Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fast Track To Contention - Blue Jays Best-Case Scenario Through 2012

Brett Lawrie represents a huge part of the Blue Jays future,
but what could that future potentially hold?
Now that the first month-plus of the 2011 Major League Baseball season is in the books, Blue Jays fans have grown to realize that, while this year's team could certainly win 85 games again, they probably won't be competing for a playoff spot. Blue Jays management is likely more focused on player development this season than contention in the standings.

We all know the Blue Jays are in for a serious roster re-working in the not-so-distant future, but what exactly does that entail, and what will happen in everything goes as planned? In this post, I will outline the ideal scenario for the Blue Jays in 2011 and beyond.
May 18th, 2011
After making the necessary adjustments and flat-out raking in Vegas, Travis Snider is called back up to Toronto with a new approach at the plate and it shows; Snider then goes on to hit 20 homers with a .270/.340/.500 line for the rest of the season.

June 3rd, 2011
After hitting .320/.390/.600 with AAA Las Vegas, Brett Lawrie makes his much anticipated debut for the Blue Jays as the team faces off in Baltimore against the Orioles.

July 12th, 2011
Jose Bautista starts for the American League in the All-Star Game in Phoenix, Arizona after leading the Major Leagues in votes. At the time, Bautista has regressed in the batting average department, but is still drawing a prolific amount of walks with a .450 OBP. Ricky Romero, with a 3.25 ERA, is also named to the team.

July 31st, 2011
The Blue Jays react as very active neutralists at the 2011 Trade Deadline, both making trades to acquire major leaguers, and deal them. Headlining the Blue Jays moves is an acquisition of Fausto Carmona (who at the time is sporting a 3.60 ERA) in exchange for Zach Stewart, Henderson Alvarez, and a PTBNL. After a blistering start, the Indians make the trade due to a lackluster June stretch that sees them falling five games under .500 at the deadline.

Contrastingly, Toronto trades Jason Frasor to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for relief prospect Jacob Petricka. Juan Rivera plays well enough leading up to the deadline (hitting .270/.340/.440), leading the Blue Jays to deal him to San Francisco for a PTBNL or cash. Trading away Rivera opens up a starting spot for Eric Thames, who responds with a .250/.330/.425 line in his first two weeks with the big league club.

September 24th, 2011
Toronto Blue Jays are eliminated from playoff contention after an otherwise fantastic run, and one unexpected at that. Fan optimism grows tenfold from the season before and over the last week of the season 30,000+ fans show up to every game to cheer on the club.

September 28th, 2011
Blue Jays finish with an 87-75 record, good enough for second in the AL Wild Card race, as both the Yankees and Red Sox make the postseason. Leading the charge are Ricky Romero, who ends with a 3.40 ERA and his first 200 strikeout season, Jose Bautista, who follows up his breakout year with a near-unanimous MVP season as he goes .290/.430/.600 and 47 HR, and Brandon Morrow who shows that his 2010 peripherals were no fluke as he goes 16-8 with a 3.55 ERA. Alex Anthopoulos meanwhile wins Executive of the Year, aided by his acquisitions and a poor showing by Vernon Wells (who hits .250/.310/.395) in Anaheim. 

December 5-8th (Winter Meetings in Dallas, Texas), 2011
In a move mirroring the Shaun Marcum - Brett Lawrie swap, the Toronto Blue Jays acquire prospects Brett Jackson and Rafael Dolis in return for star starter Ricky Romero. Alex Anthopoulos states "We're still very optimistic about Anthony Gose's future with the Blue Jays, but we also love Jackson as a prospect and knew this was a perfect chance to acquire some high-end talent at such a premier defensive position as centerfield." 

The plan is for Jackson to slide right into the lineup starting in late April 2012, adding an extra year before free agency, but not ensuring non-Super Two status.

With all of the pitching prospects coming up in the Blue Jays system and the emergence of Brandon Morrow as an ace, Ricky Romero was certainly expendable, and the Blue Jays solidify their future outfield of Snider - Jackson/Gose - Bautista.

Chicago meanwhile, goes on to sign Albert Pujols to a ground-breaking 8-year, $210M deal, validating their decision to trade their top position prospect in exchange for a premier pitcher.

December 17th, 2011
Blue Jays sign Edwin Jackson to a 4-year, $30M deal, becoming the seventh MLB team to employ Jackson. The move solidifies rotational depth and adds a middle-of-the-rotation workhorse with potential for more. The Blue Jays plan to enter 2012 with a rotation of Morrow-Carmona-Jackson-Drabek-Stewart.

December 19th, 2011
With pitching prospects and established veterans aplenty, Alex Anthopoulos decides to trade Brett Cecil to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for high-upside 2010 draftee RHP Tyrell Jenkins.

February 11th, 2012
After good follow-up seasons, Travis Snider and Brandon Morrow are both signed to lengthy extensions that buy out their entire arbitration and more. Snider is given 5 years, $30M, while Morrow signs for 6 years, $60M. Alex Anthopoulos declares "The rest of the American League should watch out, these extensions will keep us in the playoff picture for years to come."

May 1st, 2012
After hosting over 30,000 fans in each of the Blue Jays April home games, the club is an opportunistic 18-13, and sits atop the AL East. Doubts from media personnel outside of Canada vanish regarding the validity of baseball in Toronto.

June 10th, 2012
After tearing up the American League in the first half of 2012, Jose Bautista collects the most votes of any Major League player and starts in right field for the AL in the 2012 MLB All-Star Game in Kansas City. Brandon Morrow and Fausto Carmona also take part in the festivities.

September 27th, 2012
Jose Bautista hits his 200th career home run in front of a packed house at the Rogers Centre. Two days later, the Blue Jays, clinch the American League wild card and are two games back of the Boston Red Sox for the best record in the AL.

October 4th, 2012
October baseball is back in Canada, and the Blue Jays respond by defeating Texas 7-3 in the first game of their ALDS matchup with the Rangers. However, the Rangers storm back to take three of the next four games and advance to the ALCS. Nevertheless, season tickets sell out at exorbitant prices for 2013 and the impossible is made possible. 

A few months later, Baseball America rates the Blue Jays system as the third best in baseball for 2013 (behind the Royals and Rays), and a conveyor belt of top prospects allows the club to establish a winning mentality for the next decade-plus.

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