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Legends On Deck

Toronto Blue Jays: How They Were Built

2015 Toronto Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays finished the 2014 season with a record of 83-19.  Second year John Gibbons improved on his team’s record from a year before, and could possibly continue that trend in 2015.  There are may out there that feel that 2015 Blue Jays could compete for the American League East title and possibly more.  The postseason has eluded them since their World Series Championship in 1993, so it may be a fun time to start following the long Canadian team.

Photo courtesy of Gabe Rodriguez/Legends On Deck

Photo courtesy of Gabe Rodriguez/Legends On Deck

Starting Pitchers

R.A. Dickey – Acquired in a trade with the New York Mets in 2012.  The former Cy Young Award winner finished his second season north of the border with identical 14-13 seasons.  He ERA improved from 4.21 in 2013 to 3.71 in 2014, but is still quite a bit away from the magical 2012 season with the Mets when he went 20-6.  The knuckleballer is still extremely durable making 34 starts the last two seasons and 133 the last four years.  He will have a new catcher to work with this year so we will see how that goes.

Mark Buehrle – Acquired in a trade with the Miami Marlins in 2012.  One of the quickest workers on the mound, Buehrle, the 36-year old is entering his 16th season in the major leagues.  He holds a 199-152 record with a career ERA of 3.81.  He has made the All-Star team five times, collected four Gold Gloves, and finished fifth in Cy Young voting once.  You know what you are going to get with Buehrle every season.  The guy makes all of his starts and will give you upwards of 12-15 wins per season.  He is in the final year of the four-year $58 million contract he signed with the Marlins.  His future is uncertain, but it is entirely up to him what he does when the season ends.

Drew Hutchison – Drafted in the 15th round of the 2009 amateur draft by the Blue Jays.  Hutchison will be in the regular rotation for the second straight years.  The 24-year old went 11-13 in 2014 with an ERA of 4.48 in 32 starts.  He is looked at the possible future for the Jays’ rotation, so seeing how he responds in 2015 will be a good sign as to where the franchise is heading.

Marco Estrada – Acquired in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers in December 2014.  Estrada most likely wasn’t going to find his way into the rotation, but with the season-ended injury to Marcus Stroman things may have changed.  2015 will be Estrada’s eighth in the big leagues and he holds a 23-26 record with an ERA of 4.23.  He has pitched both out of the bullpen and in the rotation and might be the Jays’ only option when the season starts.

Aaron Sanchez – Drafted in the first round of the 2010 amateur draft by the Blue Jays.  Sanzhez is another pitcher that made his major league debut in 2014.  He appeared in 24 games all out of the bullpen and had an ERA of 1.09.  He will most likely be the Jays fifth starter and it remains to be seen how he does as a starter compared to a reliever.  If his statistics in 2014 are any indication on how it is going to be, Jays fans will be in for a treat.

Bullpen

 

Brett Cecil (CL) – Drafted in the first round of the 2007 amateur draft by the Blue Jays.  Cecil appears to be the front-runner for the closing job when the season starts.  He has recorded a few saves over his six years in the major leagues but not more than the five he had last season.  He has a career record of 35-30 with a relatively high ERA mainly from the time he was a starter.  The last two seasons combined his ERA is in the middle two’s which is about half of what it was prior to.  He had a 12.8 K/9 rate last year which is always good to see.

Aaron Loup – Drafted in the ninth round of the 2009 amateur draft by the Blue Jays.  Loup is the other left-handed pitcher so far in the Jays’ bullpen.  He is entering his fourth season in the major leagues and is trending in the right direction as far as his statistics are concerned.  He appeared in 71 games last season going 4-4 with an ERA of 3.15.

Kyle Drabek – Acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009.  Drabek was once looked at as a highly rated prospect in baseball.  It hasn’t quite been the way any had hoped, but he is still young and has time to improve.  He has played in parts of five seasons in the major leagues posting a record of 8-15, appearing in 39 games with 30 of them starts.

Steve Delabar – Acquired in a trade with the Seattle Mariners in 2012.  The former All-Star is entering his fifth season in the major leagues.  Last season he was 3-0 with an ERA of 4.91 in 30 appearances.  His production dropped considerably from 2013, so a bounce-back year would be great if the team hopes to contend.

Wilton Lopez – Signed a minor league contract with the Blue Jays in December 2014.  Lopez has a lot of appearances under his belt in his six years.  It is uncertain if he will make the major league roster but could be a candidate once the Blue Jays break camp.  In his career he has appeared in 292 games and has a record of 16-17.

Starting Lineup

 

Russell Martin (C) – Signed a five-year $58 million free agent deal in November 2014.  At first glance the deal that Martin signed may be a bit puzzling for a 32-year catcher, but there is something about how he goes about his business that makes a team better.  The Blue Jays are going to benefit from having a player like him on the field and in the clubhouse.  The three-time All-Star had a terrific season at the plate in 2014 as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, hitting .290 and collected over 100 hits for the first time since the 2009 season.

Edwin Encarnacion (1B) – Signed as a free agent in 2010 and is nearing the end of a three-year $29 million contract extension he signed in 2013 with an option in 2016.  Encarnacion seems to be improving with age.  He has hit 42, 36, and 34 home runs the last three seasons, and has had an OPS over .900 to boot.  In my mind there is little doubt that the Blue Jays pick up the option for 2016 barring a significant decline.  He is a decent fielder that has spent time at first, third, and the outfield over the last several seasons.

Maicer Izturis (2B) – Signed a three-year $10 million contract starting in the 2013 season with a club option for 2016.  Izturis is a decent hitting and fielding infielder who could be keeping the spot warm for Jays’ prospect Devon Travis.

Josh Donaldson (3B) – Acquired in a trade with the Oakland A’s this winter.  It was a trade that surprised most earlier in the winter when Oakland parted ways with their All-Star third baseman.  Toronto is getting a guy that can hit for power (24 and 29 home runs the past two seasons) and drive in runs (93 and 98).  He is still arbitration eligible due to service time, and lost his case against the Blue Jays and will make $4.3 million this season.

Jose Reyes (SS) – Acquired in a trade with the Miami Marlins in 2012.  One of the hardest things to believe is that Reyes is entering his 13th season in the major leagues.  After missing part of the 2013 season, Reyes came back in a big way in 2014 hitting .287 but collected 30 stolen bases, proving that his legs haven’t caught up with his age.  It was the eighth time in his career that he had 30 or more stolen bases in a season.  He is currently in the middle of the six-year $106 million contract he signed when he became a member of the Marlins.

Kevin Pillar (LF) – Drafted in the 32nd round of the 2011 amateur draft by the Blue Jays.  Pillar has been penciled in as the starting left fielder due to Michael Saunders being injured.  Pillar has played in 89 games at the major league level and has a career average of .239 with five home runs.

Dalton Pompey (CF) – Drafted in the 16th round of the 201 amateur draft by the Blue Jays.  One of the Blue Jays top prospects, Pompey made his major league debut in 2014 appearing in 17 games.  The 22-year old Canadian is having himself a decent spring which is creating a little buzz around camp.  He is a player to keep your eye on for sure.

Jose Bautista (RF) – Acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008.  There really isn’t much to say about Bautista that you probably don’t already know.  He was a mediocre player in his early years and was dealt to the Blue Jays for a player to be named later.  Since becoming a Blue Jay all he has done is make five straight All-Star teams, won three Silver Slugger Awards, and finished in the top six in MVP voting three times. Oh he also hits home runs in case you weren’t sure.  203 since heading north of the border to be exact.  He also follows everyone that follows him on Twitter so it may be worth it if that is your social media drug.  He is in the final year of the five-year $65 million contract extension he signed in 2011.  There is an option for the 2016 season but the specifics of it are unknown.

Dioner Navarro (DH) – Signed a two-year $8 million free agent contract with the Blue Jays in 2013.  For the time being Navarro is a member of the Blue Jays.  There has been plenty of talk about him wanting out and seeking a trade.  With Martin behind the plate, his playing time has been cut at least in half if not more.  He is a decent hitter and can certainly be a nice addition to a team that is lacking.  Navarro is entering his 12th season in the major leagues.

Projected Bench

 

Josh Thole (C) – Acquired in a trade with the New York Mets in 2012.  It is difficult for any player that is competing with two solid veteran catchers to have any chance at playing time.  Thole is in that boat currently until a move is made.  He is a good option for a backup catcher, but with Martin and Navarro it will be tough to get him starts.  Thole hit .248 in 57 games in 2014.

Justin Smoak (1B) – Signed a one-year $1 million free agent contract with the Blue Jays this winter.  This is probably one of the best investments the Blue Jays could have made.  Smoak was seen as one of the top prospects in all of baseball but hasn’t lived up to it yet.  A low-risk high-reward signing for sure and could get plenty of starts at first if Encarnacion moves to the outfield.  He has plenty to prove and has to work to get at-bats, but the Jays could certainly benefit.

Steven Tolleson (IF/OF) – Signed as a free agent on 2014.  Tolleson is a 31-year old that has played three seasons (not consecutive) in the major leagues.  He played in 109 games with the Blue Jays in 2014 and hit .253.  He is an asset because he can literally play anywhere on the field which is always a good thing to have off the bench.

Danny Valencia (IF) – Acquired in a trade with the Kansas City Royals at the deadline in 2014.  Valencia can play both corner infield spots and could spend time in the designated hitter role.  He has the potential to hit some home runs (15 in 2011), but should be expected to come in for defense and the occasional day off.

John Ginder

Site Co-Founder/Senior Editor and Co-Host at Legends on Deck® The Podcast
In the past John has been a part of such successful sites as MetsMerizedOnline and MetsMinors.net.John was born and raised in upstate New York and has a love of all sports but mainly baseball. He has grown used to heartache with his teams as he roots for the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres too.John has a loving and understanding wife and is the the proud father of two amazing boys.He also loves heavy metal music.

You can also reach out to John at jginder@legendsondeck.com