30 Teams in 30 Days: Toronto Blue Jays Preview

Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays – 75-87, 4th Place in American League East, 28 Games Back

2009 Review – At the end of the 2008 season, there was promise up in Toronto. They had arguably one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. They were led by Roy Halladay (20-11, 2.78 ERA), A.J. Burnett (18-10, 4.07 ERA), Shaun Marcum (9-7, 3.39 ERA) and B.J. Ryan (32 Saves). That staff led the American League in ERA, Complete Games, Hits, Runs Against, ERA and Home Runs Allowed. On the offensive side, the team needed an upgrade as they were in the Top Nine in The American League in only Doubles and Triples. The offense needed help. But, led by that pitching staff the Jays finished 86-76, 11 games behind the A.L. East winner.

The Jays opened the 2009 season with a 15-9 record in April and on May 18th, they were 27-14 and leading the American League East. The Jays then lost nine in a row and the season downspin started and finished the remainder of the season 48-63.

There were bright spots during this lost season for the Jays. Roy Halladay continued his dominance of the American League with a 17-10 record, with a 2.79 ERA. Rookie Ricky Romero had a 13-9 record. Fellow rookie Brett Cecil won 7 of the 18 games he started.

The offense was led by Aaron Hill, batting .286 with 36 home runs, 108 runs batted in and 103 runs scored. In his first full season, Adam Lind batted .305 with 35 home runs, 114 runs batted in and scoring 93 runs. Marco Scutaro had an excellent season, and before his trade to the Reds, Scott Rolen was batting .320 for the Jays.

The disappointments were many, and the team had the potential trade of Roy Halladay lingering throughout the news. In the end, the fourth place finish with other financial problems for the organization would be a sign of things to come.

On December 16, Roy Halladay was traded to the Phillies for three prospects. As a condition of the trade, Halladay extended his contract for three seasons for $60 million. Many of the potential free agents declared their free agency and left the Jays. Kevin Millar, Rod Barajas and Marco Scutaro will not be Jays in 2010. Reliever Brandon League was traded to Seattle for Brandon Morrow. Other roster subtractions from the 2009 season include Brian Bocock, Bryan Bullington, Brian Burres, Johermyn Chavez, Joe Inglett and Brian Wolfe.

With all roster subtractions, there are additions. In the Halladay trade, the Jays received Kyle Drabek (son of former pitcher Doug Drabek) who was the top pitching prospect for the Phillies, Travis D’Arnaud and Brett Wallace (received from the A’s). Brandon Morrow (who will be 25 this season) was received in the Brandon League trade. Kevin Gregg was signed to be a potential closer. Shortstop Alex Gonzalez signed from the Red Sox. Other roster additions will include John Buck, Dana Eveland, Sean Henn, Jarrett Hoffpauir, Zach Jackson, Mike McCoy, Jose Molina and Merkin Valdez. The organization also signed the following players to minor league contracts with the invitations to spring training: Lance Broadway, Willie Collazo, Joey Gathright, Shawn Hill, Jorge Padilla, Jeremy Reed and Steven Register.

2010 Preview – One thing we know about the Toronto Blue Jays, they will not compete for the American League East crown. They traded their best pitcher, have a pitching staff that has more questions than answers, their most expensive player coming off a poor season and other offensive deficiencies. So, where is the hope for the fans in the great White North?

The pitching staff DOES have potential. Shaun Marcum will return this season from his injuries. Young pitchers Brandon Morrow, Dana Eveland and even Kyle Drabek could hold down spots in the rotation and second year pitcher Ricky Romero will return and probable be the number one pitcher for the Jays. How many games can this starting rotation can win? 50 games from these pitchers would be a good beginning and 60 wins from the starting rotation would be a great season to build the future upon.

Vernon Wells should have a better season. He had off-season surgery to repair a sore left wrist. He is signed for five more seasons and no other organization wants that contract. He will be 32 this season and has many years ahead of him in the sport of baseball. The Jays can only hope that Wells can increase his offensive production and once again be a team leader for a very young organization.

Speaking of Wells and financial obligations…The Jays will have salary obligations of about $70 million in 2010, down from $80 million in 2009 and $97 million in 2008. The trio of Wells ($16 million), Roy Halladay (owed $10 million in 2010) and B.J. Ryan (owed $6 million in 2010) make up 45 percent of the commitments. The Jays are becoming a “small market” team.

Aaron Hill and Adam Lind will continue to improve. Travis Snider, after struggling his rookie season, will improve in his second major league season. The Jays have young players with potential and prospects that can make major impacts in the years to come.

The Jays play in a division with three of the strongest organizations in the American League. They can not and will not compete for any division championship in 2010. They play 57 games against those teams as they did in 2009, winning 17 of 57 games against those teams. The goal for this organization should be to develop their young players, find a way to shed some unwanted salary from previous poor signings and to finish above the Baltimore Orioles.

Good luck Canada.

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