Guys - It's a 5th Starter.

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Article Written by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)


In case you haven't heard by now (which, how could you not?) the Toronto Blue Jays have solidified their rotation by signing veteran lefty Jaime Garcia (don't spell it "Jamie"). To boot - 

Garcia spent the vast majority of his Major League career with the St. Louis Cardinals, becoming a regular in 2010 before being traded to the Atlanta Braves in December of 2016. He played half the season with the Braves last year before being traded to the Twins in July, and finished the season with the Yankees after being traded by the Twins after starting just one game at 6⅔ innings. 

The signing provides the Jays a very low risk/high reward scenario that doesn't present them with a stranglehold in terms of limiting or eradicating their financial flexibility should an area of need or injury pop up (backup catcher, anyone?). It's not a signing that's going to turn heads and entice people into thinking that the Jays are exponentially better than they were two days ago. But very rarely does the signing of a player that will pitch in the back-end of any rotation lead to such a conclusion. 

When you think about the role of the fifth starter, Garcia certainly provides the Jays with a bit more stability when we compare him to what we thought we were entering the season with; especially when we remind ourselves just how dire the situation was last year when we mention the likes of Joe Biagini, Brett Anderson, Mike Bolsinger, Cesar Valdez, Chris Rowley, Mat Latos, Nick Tepesch, Casey Lawrence, and Tom Koehler. Sure, there are pockets of individuals within the Jays' fandom that feel Biagini ought to be stretched out more and given the proper chance to become a starter instead of flip-flopping from the bullpen to the rotation. Hell, I'll include myself as part of that group - but I also won't ignore the notion that Shapiro and Atkins have preached about depth within the organization from the jump. There's nothing to say that Biagini won't begin the year in AAA Buffalo to continue the process of transitioning into a starter (properly) and will be better prepared if/when an injury arises. To boot, Ben Nicholson-Smith echoes such sentiments in his piece on the Garcia signing - 

"The Blue Jays will continue stretching Biagini out this spring even with Garcia in the mix. An injury would push Biagini back into the rotation, and that possibility can’t be overlooked with Aaron Sanchez still looking to reestablish himself after missing most of 2017 due to finger issues. Even if the entire staff stays healthy, the Blue Jays’ front office would be comfortable optioning Biagini to triple-A."

But I digress...

Garcia's career stat-line isn't eye-popping, but it doesn't necessary have to be when the remainder of the rotation is made up of Stroman, Sanchez, Happ, and Estrada. Based on Baseball Reference's projections of Garcia's 2018 season, the Jays could have done a lot worse. 

With a projected ERA of about four and a half, the Jays certainly raised their floor entering the 2018 season. Sure, a lot of people were harping on the notion of acquiring Alex Cobb to fill the fifth starter role which, sure, would have been nice. But when you look at Cobb's projections heading into 2018, it's really not that much of a difference compared to Garcia (I know, I know... projections). Moreover, when you consider the projected cost of a guy like Cobb (MLBTR had him at 4 years - $48MM), signing him to a more lucrative deal for ppprrrooobbbaaabbblllyyy the same production this year would be foolish. Like I mentioned earlier, this signing allows the Jays to still have some wiggle room should a situation arise in which they need to spend more money. Garcia is only on the books for $8MM this year - $4MM less than Cobb's projected value, and on a shorter term should this not work out. The Jays are only really committed for one year, here, which doesn't corner or limit them in subsequent years. Whereas, Cobb may.

Further, Garcia ranked fifth among starting pitchers in ground ball rate, which will be a big advantage for the Jays in such a hitters' friendly park like the Rogers Centre or any other AL ballpark, really. When we look at the aforementioned players that acted as part of the back-end of the rotation for the Jays, in total they gave up 47 home runs. 47 HOME RUNS! Garcia, in comparison, gave up only 18 (only 6 of which while pitching in the AL). To call this an upgrade over what the Jays had and what we were walking into the season with is an understatement.

Plus, if we're going to move away from the stats and comparisons, the fact still remains that this is a fifth starter! We're not talking about someone that is expected to move the needle so drastically that people are going to start betting on the Jays to win the Division. It's just a fifth starter. I'd much rather have the Jays sign someone and only commit a guarantee of $10MM in total ($2MM of which could be used a buyout for 2019) to act as part of the back-end of the rotation. I'm not sure what people were really expecting, but this is the prime definition of a low-risk signing. 

I guess I'm trying to appeal to those that are dumping all over this deal, as if they expected the Jays to pull off a major trade or sign a front of the rotation starter as their fifth. This isn't a bad signing whatsoever. I get that it's been an underwhelming offseason, but it's not like the Jays are alone in that category. With the exception of maybe the Yankees and Cubs, not that many teams made splash moves that take my breath away. The Jays weren't willing to sign someone like Cashner for 2 years or Cobb for 4 years, and for good reason. They weren't willing to give Arrieta the "Yu Darvish-esq" contract he's looking for (or rather, turned down) either, for good reason. This isn't some example of the Front Office being cheap, or dumpster diving, or whatever clever phrasing you want to use to describe this deal. It's just not.

So enjoy it! Whether you want to admit it or not, the Jays' rotation got better than it was two days ago. When you look at it under that lens, you'll realize that it could've been a lot worse. 


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Examining The Blue Jays' Outfield Situation

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Article Written by Hudson Stewart (@hudson_stewart6)


            After a couple of moves this off-season, the Blue Jays now have an embarrassment of riches at the outfield position. They picked up both Curtis Granderson and Randal Grichuk, thereby giving them seven players who we could see in the Jays' outfield this season. To go along with Granderson and Grichuk, the Blue Jays also have Steve Pearce, Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera, Anthony Alford, and Teoscar Hernandez at their disposal. There’s only 25 spots on the roster, so that means a few of the guys I mentioned won’t be on the Opening Day roster. In this article, I’m going to tell you who I think should be in the Blue Jays' outfield to start the season.

         American League rosters are usually composed of the following things: 5 starting pitchers, 7 relief pitchers, 9 players in the starting lineup (including a designated hitter), and 4 bench players. Considering the Jays expect both Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte to be on their roster to start the season as utility infielders, that leaves two spots on the bench; one for a backup catcher, which will probably be Luke Maile (unless the team signs some else), and one for an outfielder. That leaves the team with 4 outfielders in total, and I think that the four best options for the team right now are Steve Pearce, Curtis Granderson, Kevin Pillar, and Randal Grichuk. Grichuk should be the starting right fielder, with Pillar to his left in centre field. That leaves Pearce and Granderson to platoon with one-another in left field. Pearce should get the majority of the starts against left-handed pitchers, and Granderson should be out there against righties. This keeps Pillar’s great defense out there, while giving Grichuk a chance to prove himself as the starting right fielder, after he had an up-and-down year last season with St.Louis. It also gives manager John Gibbons flexibility with who he can play in left field. He can start the game with one of Pearce or Granderson and then know that the one who doesn’t start will be ready if he needs them to pinch-hit later in the game.

             If the Blue Jays do go with these four players in the outfield, it leaves two talented young players in Anthony Alford and Teoscar Hernandez in the Minor Leagues. Now, it’s still pretty likely that they will get some time with the Major League team this year, because an injury or two is almost guaranteed to happen. But, for now, it’s important for these guys to continue to develop their swings in the minors, and be ready when their name is called. They’re both tremendous players, and they’re going to be big parts of the team going forward.

            With Spring Training only days away, it’s normal for fans to start thinking about the rosters. There are many different ways the Blue Jays could go here, but I think that the 4 outfielders I picked give them the best chance to succeed. They’ll have a mix of youth and veterans out there, and I think that that if they all do their part, the Blue Jays can do well this season.


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Examining The Blue Jays' Backup Catcher Issue

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Article Written by Adam Corsair  (@ACorsair21)


With the start of Spring Training fast approaching, as well as the free agent market moving at a snail's pace (unless you're Milwaukee...), there still remains some important positions to fill for our Toronto Blue Jays. Granted, the team did address a dire outfield situation by acquiring Randal Grichuk from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for prospect Conner Greene and reliever Dominic Leone, as well as signing veteran Curtis Granderson to a modest 1 year deal worth $5 million. Couple those acquisitions with the mainstays of Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera, and Steve Pearce, along with the prospects that the Jays have in their system in the form of Teoscar Hernández, Anthony Alford, Dwight Smith Jr., and Dalton Pompey, the outfield is more or less passable as it stands and the team will probably stand pat (unless you believe this).

Now, an addition to the starting pitching rotation not withstanding, the Jays most obvious area of need that ought to be addressed is at backup catcher. As it stands, the Jays currently have Luke Maile listed on their depth chart behind Russell Martin to handle the backup catching duties. Given that Martin last season was bitten by the injury bug and was unable to crack the 100 game mark, along with the physical demands of the position, it can be argued that the necessity to have a solid backup catcher is the most vital need for the Jays right now (Note: I don't necessarily agree, but I can see where people are coming from that stand behind this.). With the Jays being projected to win approximately 84 wins (via FanGraphs), the team is looking to be competing for a Wild Card spot in order to find their way into the Post Season. Granted, no one can accurately predict what team will finish with their actual win total, but as a baseline, it'll have to do.

It's admittedly a messy situation with Martin entering this season at age 35, as he will play a more than vital role for his team. His offensive potential along with his incredible abilities to call games behind the dish (not to mention his framing skills) make him a pivotal member of this squad; especially for this season in particular if we are to take the notion of the Jays aiming to become serious contenders. In order to maximize his production for the team, as well as minimize his risk of injury, the team would be better served with a capable and adequate backup catcher for the majority of the 2018 season. Certainly, an upgrade over Maile would be ideal, but may not be as easy as we'd like it to be.

Last season, Maile was a bit of a non-factor, to say the least. Selected off waivers in April and being injured for the better part of July and all of August, Maile appeared in 46 games for the Jays - starting in 36 of them. He finished the year with a line of .146/.176/.231, an OPS of .407, garnering a strikeout rate of 26% and a walk rate of 2% in 136 plate appearances which is... well, pret-ty bad. Currently, Baseball Reference projects him to have an uptick in those numbers based on - what I assume - more playing time and/or the assumption that perhaps Martin may miss time due to injury (or maybe just general rest). To boot, they project him to finish the 2018 season with a line of .216/.266/.355, an OPS of .621 over 281 plate appearances with 68 strikeouts and 16 walks, giving him a projected strikeout rate of 24% and a walk rate of  6% which is... still pret-ty bad.

Thus, while knowing that projections are just that - projections - I think it's more than just a little reasonable to stand behind the notion that the Jays will be better served if they have a better option to backup Martin behind the dish over the course of the entire season. The questions is, who?

If we take a look at the available Free Agent Catchers, it doesn't look that promising. The name that will stick out the most to people is Jonathan Lucroy, but the chances of the Jaysbeing able to both A) sign him and B) sign him as a backup catcher are both a bit daunting. I'd imagine a player like Lucroy is looking to acquire more of an everyday role behind the plate, so although (some) Jays fans may want to see it, the chances of this actually happening are poor. You can also cross players such as Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Josh Thole off the list, as they've already been deemed to be non-contributors for the Jays in previous stints and, thus, there's no reason to believe that they'd offer more than Maile would. With Alex Avilia already signing a deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the remaining names aren't sexy and perhaps, other than maybe an invite to Spring Training in order to compete with Maile, no one jumps out as a clear upgrade over what the Jays already have.

Thus, perhaps the Jays would be wise to look from within when addressing their backup catching needs. Currently, both Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire are on the Jays' 40 man roster as available options to fill the void. Of the two, Jansen has seen time in AAA, whereas McGuire highest level of play last year was AA. A bit of hasty reasoning here, but based on their respective tenures, it seems that Jansen's path to becoming a ball player in the Bigs is a bit more linear than McGuire's in terms of development, but neither can really be ruled out based on this alone. Moreover, both players' highest level of play in the Minors last year would render a small sample size, as Jansen's time in Buffalo was only for 21 games, and McGuire's time in New Hampshire was for 34. Further, neither can be considered a lock to be part of the Opening Day roster, as Maile has the slight edge, but I don't rule out both of the prospects beginning the year in AAA with one of them getting a call-up on the earlier side of the season. Call it a hunch. For me, it makes more sense to go this route than to go barrel scrapping for a backup catcher in a Free Agent class that is less than ideal. But again - that's just me.

Both Atkins and Shapiro have both been harping on the notion of prioritizing the team to become both faster and younger, so the aspect of signing an aging veteran to more than a one year deal would seemingly run counter to this (you wanted to mention Granderson, didn't you). Further, Atkins has also said that he prefers to integrate prospects that are new to the Major League club during the season rather than trotting them out on Opening Day in order to better prepare themselves for the task. Thus, this off-season in Spring Training, it may serve best for both McGuire and Jansen to establish some sort of familiarity with the Jays' pitching staff before we jump the gun and declare one of them the back-up to Martin over Maile from the jump. With all of his warts and undesirable performance, as it stands Maile is the best option to start the season as the backup that exists within the organization. Whether or not the brass is able to pull off some sort of trade to acquire a more adequate option or there's a player on the Free Agent list that I'm overlooking in terms of potential is certainly possible. But, if I were to guess, I think that the Powers That Be are prioritizing both Starting and Relief pitching and would rather use their financial resources to acquire someone to fit one of those roles, or two players that can fit one of each of the roles. 

Regardless, it hasn't been since JP Arencibia and Travis d'Arnaud that Jays fans been able to look forward to seeing a catcher come up through the system and earn a spot on the Big League roster (although McGuire was acquired in the trade that involved Drew Hutchinson in '16, he's still coming up through the Jays' system as a prospect). It will be interesting to see how this turns out and, if both McGuire and Jansen begin the year in AAA Buffalo and if the Jays don't sign a Free Agent catcher, it may not be long within the season that we get to see one of them. Hopefully, it's to our pleasant surprise.


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 34

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


EPISODE 34

"Off-Season Round Table"

Toronto Blue Jays Talk

Join us for a special off-season Round Table Discussion!

We're all Blue Jays for this one!

  • The off-season has given baseball fans many moves to evaluate. The Yankees trading for Giancarlo Stanton, to the Orioles being willing to trade away Manny Machado, to the Rays trading Evan Longoria to the Giants, to the Red Sox staying put; the Blue Jays have had a lot of things happening TO them, rather than making major moves themselves. With the landscape seemingly changing by the minute, the philosophy the Front Office is undertaking in regards to their patience this off-season will either make or break the team. Moreover, with rumors continuing to swirl regarding Josh Donaldson being a possible trade chip to teams like the St. Louis Cardinals, it's difficult to evaluate just where this team is and what direction they will take.
  • To help break this down, host Adam Corsair has a group of excellent guests to join him on this Round Table edition of the South of the 6ix Podcast. Included is Adam's good friend Ryan DiFrancesco of Jays Droppings & Blue Jays Nation, Brendan Panikkar of Jays Journal, and Ian Hunter of BlueJayHunter.com and the Blue Jay Hunter Podcast. All three guests do an outstanding job of unpacking what the aforementioned moves mean for the Toronto Blue Jays, what direction they think the team should take, what the biggest area of need is for the Jays, what this Josh Donaldson chatter is really all about, and a little on the Jays prospect pool as well!

It's a special BONUS EPISODE of the South of the 6ix Podcast that you will not want to miss!

Follow Brendan Panikkar on Twitter: @Panikkar37
Visit Brendan's Work HERE

Follow Ian Hunter on Twitter: @BlueJayHunter
Visit Ian's Work HERE
Subscribe to Ian's Podcast HERE

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @RyanDifrancesco & @JDroppings
Visit Ryan's Work HERE & HERE


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Music:

Drake Stafford - "Casets"
Auxl Studio - "Blue Bloods"

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Try Not To Vomit: My Message To Michael Felger

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Article Written by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)


I could begin this article with some cliché statement like "I don't know where to begin!" or "Where do I start?" or something like that, but I'm so disgusted that I'd rather just get right into it.

Michael Felger, a radio personality for one of the local sports stations here in New England - 98.5 The Sports Hub - had a rather revolting and nauseating take regarding Roy Halladay's untimely, tragic, and unfortunate death. If you haven't listened to it, here's 11 minutes of pure and utter bullshit. Try not to vomit - 

I'd love to get into a battle of wits with this guy, but unfortunately he'd arrive without the appropriate arsenal and would be at a severe disadvantage. If you haven't listened, basically Felger's take is that Halladay - who passed away less than 36 hours ago - deserved to die for "thrill-seeking" in his plane. The exact quote, "he got what he deserved." 

How vile, insensitive, and sociopathic can you be? I can understand that mmmaaayyybbeee you can have the opinion that Halladay understood the risks involved when it came to flying a plane. Hell, I can also understand why you would think that Halladay should have been more careful when operating the plane. I get that and I don't think that those takes are unreasonable - albeit insensitive (especially now). However, to come out on the radio and proclaim that any individual deserved to die as a result is absolutely disgusting. It's so repulsive that it makes me sick just thinking that someone would even defend this.

Felger claims that Halladay "got what he deserved" because he ostensibly prioritized the thrill of flying his plane rather than being mindful of his own well-being for the sake of his wife and children. Felger claims that Halladay would rather “joy-ride in the sky” and “risk death” than be a family man (or whatever Felger's definition of that is) and completely disregard his wife's plea to cease the activity. 

Felger, the presumptions that are spewing from your mouth aren't blind to me - and apparently aren't blind to the majority of sports fans in, not just here in New England, but throughout North America. Your cold and insensitive remarks about a man whose wife and children are still grieving reveal exactly what kind of a human being you are. To say that you think that Halladay "got what he deserved" is quite revealing and something that you ought to explore with some good ol' fashion introspection. 

To say that Halladay "got what he deserved" is beyond hasty and shows that you are void of any sort of empathy towards other people. This is a father and a husband - a man renowned and revered within the baseball community, a future Hall of Famer, and a man that has dedicated a huge chunk of his career to charitable work on his own (just Google "Doc's Box" and the "Halladay Family Foundation" because, only an imbecile such as yourself wouldn't know about these things before making such a profoundly stupid comment). To say these things and actually mean them says more about you than it does about the dangers and risks that Halladay may have assumed while flying the plane. It shows that you show no value for human life if someone decides to do things that YOU find "reckless" or "dangerous" or "thrill-seeking" because you simply can't relate to it; as if you ought to be the one to be the barometer for self-worth. Unfortunately for you, there's this giant world outside the bubble that you pride yourself in and it doesn't operate under your assumed morals or way of life. 

No, Halladay did not "get what he deserved" when he flew that plane this week. It was an accident. No one - NO ONE - "deserves" to die when doing things for a thrill; and that is assuming that this was the reason Halladay flew his planes at all! Is it something that apparently you or I would do? No, it's not. But that, in and of itself, does not mean we ought to assume that if someone does do such a thing - even if it's for the thrill - and dies as a result that it is what he or she deserves. That is like saying that if anyone decides to go sky-diving, or ride on a roller-coaster, or do ANYTHING with an ounce of risk and dies as a result, it is then deserved. How anyone could possibly reach that conclusion is not only asinine, it's honestly a bit disturbing. 

I get it. You don't agree with what he did. I get it. You saw the video TMZ posted moments before the plane crash. I get it. You wouldn't do what Halladay did because you like to keep it safe and minimize risks. I get all of this. But to say that another human being - let alone a father and a husband - "got what he deserved" is just sickening, tasteless, and void of any compassion for your fellow man. This wasn't a man under the influence of any substances that chose to put not only his own life but the lives of others in danger. He died as a result of an accident. It's literally that simple. No one "deserves" to die from anything that you find to be risky.

But you don't stop there. You have to beat it to death and rub salt in the open wounds by mocking the activity. You couldn't help to put on a show that I'm almost positive made your co-hosts equally as uncomfortable as almost every person that listens to your garbage take to try to justify your position and prove your point (by the way, you did neither). Do you care if his family hears this? Do you think that if you did something that I found to be risky or unwise and you died as a result that your wife and children would like to hear me mock your death? Do you think they'd say "Wow! This Adam Corsair guy has a point!" as a result of some diatribe that I spew? I hope Karma isn't something you believe in. No one that would put on that kind of performance could possibly believe in that sort of thing, right? 

Halladay didn't "get what he deserved." He didn't. What is deserved is all the justifiable negativity, venom, and vitriol you get, not just nation wide but throughout the entirety of North America. 

Halladay's life and legacy has been celebrated by people that are far more eloquent and qualified to do so than I ever could. This wasn't the Halladay piece I had intended to write, and I had every intention to write my own sort of "eulogy" for one of - if not the - greatest Blue Jays pitcher that I have ever had the privilege to watch every 5th day. But what you did, Felger, is unzip your pants and take a giant piss all over what he stood for and what he represented simply because you thought you were justified in doing so. For no other reason other than you feeding your own ego with your condescending diatribe. 

To say you should be ashamed isn't enough. As a resident of Rhode Island in New England, a die-hard Toronto Blue Jays fans for as long as I can remember, I felt a sense of responsibility to respond to this and portray how putrid and disgusting your remarks were. This is a line that you cannot uncross and I hope you're prepared for the backlash you'll receive. 


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


Talking Birds - Episode 1

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The Debut Episode of the Talking Birds Podcast!

"The Offseason"

Adam Corsair & Ryan DiFrancesco of Jays Droppings are joined to discuss all the latest regarding the Toronto Blue Jays.

Recorded Wednesday, 11/1, we discuss the World Series, the off-season moves we anticipate the Jays to make, the positions that need to be filled, the rumors regarding Rogers selling the team and/or the naming rights to the Rogers Centre, and much more!

Join us in our quest of Talking Birds!

Follow Ryan DiFrancesco on Twitter: @RyanDiFrancesco
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Follow Adam Corsair on Twitter: @ACorsair21
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Visit Ryan's work HERE


What We've Learned (2017 Edition)

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Article Written by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)


2017 was a year that most Toronto Blue Jays fans would like to forget. Given how successful both the 2015 and 2016 seasons were, we anticipated the team to be a lot more competitive than they actually were, leading to perhaps another playoff run. Even despite the fact that the team decided to move on from Edwin Encarnacion - which wasn't at all entirely the fault of the Blue Jays' Front Office - with the addition of Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce, we approached the season as if the Jays had enough offensive talent to mitigate the loss and still power their way through. Moreover, with how strong the starting pitching staff was (on paper, at least), there was no reason to believe that the Jays would be able to overcome such obstacles as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Orioles once again. 

Yet, things don't always end up the way we anticipate that they will, and this is no exception. The Jays suffered a large number of injuries and unfortunately did not have the depth in the system to properly fill in the gaps in order for the team to accomplish the goal of reaching the Post Season. Such injuries proved to be crucial, as Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin, and Aaron Sanchez were all out for an extended period of time, thereby delivering a crucial blow to the team and its production. In addition to those extended losses, Josh Donaldson's early season injury coupled with the time it took for him to fully recover and become the offensive juggernaut that we are familiar with (he wasn't quite right until about August), along with Devon Travis being bit by the injury bug again, the Jays hoped to attain the second Wild Card spot if they wanted to make the Post Season at all. The Jays never were able to climb out of the 0-9 hole they dug themselves in at the start of the season, and were also never able to reach the .500 mark throughout the entirety of the it as well. Whether it was injuries, under-performance, improvements from the teams within the American League, or all of the above, the Jays never found a way to overcome such obstacles and the season ended with a lot to be desired.

The end result was a 76-86 record, placing them 4th in the AL East jjjuuusssttt above the Orioles - who finished 75-87. Being 10 games under the .500 mark is a massive drop-off from how they finished the year prior (89-73) and it's almost as if we were watching a completely different team than what we expected. That's mostly because... well... they were. But having said all of this, there were a lot of things that we could learn from as a result of the 2017 season. We shouldn't shy away from the bruises and the ugly things we witnessed from this team, as they will end up being things that the teams will really need to focus on in order to improve. But, as fans, we should pay particular attention to both the tangible and intangible things that we can learn from when looking back at this past season. 

Thus, with the World Series almost underway, it may be the perfect time to reflect on what we've learned over the course of the season and how we can apply it to the 2018 season to better prepare ourselves, as fans. So let's break it down.

1. Depth is Key

I think it's fair to say that it's going to be harder and harder to rely on both Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin to be able to play a full season for the Blue Jays for the remainder of their contracts (2021 & 2019, respectively). Given the physical demands of each position, the whole "playing on turf" thing, and their respective injury history, the outlook of them being able to crack even 100 games each may be asking a bit too much. Things don't look much better when we throw Devon Travis into the mix. Travis, although young and full of potential, has yet to play a full season during his short tenure as major league player. It's unfortunate to say - and I'm almost reluctant to do so - but it's hard not to consider him injury prone and to rely on him playing a full season until we actually see him do it. Thus, these are three incredibly crucial positions (catcher, short stop, and second base) that are occupied by three players that we cannot totally rely on to seize throughout an entire season. With how productive these three players are when they're at their best, the drop-off in production is noticeable and, more importantly, detrimental to the team on the whole when they aren't in the lineup for a prolonged period of time due to injury. This is way serviceable and reliable depth is key.

Now, I don't say "reliable" in the sense that their respective replacements need to stay healthy, exclusively. That's certainly part of it. But when the team is penciling in players like Ryan Goins, Darwin Barney, Jarrod Saltamalacchia, Luke Maile, Miguel Montero, Rob Refsnyder, and Chris Coghlan into the lineup, it won't yield the results that is typically produced from a winning team. Basically, they're bodies to fill the positions out of necessity. 

Thus, it's absolutely critical that the Jays acquire talent that can fill in for these positions when they (inevitably) have to, without a massive drop-off in production. Sure, no replacement level talent will produce the same results that Travis, Martin, and Tulowitzki will be able to when they're 100% healthy - and no one is expecting them to. But to have depth on the bench that will be able to at least mitigate the loss of these players will be crucial to the Jays' success in the 2018.

This, of course, is wwaaayyy easier said than done, and I am not taking the "JUST GO OUT AND GET IT!" approach that a lot of fans take towards the Front Office. But, I don't think it's too much of a tall order for the them to take on. 

Moreover, I understand that the drop-off in production is greatly exacerbated when all three of Travis, Martin, and Tulowitzki are out at the same time. Much of the woes that the Jays experience had a lot to do with just this, so it'll be hard to be able to find a utility infielder that would otherwise be ready to occupy one of short-stop or second base. It gets way more difficult when both of those positions need to be filled. I get it. 

But, in order for the Jays to not fall in the standings, they'll need to have much more reliable and effective depth.

2. Blisters

The Jays, as well as the MLB in general, have to figure out whether or not there's a direct correlation between the newly developed/constructed baseballs and heightened amount of blister issues that some pitchers experienced this past season. Of course, for the sake of this post, I'm aiming most of the concern over at Aaron Sanchez and how he was unable to rebound throughout the vast majority of the season as a result. 

With the massive amount of potential that Sanchez has, as well as the high expectations the organization and fanbase has for him as a starting pitcher, it's really unfortunate to see him miss time as a result of something that we would otherwise consider to be minor. However, that's obviously a misjudgment on our behalf as a lot of fans are completely blind to how detrimental a blister on a pitcher's throwing hand is in terms of how much it can effect his movement and velocity. You have to understand that the seams of the baseball are basically being gripped a certain way and are continuously rolling off the pitcher's fingers in such a way that makes the baseball break or elevate, or drop, etc. If there's something preventing a pitcher from being able to throw what is necessary in a given at bat (i.e. a blister), then the pitcher will be left exposed and.. well, the end result won't be pretty.

Thus, some sort of investigation process needs to be performed by the MLB, or at least by the Jays if they still plan on relying on Sanchez to be an important part of the starting rotation (which, why wouldn't they?). They Jays simply cannot afford to cross their fingers and hope that this is just a blip on the radar for Sanchez. Not reaching unrestricted free agency until 2021, the Jays will need to have Sanchez at his best for remainder of his contract if they are serious about being contenders. He simply won't be able to pitch the way we all know he is capable of pitching if he continues to suffer these blister issues. 

Given how young and talented Sanchez is, this should be one of the Jays' top priorities this off-season.

3. Leave The Memories Alone

I'm pretty confident in saying that we have probably seen José Bautista play his final game as a Toronto Blue Jay. Not only am I confident with that, but I'm also pretty ok with that, too. Look, it's not that I don't appreciate all of the incredible moments that Bautista was able to give to us over his long tenure as a Blue Jay; I truly do. It's just that I personally hate seeing someone that was such bright spot for the Jays during a time when they were so hard to watch perform like a shell of his former self. 

Thus, perhaps this year - if nothing else - provided both the fans and Bautista to have a little bit of closure, as well as the opportunity to say "thank you!" and "goodbye." With how much Bautista wanted over the off-season coupled with the Front Office's reluctance to overpay for his services, it seemed unlikely that we would have been able to do that. Thankfully, though, he was able to witness how much fans in the city of Toronto appreciated him and his efforts throughout the years, as he left the final home game of the season to a massive standing ovation that is hard to forget and not get a bit teary eyed over. 

It's one of those things that is extremely important to Toronto sports fans, in particular, to the point where it shouldn't be tainted. Unfortunately, with that sort of send off, it certainly looks as though the writing is on the wall for Bautista and his time as a Blue Jay is, in fact, over. Moreover, it certainly seems as though Teoscar Hernández has turned enough heads within the organization that he may be the heir to the right field throne that Bautista has occupied throughout much of his time as a Jay (although, it may not necessarily be simply handed to Hernández). 

It's one of those things that remind us how incredibly special this team is and how much we not only value, but respect and appreciate the players that have cemented themselves into legendary status among the fanbase. Bautista will certainly one day be on the Level of Excellence, and he's more than earned that right. Perhaps the second best Blue Jay of all time (No. 1 goes to Almoar guys. C'mon...), the way Bautista was able to show his respect for the organization and, more importantly, the city was done in a such a way that it's probably best for both parties to walk away from each other and meet again down the road. 

4. It's Not That Easy (with Donaldson)

I've talk about this before, and I know it's a very touchy subject, but 2018 is going to dictate a lot when it comes to the future relationship between the Toronto Blue Jays and Josh Donaldson. I believe that depending on how successful the Jays are next season will determine whether or not they decide to offer Donaldson a long-term deal to stay. and 2017 sort of showed that they operate this way.

Look, I get that he - much like Bautista - is one of those special players that fans latch on to and have a hard time letting go of. But, if the Jays find themselves to be in a similar situation that they were this past year at the trade deadline, perhaps it's best for the organization's future if they move Donaldson for a package of highly ranked major league ready prospects. The Front Office seems to have a soft spot for young controllable players and have not said otherwise. Further, the aspect of both 1) getting into a bidding war with another ball club and/or 2) signing a 32/33 year old free agent to a massive contract has never served this organization well. When examining all of the factors, it's not as simple as "Just sign him!" as many fans would like it to be. Signing Josh Donaldson to a lucrative and long-term contract has the very high risk of preventing the organization to sign other players that will be needed to fill necessary holes. Moreover, with the likes of Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. being so hyped and almost prophesized for 2019, along with Morales and Smoak being on the team for next several years on much cheaper contracts (than JD will cost), it's hard to find a spot for him to play on a daily basis.

Thus, don't be surprised if the organization moves on from Donaldson if it means securing their future for years to come. Regressing is a thing and it's very hard to find examples of 32/33 year old players that are signed to 5-6 year deals worth upwards of $25-$30MM per year and perform as such throughout the majority of that contract. I'm not saying the Front Office won't do this - I simply don't know. But their past signings and moves lead me to believe that they won't.

Which brings me to...

5. Trust Atkins & Shapiro

For too long now have fans been vacantly critical of both Atkins and Shapiro to the point where it's comical. The main source of contention that such fans have towards the duo is their "failure" to sign Encarnacaion; all while completely ignoring the fact that they offered Edwin a 4 year $80MM contract that included a 5th year option worth $20MM, bringing it to a possible total of 5 years at $100MM. If you haven't noticed, this is considerably less than what Edwin ended up signing for in Cleveland (3 years at $60MM with a $20MM option). They ignore the fact that it wasn't the lack of trying on the parts of Atkins and Shapiro, but a matter of overestimating the market by Encarnacion's agent, Paul Kinzer. All such fans pay attention to is the end result - no Edwin - and falsely conclude it's all because of Atkins and Shapiro's reluctance to spend, without doing any sort of investigation of the facts. But I digress...

The team of Atkins and Shapiro have made some very solid moves for the Jays, such as acquiring Teoscar Hernández in exchange for Francisco Liriano (the latter of whom we acquired by trading away Drew Hutchinson). They have an eye for talent and are doing all that they can to build a sustainable competitive team that will be a threat for other teams within the American League. Thus, with how much leverage and patience they gave the Jays this year, as well as the talent that they acquired at the deadline, we should expect them to be aggressive this off-season and regard them as genuine when they say that they do not want a repeat of last season.

This is especially evident with how aggressive they were in their extension with Marco Estrada. They wasted no time in getting the deal done, thereby already started solidifying their starting rotation before the season even ended. Simply put, they know what they currently have isn't enough to compete for a playoff run and will do all that they can to make that possible.

Does that mean that they'll be successful in doing so? Not necessarily, but it's incorrect to reason that this because of them rather than players' reluctance to sign with Toronto for really dumb reasons (travel, taxes, customs, etc.). But if you've learned anything throughout the course of the 2017 season when it comes to both Atkins and Shapiro, I hope it's that they are serious when it comes to winning. They want to win and want to keep bringing that playoff atmosphere to Toronto. 

Why wouldn't they?


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 23

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Blue Jays Round Table to End the Season

  • It's time that we put the 2017 Blue Jays season behind us and set our sights on the years to come. But for one final time, we will look in the rearview mirror and talk about what we've learned from this past season and what needs to be done to improve the Jays' chances on arriving to October baseball once more. What are our expectations? Is there a big trade in the Jays future? What are the plans of both Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro when it comes to building a contender for 2018?
  • To help answer these questions, the South of the 6ix Podcast is proud to assemble its very first Round Table Discussion entitled "Let's Put It To Bed." Participating in the discussion are three baseball minds that are both well-respected and extremely sharp when it comes to their evaluations regarding the Blue Jays. With me I have Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) creator & writer of BlueJayHunter.com and host for the Blue Jays Hunter Podcast, as well as Chris Henderson (@Baseball4Brains) & Brendan Panikkar (@Panikkar37), both of whom are contributors over at JaysJournal.com.

It's a fantastic Round Table to put our minds at ease for 2018 while reminding us that there's a lot to look forward to!

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Music:
Drake Stafford - "Casets"
Auxl Studio - "Blue Bloods"

Follow host Adam Corsair on Twitter: @ACorsair21
Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter: @SouthOfThe6ix

Music: 
Drake Stafford - "Casets"
Auxl Studio - "Blue Bloods"

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Thanks for listening!

SOT6 Podcast - Episode 21

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Podcast hosted by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)


Talking all things Toronto Blue Jays!

  • With only a handful of games left in the 2017 Toronto Blue Jays season, our sights have been firmly set on the front office and the direction the Jays will take for 2018. We're encouraged with names in the Minor League system, but we're curious as to how management will be able to bridge the gap and compete next year, as they intend to. Would this involve trading players away to help build a sustainable winner? Or does this involve pushing the chips all in, yet again, and sacrificing what little depth the Jays have? 
  • To help answer these and other questions, I have special guest Brendan Panikkar (@Panikkar37) of JaysJournal.com joining me via telephone. Brendan's knowledge of the Toronto Blue Jays is quite vast and he helps breaks down the concerns that Jays fans have, as well as provide some quality input as to where this team may be heading for years to come. We also reflect on this past season and Brendan offers his perspective as to how the season unfolds. 

It's definitely an episode you will not want to miss!

Music:
Drake Stafford - "Casets"
Auxl Studio - "Blue Bloods"


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 20


Talking all things Blue Jays in this one! 

  • As the season comes to a disappointing end, we Jays fans are left wondering what the future holds for the ball club. Will the woes that have plagued this Blue Jays team resurface and prevent them from making a post-season run in 2018? Or will some of the younger talent that is developing in their Minor League system help give the team an extra boost of energy to reclaim their spot as the team team in the AL East?

  • To help answer these questions - and a lot more - is Dr. Jay Blue from BlueJaysFromAway.com and the Blue Jays From Away Podcast (@JaysFromAway). Dr. Blue goes into detail on such Minor League stars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Teoscar Hernandez, Danny Jansen, and Rowdy Tellez. Plus, we discuss what the future may hold for the Blue Jays & Josh Donaldson in terms of a contract extension. Lastly, we close the show remembering José Bautista and the impact he's had on both the city and the team.

    This one you won't want to miss!

  • Music: Drake Stafford - "Casets" & Auxl Studio - "Blue Bloods"