If life was fair, the Blue Jays would be higher on this list. They have some good young talent, they have a lot of pitching depth, and they have a GM who looks like he knows what he’s doing. But, we can’t ignore the elephant in the room – two of them, actually. The Yankees and Red Sox have taken up residence at the top of the AL East, and they aren’t looking to move any time soon. The other three teams in the division have essentially been handcuffed into needing everything to go exactly right in order to sneak into the playoffs.
There’s no chance that Toronto gets lucky enough to win the AL East this year. Everything could break exactly right, they could get a plethora of career years, and 3rd place is still their ceiling. That’s just life in the toughest division in baseball. And, unfortunately for them, that really hurts their chances of winning in the next few years, so they have to look towards the future.
There are reasons for optimism going forward. Snider and Lind can hit, and Aaron Hill is a good up the middle player in his prime. They’ve become a bullpen factory, spitting out good reliever after good reliever. And now, the rotation is full of upside, with interesting arms everywhere you look. As we talked about a few months ago, they also are going to have a ton of money to spend next winter, as nearly all of the role players are on expiring contracts, so Toronto will theoretically be able to go shopping for a new star hitter.
But, in the AL East, it just won’t be enough. They’re a long ways from catching Boston, New York, and Tampa Bay in terms of talent. They’ll never have the resources of the Red Sox or Yankees, and they’d have to seriously upgrade their process to catch Tampa in terms of running a team. They’re trying to catch a trio of sports cars while riding a bicycle. Even the Orioles have moved ahead of the Jays in the east, with a strong collection of young talent themselves. It’s just a monster of a division.
So, Toronto faces a rebuilding process with the knowledge that they have to do everything right. They have to draft well, hit on some good international free agents, make a few great trades, and have everyone stay healthy and mature at the same time. If that all happens, they’ll have a one or two year window to contend before their guys get too expensive and they have to start trading them away. It’s not fair, but it’s reality, and it’s why the Jays find themselves near the bottom of the pack – their odds of winning any time soon are just not good.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.