Toronto Blue Jays: Buyers or Sellers

Welcome to Napkin Math, a tiny little website dedicated to moderately detailed baseball analysis. I have no plans for copy-editing any of the posts, but if there’s a glaring error, please pass it along. I’d like to keep most articles short and focused while avoiding the trap of getting too hung up on the math. I apologize in advance for the quality of writing and my excessive use of punctuation. With that said, let’s get started.

The Toronto Blue Jays are an incredibly mediocre baseball team burdened with a run of incredibly annoying bad luck. You know this. This isn’t news. You also know that the Blue Jays’ front office team has to do something and what that something is depends largely on whether or not the Toronto Blue Jays will be competitive next year. Clearly, I’ve dedicated this website to the coldest takes south of Churchill, Manitoba.

Here’s what we know about next year’s Toronto Blue Jays:

Gone: Estrada, Liriano, Montero, Smith, Barney, Howell and a bunch of eminently replaceable players are gone via Free Agency. I’d have a difficult time justifying bringing Estrada back at anything more than 2/30M but that’s for another day. In addition to that group, Bautista is gone as well.

What’s Left: Josh Donaldson, Smoak, Stroman, Sanchez, Osuna and a bunch of useful but fungible pieces.

So is it possible to work some magic and turn next year’s team into a playoff team? Well, this is what we’ll need:  Around 15 Wins Above Replacement from the starters, and about 20ish WAR from the hitters including their defence which is currently bottom-5 in the MLB. The main offenders are unsurprisingly Joey Bats, Steve Pearce, Zeke Carrera and Ryan Goins, who has held his own at 2nd at 3rd, but performed terribly filling in for Tulo at short.

Pitchers

Stroman – 3.5 WAR

Sanchez – 3.0 WAR

Happ – 1.5 WAR

So this team is essentially left with about 5-7 WAR that have to come from the Free Agent Market or via Trade. Even if you take an aggressive approach to projecting Stroman and Sanchez, you’re still going to need a couple Marco Estrada level finds. I think we can safely say that it’ll cost about 30-40M to turn the Blue Jays starting pitching into a playoff calibre unit. Coincidentally, the Blue Jays have about 30M coming off the books from Liriano and Estrada. Getting the starting pitching to where it needs to be is definitely do-able, but they’ve got to hit on both mid-level signings because there’s no help down at the farm.

Hitters

Martin / Catcher – 2 WAR

Smoak / First – 2.5 WAR (on pace for 4 WAR this year)

Travis / Second – 2 WAR

Tulowitzki – 1.5 WAR

Donaldson – 5 WAR

Pearce/Zeke – 1 WAR

Pillar/CF – 2.5 WAR

Alford/RF – 0.5 WAR

Kendrys / DH – 0.5 WAR

You’ll notice pretty quickly going through the Blue Jays roster that there is absolutely no depth. Any injured starter is essentially replaced with negative WAR. Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney have almost been worth -2.0 WAR this year. As such, even though we’ve gotten to around 17.5 WAR, it’s really difficult to count on everyone being healthy. There definitely are a couple ways that allow the Blue Jays to get into that 20-25 WAR range that would allow for playoff contention for one more year but they’re going to involve spending or trading prospects.

Considering that Donaldson, Stroman, Pillar, Osuna, and Sanchez should get considerable raises through arbitration, the savings from letting Bautista go is essentially erased. The Blue Jays will still have some of BJ Upton’s 16.5M to play with but unless you’re extending that over a long period, you’re really not going to get the 3 WAR player in RF that you need.

In order for this team to be in the top-10 (such a high bar, I know) we’re essentially looking at Rogers having to add a good amount of payroll and despite the Blue Jays leading the American League in attendance, I doubt that’ll happen. If you want to dream on all of the players having banner years, you’re welcome to do that. What’s more likely though is that Smoak’s highs and Donaldson’s lows balance each other out and we’re left with the projectons above.

If Should the Blue Jays Sell? 

is answered by

Will the Blue Jays Contend Next Year?

which in turn is answered by

Will Rogers Add Payroll?

I think we all know the answer to whether or not the Blue Jays should sell this deadline.

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