While there’s already been quite a bit of change with the Blue Jays, fans can expect a lot more transformation to have happened by the end of the 2019 season.
Things are pretty quiet for the Blue Jays right now, and that’s not much of a surprise given that the free agent market is still relatively young, and the franchise is just beginning a rebuild. They’ve already done most of the heavy lifting on the coaching side by hiring Charlie Montoyo as their new skipper, and others to join his staff.
As far as roster news lately, the biggest discussions have been about who may or may not be around for the 2019 season. MLBtraderumors.com listed both Yangervis Solarte and Devon Travis as non-tender candidates the other day, and Kevin Pillar has been brought up as a possibility in the past as well. At this stage it looks like a non-tender is a near certainty for Solarte, but it’s hard to say what will happen with the other two Blue Jay veterans.
Regardless of what the front office does before next season gets underway, we know that this franchise is going to go through even more change next year. Russell Martin is on the final year of his current contract, as are Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak. Others like Troy Tulowitzki, Marcus Stroman, and Aaron Sanchez have just two years remaining of contract control. And with a talented crop of youngsters on the way, we’re going to see a lot of new faces throughout 2019.
The whole situation has me wondering just how different things could be, even by the end of next season. I’m not even going to venture a guess as to what the rotation could look like beyond having faith in Ryan Borucki sticking and my hope that Marcus Stroman will be around for the long haul, but the lineup seems like it’s a little easier to predict, at least in the short term.
I feel like 2019 will be a year that we see the Blue Jays move more veterans at the trade deadline, if that work doesn’t happen over the winter. I have a feeling that guys like Smoak and Martin will start the year in Toronto, but I’d be very surprised to see them finish the season, especially as the financial commitment gets smaller, specifically in Martin’s case. With that continued veteran turnover, I expect we’ll see a pretty different lineup in less than a year.
This is based purely on my speculation alone, but here’s how I see the lineup looking by the end of the 2019 season.
1- Bo Bichette (2B)
2- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (SS)
3- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B)
4- Kendrys Morales (DH)
5- Randal Grichuk (CF)
6- Rowdy Tellez (1B)
7- Teoscar Hernandez (RF)
8- Danny Jansen (C)
9- Billy McKinney (LF)
Notable omissions: Justin Smoak, Kevin Pillar, Russell Martin, Devon Travis, Troy Tulowitzki.
I think it’s safe to assume that Solarte won’t factor in this year, and it remains to be seen if Travis will get a chance to re-establish himself in the Blue Jays’ infield. Whether it’s the four year veteran, or some combination of Brandon Drury and Aledmys Diaz, I really feel that whomever it is will be acting as a placeholder for Bo Bichette. Given all of Vlad Jr’s accomplishments it’s easy to forget just how good young Bo is, and is going to be, and I expect he’ll arrive beyond the end of the year. With combination of hitting ability and decent speed also makes him a decent fit for a leadoff type, I reckon.
It’s possible that he and Gurriel Jr. could flip flop defensive positions, but something tells me that Gurriel is going to grab the shortstop job in 2019. That is, as long as Troy Tulowitzki doesn’t force him to second base for awhile. It’s possible that Tulo might get healthy and play for a spell, but with just two years remaining on his contract that would be the best thing to happen for Atkins’ chances of trading the veteran. If the Jays eat some money and he shows he can still contribute, they might be able to jettison the contract somehow. Alternatively, he’ll either be on the disabled list (as usual, no disrespect), or in a worst case, the Blue Jays may simply cut him eventually.
Vlad should be no surprise in the three-hole, and I’ve followed him up with Morales, who I don’t expect to get traded this winter, or even at next year’s deadline. It’s possible he could be picked up as a pinch hitter for the stretch run by another team, but I have a feeling he’ll play out the season in Toronto and be the best mentor he can be for the young guys.
After that I’ve got Randal Grichuk hitting fifth and playing centre field, and that’s because I’m not sure that the Blue Jays will hang on to Pillar much longer. I do expect he’ll start the 2019 season in Toronto as well, but it’s hard to see him as a long term part of the plan for this group, especially as his defensive statistics start to fade a bit. Hitting sixth I have Rowdy Tellez, who I expect will get the bulk of starts after Justin Smoak is traded, which should happen sometime next summer.
Rounding out the rest of the lineup are Teoscar Hernandez, Danny Jansen, and Billy McKinney. Jansen should be a lock for the future behind the plate, but the other two outfield spots in Toronto are the hardest to predict right now. If Hernandez can play acceptable defence then there’s a good chance he’ll earn a spot for at least the short term future, and McKinney will need to show he can hit enough to stick in the big leagues. If not, they could be pushed by a group of young outfielders that includes Anthony Alford, Dwight Smith Jr., Jonathan Davis, and even recent convert, Cavan Biggio. I do believe that Hernandez will figure out how to play acceptable defence at least (I’m not sure what gives me this blind faith), and McKinney seems like a sneaky-good outfielder who could earn a lot of playing time.
Again, this is all just speculation on my part, but it’s fun to think about the exciting future that should be ahead for the Blue Jays. The kids on the way are very talented, and they’re not far from making a direct impact at the highest level. In fact, I suspect we’ll see quite a few of them before next season is over.