Status: Waiting for prospects/rebuilding
It’s a new era north of the border, but they are still more likely to be sellers than buyers in July. Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Kevin Pillar could all fetch something to bolster a farm that is surprisingly shallow for their ranking.
The biggest news of the winter from Toronto was the release of Troy Tulowitzki. He didn’t get on the field in 2018 but paying him to play for the division rival Yankees is still a surprise as, if healthy, he can still offer some value.
Oliver Drake was claimed off waivers from the Rays and traded back to them later in the offseason.
Freddy Galvis was brought in on a $4.5 million deal for 2019 with a team option. Galvis provides depth up the middle while the Blue Jays wait for Bichette. Unlike Tulowitzki, he’s a guarantee to be available, having featured in all 324 games across the last two seasons.
Former Mariner David Phelps arrived on a Major League deal. Phelps was a starter earlier in his career, but he had a solid 2018 as a reliever for the Marlins and then Mariners.
The rotation behind Stroman and Sanchez has been bolstered (though that’s probably too strong a word) by the injury-hit Matt Shoemaker and the often healthy, but not especially effective, Clayton Richard. Clay Buchholz was good for the Diamondbacks last season and has signed on a one-year deal, though his performances are an uncertainty.
Richard arrived via trade, swapping San Diego for Toronto, as the Blue Jays sent Connor Panas to California. Shoemaker is on a one-year deal with incentives aplenty if he can stay healthy. The former Rookie of the Year runner up has been pretty much league average since his first year in the Show.
John Axford, who started last season well in Toronto before being traded to the Dodgers, is one of several veterans invited to Spring Training. Another former Dodger, Javy Guerra, will feature in spring, having struggled with the Marlins last season. Utility infielder Eric Sogard will compete for a bench job.
What to watch
The first part of this section goes without saying, but I guess we’ll say it anyway. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. We have to wait a few weeks because of some service time nonsense, which is frustrating and understandable in equal measure. Guerrero will start at the hot corner despite defensive concerns, but no one cares too much about his glovework at this point. Offensive expectations are sky high, he’s a generational talent and could immediately become the Blue Jays’ best player.
Stroman and Sanchez have suffered a difficult couple of seasons. The hope of a pair of aces has waned, though there’s enough there to believe they could bounceback in 2019. If they do, Toronto will have a big decision to make about the direction they want to take. Trading them away would make sense if they can rebuild value.
Projections are very mixed for Lourdes Gurriel Jr. He was streaky at the plate in 2018 and there are concerns about his glove. Being a league average hitter is challenging with his woeful plate discipline. He walked more and struck out a lot less when playing in Cuba – the Blue Jays need to see more of that this season if he is to become a starter.
Toronto are comfortably the fourth-best team in their division. They are closer to the Orioles than they are the Yankees and Red Sox. Giving plate appearances to Bichette, Jansen and Gurriel is the priority.
Finding out what they’ve got can inform decision making. Unless they get something extraordinary from several prospects, surprise breakouts and solid innings from their starters, they should be looking to sell.