Start the rebuild. The Toronto Blue Jays appear to have thrown in the towel for the 2018 season as earlier this week, the team made a series of trades before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline that suggests a potential rebuild, so what's next on the ledger for the team?
During their 11-inning loss at the hands of the Minnesota Twins, the Blue Jays traded veteran reliever Seung-hwan Oh to the Colorado Rockies for Chad Spanberger and Forrest Wall, two Low-A prospects. Oh proved to be one of the Blue Jays' better relief pitchers, posting a 2.68 ERA over 48 games with the team, and now he joins a Rockies bullpen that ranks last in the National League in ERA despite what was expected to be a super bullpen with Jake McGee, Bryan Shaw, and Wade Davis. As for the Blue Jays, aside from the loss of Oh, this trade has no immediate impact to the club.
The Blue Jays turned a lot of heads last Thursday when they traded their lone All-Star pitcher JA Happ to the division rival New York Yankees for infielder Brandon Drury and outfield prospect Billy McKinney. This trade made the rebuild all but certain for Toronto as the team acquired two players still in their mid-twenties, with Drury turning 26 on August 21 and McKinney turning 24 on August 23. Drury impressed in his first Blue Jays start yesterday, finishing the game 1/4 with a run scored and made several impressive plays at the hot corner. McKinney joins a Triple-A Buffalo Bisons team that has a new welcome addition in Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who will join the team tomorrow.
What happens next?
The Happ trade made the rebuild inevitable, and the team still has several pieces they could move for future prospects. Teams have inquired about starting pitchers Marcus Stroman and Marco Estrada, but it's clear that the club has no interest in trading Stroman and fellow starter Aaron Sanchez. Just like Happ, Estrada's contract expires at the end of the season, and could very well re-sign with the team should they make a decent offer.
Another big name that's been floating around the trade rumors is former American League MVP Josh Donaldson. Although the 32-year-old third baseman has only appeared in 36 games this season due to separate stints on the disabled list with shoulder and calf injuries, Donaldson offers a great power bat and postseason experience that contending teams may value. However, there is still no timeline for Donaldson's return, so it seems unlikely that the Blue Jays move him before the non-waiver deadline. But that doesn't mean the Jays won't place Donaldson on revocable waivers to make him available for trade during the waiver period.
As for next season, the Blue Jays may find themselves in contention for 2019 if they play their cards right. As most baseball fans know, the upcoming free agent class offers some of the game's biggest stars in Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, Josh Donaldson and possibly Clayton Kershaw. The Blue Jays could theoretically re-sign Happ and Estrada to solidify their rotation, unlikely though it is, and may get a star player of their own from this free agent class. It's also important that the team addresses their bullpen, which has been plagued by inconsistency since the suspension of Roberto Osuna. Some relievers entering the pool include Andrew Miller, Zach Britton, David Robertson, and Craig Kimbrel.
Speaking of Roberto Osuna, the 23-year-old reliever has been mentioned in trade rumors as of late despite being suspended for 75 games due to domestic assault. Osuna owns a 2.93 ERA and has nine saves in the minimal time he's played this season and is one of the game's young premier talents, so there's a possibility that a team that needs a late-inning reliever makes an offer for Osuna.
As stated earlier, the Blue Jays recently promoted Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to Triple-A Buffalo after he made a mockery of Double-A during his time with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Guerrero slashed a line of .402/.449/.671 over 61 games at the Double-A level as he continues to prove why he's ranked as the best MLB prospect. It's possible Guerrero joins the big club during September to get major league at-bats under his belt, but it's important that the team doesn't rush him too quickly now that they've waived the white flag for the season. It's also expected that Bo Bichette may join the Buffalo team soon. Bichette is the ninth-ranked prospect in MLB and he's slashing a line of .273/.330/.454 with the Fisher Cats and is bound to be the Blue Jays' shortstop of the future.
The Toronto Blue Jays may have given up on 2018, but the thought of them contending in 2019 isn't as crazy as you may think. The Blue Jays may be a legitimate threat next season if they play their cards right and their players stay healthy.