With a lineup decimated by injuries, the Blue Jays had suffered through a sluggish start of the season, owning a league-worst 4-13 record. It is still early, but with Toronto playing in one of the most competitive divisions in baseball, they may find their window of opportunity for a World Series appearance closing quickly.
Unfortunately for Toronto, it isn’t one department they are struggling in, it’s all of them. Last year, strong starting pitching and an offense that excelled in knocking the ball out of the park and getting on base made Toronto a force to be reckoned with. This year, their numbers are down across the board. After leading the league in innings pitched by a starter, Toronto is now tied for 26th in the department, their rotation’s ERA has ballooned from 3.64 (fourth best in baseball) to 4.22 (20th), and opponents are seeing the all better, with an uptick in batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage.
While Toronto was never a team who hit for a high average, things went from bad to worse in 2017 as the team has gone from a .248/.330/.426 slash line to .220/.286/.333, with their home run numbers falling from the fourth most in the majors to 26th this season. The Blue Jays are striking out more and walking less as well, whiffing on 24.20 percent of their plate appearances and walking just 7.96 percent of the time.
Third baseman and former league MVP Josh Donaldson is out for at least another two weeks, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki just found himself on the disabled list as well, joining pitchers J.A. Happ, Aaron Sanchez and J.P. Howell.
With this much talent sidelined, along with the fact that their core is aging, it may be time for Toronto to sell and restock their farm system. Ace pitcher Marco Estrada is slated for free agency this year, while Happ and Donaldson are set to hit the market in 2019.
This winter’s free agency class is weak in starting pitching, with the next best available prospect being Jeremy Hellickson, so Toronto could command a lot for Estrada, who has been effective in the AL East, grinding out a 3.26 ERA in his three seasons up north. Houston and Colorado could be interested in him as well as division rivals Baltimore and Boston, though the asking price inside the division may be too high.
When healthy, Donaldson one of the best third basemen in the league and would get a considerable package. The Mets, who are struggling with Jose Reyes at third base, could look at him as a replacement as well as Cleveland.
Another name that could hit the rumor mill is Jose Bautista, who was re-signed this offseason, but at age 36, if the Blue Jays are indeed sellers, his value would be at it’s highest now despite his poor start to the season.
While the Blue Jays farm system isn’t in terrible shape, they have handed out quite a few of their better prospects in recent years to land players like David Price, Tulowitzki and Donaldson and with their window slowly closing, Toronto will have to decide if they want to re-tool or reload in July.