon success. If you put the hard work in, good things will follow. If you embrace life's challenges and tackle them head on instead of running away from them, good things will follow. It wasn't a coincidence that Roy Halladay was one of the best pitchers to ever play the game of baseball.

His work habits were unbelievable. He was as dedicated as they come to the game and to his family. He was a great guy in a lot of ways.
— Cito Gaston
Source: Kevin Frayer/The Canadian

Source: Kevin Frayer/The Canadian

Roy inspired me to learn the art of pitching. I wanted to be just like him on the field. I wanted to have everybody fear me on the mound, but respect me off it. As the years went on, and I became a little older and a little wiser, I realized that I wanted to be just like him off the field too. I knew that I wanted to be someone that everybody loved, not just because I am good at my job, but because of how I treated everybody I met along the way.

Halladay was arguably the most influential athlete in Toronto during his tenure with the Blue Jays. The city loved him, and he loved the city back. He gave everything he had to the city of Toronto and the Blue Jays organization. In an era that saw Toronto-based superstar athletes such as Vince Carter and Chris Bosh get shunned and jeered on their way out of Toronto, the city embraced Halladay's return to Toronto in a Phillies uniform. In that particular time, it was incredible to see.

I'll never forget watching the 2010 MLB Playoffs. The Phillies were the team I was cheering for. The reason was clear. It was Roy Halladay's first postseason start of his career. He had been waiting a lifetime for this moment...and he pitched one of the most memorable postseason outings in MLB history.

I remember jumping up and down, screaming at the top of my lungs when they recorded that final out. I knew that I would probably never see something like that ever again in my life. See for me, it didn't matter what uniform he was wearing. He was my idol.

I learned a lot from Halladay growing up. I learned about the game baseball, I learned about the art of pitching, and most importantly, I learned how to be an respectful and humble person. I want to thank you Doc for everything you taught not only me, but so many other individuals, young and old, across North America.

I want to extend my deepest sympathies and condolences to the Halladay family, his wife Brandy and his two sons Braden and Ryan. Toronto will always be here for you.

The Blue Jays Twitter account has been posting some special messages and images in reflection of Roy Halladay. I have shared a few of my favourites below:

RIP Doc.

Osuna Announces Battle With Mental State

Source: Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports

Source: Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports

People who read my articles and follow me on social media understand my writing style. They know that my content will be informative, yet humorous or satirical. Yet, yesterday afternoon I got a notification on my phone that announced "Osuna struggling with mental illness, feels 'anxious and lost'." When I read that, everything around me seemed to stop for just a second, and my heart poured out to him.

Any type of mental illness is no joke, and as such, this will be a much different style of article for me.

For a 22-year-old superstar to come out and announce this struggle was not only difficult, but brave. As another 22-year-old that has also had his struggles with mental illness, I commend him for allowing himself to become vulnerable. He's putting his trust and faith into the hands of the city and its fans, and Jays fans need to be there for him.

Here is the breakdown of what Osuna said from Blue Jays reporter Arden Zwelling:

So while Osuna has not been officially diagnosed with a mental illness, any type of mental battle is impossible to ignore. We have seen how mental battles can affect players for life, with Exhibit A being Rick Ankiel and his battle with anxiety while in the MLB.

This is just another reminder that we have no idea what goes on behind closed doors. Last night I posted a terrible take in response to the one and only Dean Blundell regarding Osuna not being available for the game. Here it is:

Those that follow my social media know I'm not a fan of Mr. Gibbons. Hindsight being 20/20, I was way too quick to judge and came to a conclusion without knowing all the information. Gibbons was just protecting his player like any other manager would have done. For that I say, "thank you."

Source: Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports

Source: Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports

It's hard to remember that Osuna is still so very young. At one point last season he was the youngest player in baseball and was in his second season in the major leagues. Jays fans have been extremely blessed to have a talent such as Osuna.

Time and time again he has brought smiles to our faces. To see him without a smile off the field is not only sad, it's heartbreaking. Now it's time for Jays fans across the nation to show their support and help put the smile back on his face.

Blue Jays Monthly Report - May

Source: Toronto Star

Source: Toronto Star

What a time to be a Jays fan. Just when all hope seemed to be lost, and everybody and their mothers were on the disabled list, the scrappy Jays found ways to grind out important wins and not only keep the team afloat, but propel them back into the playoff picture. After ending the month of April with an 8-17 record, the beaten up blue birds ended the month of May with a 17-10 record, finishing as the third best team in baseball during May. If you told me at the beginning of May that the Jays would be the third best team in baseball during the month with all the injuries they had, I would have encouraged you to call a doctor.

Not only did the bench bodies contribute massively, but certain regular players that survived the DL plague improved on horrendous performances in April. We will touch on a few key contributors that helped the Blue Jays get to where they are currently and what we can expect from this team moving into June.

Source: Toronto Star

Source: Toronto Star

Look no further than the Blue Jays "Player of the Month" for May than Devon Travis. In my opinion he should have won AL Player of the Month as well, but that's another discussion all together. After batting an abysmal .130, Travis turned it around and batted .364 for the month of May and had 16 doubles to go along with that. Along with the hot bat came some great defence, and we were treated to a lot of stellar plays from Travis this month. His improved play is arguably the most influential factor in propelling the Jays back up near .500.

Source: UPI

Source: UPI

Sense a theme here? The longest tenured Blue Jay on the team took a long time to reclaim his WBC form, but once Bautista figured that out it's been nothing but rave reviews for the fan favourite. Bautista struggled mightily in April, but had a .317 average and nine home runs during the month of May. These improved numbers help the Jays finally put runs on the board, something that they struggled to do all April. I recently wrote an article showcasing the highlights and disappointments of the 2017 season so far (you can read it here if you haven't already), and I had Bautista listed as a disappointment. I knew that list would look different, I just didn't realize it would only take 10 days for any changes to happen...

Source: Sportsnet

Source: Sportsnet

I don't think there's enough that can be said about Smoak and his season that he's put together so far. At the time of writing this article (June 4th) he leads the team in average (.283), home runs (14) and RBI's (39). If that doesn't have you impressed for whatever reason, here's Smoak's ranking in categories among AL first basemen: Home Runs - 2nd, Runs - Tied for 1st, RBI - 1st, Slugging Percentage - 1st, OPS - 1st and WAR - 2nd. Smoak is on his way to not only being in the All-Star game, but being the AL starter for first base. These type of numbers and productivity from someone you never expected it from goes a long way for a once struggling team. I have been so critical of Smoak in the past, so all I can really do at this point is say that I'm sorry I ever doubted you.

Source: Toronto Star

Source: Toronto Star

I know I'm going off the board here, but in my opinion the most underrated (or underappreciated) add to this team has been the 8th inning presence of Joe Smith. The 32 year old right handed sidearm pitcher came into this season fighting for that set up role, and he has done a tremendous job closing the gap between the starting pitchers and Osuna. In 27.2 innings pitched, Smith has a 2.93 ERA to go along with 42 STRIKEOUTS! He's also only walked seven batters all year, and has not issued one walk to a right handed batter. This shows an incredible ability to control and locate pitches, and Smith has brought a calming presence to a bullpen that had no sure thing other than Osuna leading into May.

I know these guys, they get frustrated like everybody else, but they never shut down.
— John Gibbons

Maybe Gibbons knew something that the fan base didn't leading into May. He stated that his players "get frustrated" but "never shut down." He must have a great feel for his clubhouse because it appears as though the words "shut down" aren't in anybody's vocabulary.

June promises to be a month in which the Jays can build upon their success of May. Do they have another 17-10 month in them? It's possible. With series matchups against weak opponents such as the A's, Mariners, White Sox, Royals, and the choke of a team Texas Rangers, expect the Jays to finish June no longer being the basement dwellers of the AL East, and being closer to first place than last.

Blue Jays Highlights and Disappointments of the 2017 Season So Far...

Source: Toronto Star

Source: Toronto Star

It's so hard to figure out if the Jays are contenders or pretenders two months into the 2017 season.

The Jays have so far managed yet again to become the most frustrating yet gratifying Toronto sports team to watch. After starting the year 1-9, the Jays have managed to go 20-17 (.541) since. The recent play of the Jays has been a roller coaster ride to say the least, going on a 5 game win streak that included a series win against the Indians and a sweep of the injured Mariners, but also included three straight losses to the oldest team in baseball (!) and worst in their division, Atlanta Braves. (Side note: The tomahawk chop may be the second worse thing in baseball, with the wave taking the cake). Sitting with a record of 21-26 (.447) after the 8-4 beat down of the Brewers yesterday afternoon, the Jays still sit in the bottom of the AL East, but optimism has started to rise with fans of the beloved blue birds.

Below is a list of the (early) highlights and disappointments from the Blue Jays, and what we can expect to see going forward.

*Note: Players that were expected to be highlights or disappointments were omitted for the purposes of not having a boring article.

Source: Toronto Star

Source: Toronto Star

HIGHLIGHT: Justin Smoak

If you believed that Smoak would be an major contributor to the team and play an integral role in their success, put your hand up. Nobody? Anybody? As the old saying goes, "where there's smoke, there's fire." There's no statement more true that can describe the year Smoak is having than that one. The 30 year old former first round pick has turned critics into believers, myself included. With a slash line of .278, .340, .542 through 40 games, he's outpacing his careers highs in all three categories. Reaching double digit home runs already while reaching base shows that Smoak is seeing the ball a lot better than he has in the past. A more calm, relaxed approach and stance at the plate might be a factor. It is quite possible that Smoak will have a career year, but don't be surprised if he has a 1 for 20 slump sprinkled in here and there. There will be regression throughout the year, but if he can reach a .250 average, over .300 on base, 20-25 home runs and 60-70 RBI's, I'll be more than happy.

Source: Sportsnet

Source: Sportsnet

DISAPPOINTMENT: Jose Bautista

Yes, I know. Bautista's bat is finally starting to come around. His fielding and arm seem to be in better shape than last year. Recency bias suggests that Bautista is one of the best Blue Jays right now, and that may be true, but it's hard to ignore his horrendous start to the year. Up until around two weeks ago it seemed like fans wanted to run Jose right out of town. Now with his recent surge in offensive productivity, he's starting to climb back to respectable numbers. He has seemed to find whatever was working for him in the pre-season and the WBC and is now producing like the Jose we are used to seeing. I'll classify Bautista as a fringe "disappointment" for now, because if he keeps up this production level, fans will easily forgive and forget the atrocious start. Expect Bautista to continue improving on his numbers gradually throughout the season.

Source: Fox Sports

Source: Fox Sports

HIGHLIGHT: Kevin Pillar

There's a reason why he's called Superman. He's the hero we need, but don't deserve. Arguably the Blue Jays early MVP candidate, Pillar has career highs in average (.306), on base percentage (.357) and slugging (.483), it seems as though Pillar has finally found his groove in the major league level. It was only a matter of time too, as Pillar has been an offensive weapon in every level of baseball that he has played in leading to the majors. He has solidified himself as the ideal leadoff batter for the Jays, with the ability to hit, walk, and steal. Also, who can forget his defensive prowess? He's like a human vacuum out there, catching any baseball that's remotely within 5,000 feet of him (or so it seems like...). Oh, and don't forget his amazing catch he made on Indians batter Jose Ramirez, robbing him of a guaranteed hit. Most amazing catch I've ever seen live in-stadium. I don't know what's more of a robbery; that catch or the fact that Pillar still hasn't won a gold glove. He is well deserving of an All-Star position in Miami, and I believe he will get one.

Source: Blue Jays Nation

Source: Blue Jays Nation

DISAPPOINTMENT: Injuries

I don't know what the team or the players did to anger the Baseball Gods, but my goodness did they ever do something. Here's a full list of Jays that have made at least one trip to the DL this year: Alford, Ceciliani, Donaldson, Happ, Howell, Liriano, Martin, Osuna, Pearce, Pompey, Sanchez, Shultz, Sparkman and Tulowitzki. That's FOURTEEN different players and we aren't even through May yet. The amount of games lost to injury this year is at 336. That's a truly astonishing and "disappointing" number. I don't believe this has anything to do with the training staff, as it is essentially the same staff that allowed the Jays to be one of the healthiest teams in baseball last year. Also couple in the fact that the new CBA eliminated the 15-day DL and introduced the 10-day DL and teams are now less reluctant to place a player on the disabled list. Don't expect this trend and these numbers to remain constant throughout the season.

Source: Sportsnet

Source: Sportsnet

HIGHLIGHT: Marcus Stroman

The Stro-Show is off to the best start of his young career. After winning the MVP Award at the WBC, he carried that momentum over into the 2017 season, proving to doubters yet again that he is the real deal. Stroman had a disappointing start to the 2016 season, which saw fans and critics alike call for his demotion to AAA to sort out whatever issues he had going on. Since the second half on the season onward, he has showed an improved maturity and sense of the game on the mound. He's still the youthful, energetic pitcher we all know and love, but he doesn't let the highs get too high and the lows get too low.

Source: Toronto Star

Source: Toronto Star

DISAPPOINTMENT: Aaron Sanchez

Yes, I know that Sanchez is lumped in with the injury category, and I understand that when he has been on the mound he has been quite effective. The disappointing part of Aaron Sanchez is the false hope we as fans receive. When it seems like his finger and blister problems are behind him, he will be back on the disabled list after one start. Sanchez has already made three separate trips to the DL, which leads the club. It's disappointing that Sanchez cannot get fully healthy because he has shown flashes of brilliance even with blood dripping down his finger. With Biagini holding down Sanchez's spot in the rotation, there's no sense to rush him. With a proper amount of time to heal and recover, I expect Sanchez to make an immediate impact upon return.


I'm fully expecting someone out there to roast me on some of my choices, but those were the ones I feel really stuck out to me. Sure I could have easily thrown in Estrada as a highlight, but that was to be expected leading into the season. Martin was expected to have a disappointing season due to age and wear and tear. Things are sure to change throughout the year, and this list will definitely not look the same come September. It will be interesting to see who the new heroes and villains of the Blue Jays are in a few months. 

3 Reasons For and Against a Blue Jays Rebuild

Source: TSN

Source: TSN

Should they, or shouldn't they?

That question seems to be on the minds of every Blue Jays fan when pondering the possibility of a rebuild. The franchise that stole the hearts of over 35 million fans across this beautiful nation by making it to two consecutive ALCS series has taken a massive nosedive to the cellar of the league's standings. Yes, I know it's early. Yes, I know nobody should be looking at the standings before July 1st. However, when a team that has been picked by experts to make the playoffs starts this poorly, it becomes hard not to look at the standings. 

As of May 3, 2017, the Blue Jays hold a record of 9-18, which places them 29th out of 30th in the league only behind Kansas City (which is a whole other story in itself). Ironic that the two teams who ferociously dueled it out in the 2015 ALCS and created the infamous Caleb Humphreys scandal are now dueling it out for last in the entire league just two years later. At least we won't have to hear any more terrible interviews from Erin Andrews and awful lies from the Amish sensation...if you forget what I'm talking about, click here.

The Blue Jays are not strangers to slow April starts. Last season, the Blue Jays finished April with an 11-14 record. Should we classify the past month as just another "slow start" for the Jays, or should Toronto fans be slamming the panic button? Below are three reasons why the Jays should rebuild as well as three reasons why they shouldn't.

Reasons to blow this team into smithereens:

1) The start is the main catalyst for the whole "rebuild" conversation to even take place. The benchmark record to make the playoffs based on last year's standings was the Blue Jays record of 89-73, which placed the team in a tie for the Wild Card spot with Baltimore. Let's assume that it will take 90 wins to get to the playoffs in the American League this year. In order to accomplish this, the Jays must go 81-54 the rest of the way. Even that mark might not be enough to get this team in the playoffs. Does the core of this team have what it takes to reach this benchmark?
2) This team isn't getting any younger. With an average age of 30.7 on the MLB roster, the Blue Jays are the oldest team in baseball (thanks Grilli...). A rebuild is inevitable, so why not get a head start on it and get some value for quality players sooner rather than later. Some valuable Blue Jays that will become free agents after the 2017 season include Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano. They have been one of the few shinning spots in an abysmal start to the year, and there's nothing more coveted by a playoff team than reliable pitching down the stretch.
3) Our farm system is actually better than most Blue Jays fans realize. Ranked 19th by SB Nation (who admits they could have ranked the Jays system as high as 12th) and 16th by Bleacher Report, the Jays farm system is not top tier but it is serviceable. If the Blue Jays were to trade players such as Estrada, Liriano, Happ, and even Bautista and *gasp* Donaldson, they could grab some mid to top tier prospects and suddenly have a top 5 farm system once again. Players such as Rowdy Tellez, Sean-Reid Foley, Lourdes Gurriel, Anthony Alford, Richard Urena and more are waiting in the wings for their opportunity to shine on the big stage. They would be more than capable of coming on to a big league roster that would go in the direction of "we don't need to win now, but keep the game exciting" stage. Oh, and don't forget about Vladimir Gurerro Jr. He's pretty good too.

Stay the course you overreacting idiot (actual words from a colleague of mine):
1) I don't need to remind you that the Jays started the year 1-9 do I? I didn't think so. BUT since that disgusting start, the Blue Jays have played better of late, going 8-9 to bring their record to 9-18. Hovering around .500 at this time of the year is respectable, especially when you couldn't even reach .120. The recent play suggests that the Jays players might actually be adjusting to playing proper baseball and potentially turn this season around for the better.
2) Feeding off the first point, the Jays have been able to accomplish this recent record of 8-9 without arguably their best players. Donaldson, Tulo, Happ and Sanchez are all on the 10 day DL with some form of injury, and yet this team has found it within them to play at a level that keeps them treading water. Yeah, we see you Goins and Pillar.
3) Remember that 11-14 record I told you about from April 2016? The Blue Jays were the only team in the league last season to make the playoffs with a record of more than one game under .500. They seem to find an extra gear in the months of May and June, so what's to stop this team from doing the exact same thing and shocking the baseball world yet again?

There's a lot of information to digest, which makes this decision not an easy one either way. Fans seem to be divided on the topic, and one way or another someone won't be happy with the outcome. What would I do if I were Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro? I give this team until the end of May before I start making a decision. If the team performs at a rate lower than a .500 clip (a record worse than 22-31 by end of month) I would blow it up. Percentages and odds are not in your favour, and I would want to recoup value for assets as supposed to letting them go for free.

It's going to be an interesting summer, regardless of the Blue Jays results.

Toronto, PLEASE Don't Turn Into New York

Source: Cogeco

Source: Cogeco

Dear Toronto sports fans,

As a city, we are collectively in a situation that has never been experienced before. We are finally beginning to breed success with all three major sports teams. The beloved Maple Leafs finally appear to have a promising future ahead with all star rookies and arguably the league's brightest coaching staff and front office. The Blue Jays have made it to two consecutive ALCS series, lead by an American League MVP and a fantastic starting rotation. The Raptors have made it to the postseason for the fourth year in a row, and Ujiri has single handily turned around a franchise that was the laughing stock of the NBA (excluding the Kings, they will always be trash). Hell, even TFC has managed to capture the hearts of all sports fans across this wonderful city.

Rolling Stone recently wrote an article explaining why Toronto looks to become the next sports mecca in North America, which can be viewed here. Reading this article made me think of other sports cities and meccas across North America. Cities such as Boston and Los Angeles come to mind, but arguably the highest profile of them all is New York. When New York teams are successful, sports media can't get enough coverage of them, players flock to the city practically begging to play for their teams and fans will lay roses at the feet of anything and anyone associated with sport success. We are currently in an era where New York sports have taken a turn for the worse. Let's take the Knicks for example. Media still cover them, but every piece that comes from them seems to revolve around negativity. Players and their agents claim to be avoiding the sinking ship and its captain James Dolan. Which leads me to the fans...they will not hesitate to pick up the roses they laid on the ground and use the thorns to stab everyone they deem to be "a disgrace to the city", which on a failing New York sports team is literally everyone.

The city of New York is used to seeing championships. The fans expect nothing less than championship calibre teams year after year. As quickly as they praise athletes is as quickly as they shun them. I see the same behaviour in Toronto whenever a team is on a losing streak or doesn't start the year off quite like it hoped (we are all looking at you Blue Jays). Toronto sports fans can't be like this, and I am here to explain why.

1) We are Canadians. It is literally unpatriotic to be rude or impolite to anybody, especially our sports teams. I have never heard anyone say they love people from New York more than people from Toronto, so let's not go down to their level.
2) They have seen a lot of championships in the past few decades. Toronto fans haven't stood in a parade route for almost 25 years. I get it, I'm hungry for a championship too, but let's take success where we can.
3) People will begin to view Toronto and Canada in a different light if they see us running players and executives out of town. While an extreme example, Vancouver has left its reputation tarnished forever with these riots from losing the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
4) Speaking of negative perceptions, Toronto needs to act like it's been there before. Throwing beer cans on the field during the playoffs and being labelled as "the most despised fan base in baseball" doesn't help distinguish us as the polite Canadians that we are... 
5) There's a difference between critical analysis and plain stupidity. It's okay to have an opinion and have healthy debate, but saying outlandish things such as suggesting trading former AL MVP Donaldson because he is hurt doesn't give us true fans a good profile.

People in general seem to like and respect Toronto. For some sports, Toronto represents not only a city, but a nation. We as Toronto sports fans need to understand this, accept it and embrace it. Let's enjoy the ride, and let's enjoy the processes and changes that come along with it. When the mighty Toronto teams fall, and they inevitably will, we need to hold our heads high and know that this generation of Toronto sports has firmly placed our city as a premier North American sports city.