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Offseason-In-Review: Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto builds depth in effort to make one last go-around with core group

MLB: Spring Training-Pittsburgh Pirates at Toronto Blue Jays
The Grandy Man was one of many OFs to take his talents north of the border.
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Blue Jays (76-86)

Additions

OF Curtis Granderson (signed to a one-year contract for $5 million)
OF Randal Grichuk (acquired in a trade with the Cardinals)
INF Aledmys Diaz (acquired in a trade with the Cardinals)
INF Yangervis Solarte (acquired in a trade with the Padres)
SP Jaime Garcia (signed to a one-year contract for $10 million with a team option)
RP Seung hwan Oh (signed to a one-year contract for $2.5 million with a vesting option)
RP Tyler Clippard (signed to a minor league contract; likely to make the Opening Day roster)
RP John Axford (signed to a minor league contract; likely to make the Opening Day roster)

Subtractions

RP Dominic Leone (traded to Cardinals)
OF Jose Bautista (remains a free agent, but is expected to sign elsewhere)

The Blue Jays offseason began with a reasonable possibility of a rebuild of one kind or another following a disappointing season, and it was not unreasonable to think that the team might just trade their best player, third baseman Josh Donaldson. Instead, though, the Jays elected to add depth everywhere that they could to make one last run at the postseason before Donaldson hits free agency following the season.

While none of the eight additions above are likely to make a massive impact, they all have important attributes that Toronto lacked going into the offseason. Curtis Granderson provides the team with a legitimate option to lead off at least occasionally, and he can work the count better than just about anyone (a trait that they’ll miss from Jose Bautista), even though he’ll be shielded from left-handed pitchers, who he has struggled against mightily in recent years. Randal Grichuk gives the Blue Jays an solid safety net in center in the event that Kevin Pillar suffers an injury, and he alone could give the team all of the power that they lost from Bautista. Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz provide incredibly important depth behind the oft-injured middle infield duo of Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki, who will begin the season on the DL.

Jaime Garcia gives the team a reliable innings-eater for the back end of the rotation, and with Marcus Stroman dealing with shoulder inflammation and Aaron Sanchez having missed most of last season due to blister issues, there’s perhaps no greater need for the Birds right now than reliable innings. Garcia had an uneven 2017, starting out strong with the Braves before making a cameo with the Twins and then stumbling with the Yankees, but he has earned rave reviews from catcher Russell Martin thus far in spring camp.

Tyler Clippard, John Axford and Seung hwan Oh have all had far, far better seasons than the ones they slogged through in 2017; Clippard was a one-WAR reliever as recently as 2015, whereas Axford has shown flashes of his former dominance but has mostly struggled since leading the NL in saves in 2011, culminating in a 6.43 ERA over 21 innings with the A’s in 2017 before being released just ahead of the trade deadline. Oh had the best season of the three but was still mediocre, with a 4.10 ERA and 1.40 WHIP, a far cry from his dominant debut in the States in 2016. If any of the three can even come close to their old selves, they’ll help to fortify a bullpen that has lost Leone and righty Joe Biagini, who will begin the season in AAA as he stretches out as a starter. Roberto Osuna and Ryan Tepera were both great in 2017, but they’ll need some help.

The Blue Jays could have taken a lot of different routes this offseason, and only time will tell if the one that they chose was the right one. Regardless, though, it’s clear that this iteration of the Blue Jays has a lot more depth than the one that couldn't meet expectations in 2017, which should make them better equipped to handle all the adversity that every team has to handle every season. If things don’t go well, they’ll have plenty of players in their contract years that they could look to trade, including Donaldson, starters Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, outfielders Granderson and Steve Pearce and reliever Aaron Loup.