The Toronto Blue Jays; What could have been

Oh the woes of being a slightly above average team in the stacked AL East.

The pitching has been mediocre (albeit surprisingly servicable given the departure of Roy Halladay), the 2009 breakouts known as Adam Lind and Aaron Hill limped to the All-Star Break (Hill with an abysmal .189 average and .272 OBP, Lind with an equally atrocious .214/.271), and despite a few surprising standouts in Jose Bautista and John Buck (and Alex Gonzalez before his trade to the Braves for Yunel Escobar), it has been another disappointing season for the Toronto Blue Jays. They’ve struggling to stay above .500, which is on some level impressive given the competition of the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox.

But as futile as it seems to hope that one day the Jays will once again play October baseball anytime soon, I can’t help but think about what could have been this season, had certain moves had not been made and three particular players still played for our great city.

Let’s start at the hot corner. Scott Rolen asked for a trade out of Toronto for personal reasons, and in return the Jays got the “high upside” Edwin Encarnacion, who hit 26 home runs for the Cincinatti Reds in 2008. Encarnacion has been virtually useless defensively, and his work ethic’s been questioned, something that was never a problem with Rolen, the consummate professional.

At the All-Star Break this season, these were their respective lines:

Rolen: 79 GP, .290 AVG, .361 OBP, 17 HR, 57 RBI, 43 R

Encarnacion: 42 GP, .221 AVG, .304 OBP, 10 HR, 24 RBI, 20 R

Not to mention Rolen’s gold glove defense on the other side of the ball. It’s a crying shame the Jays lost this guy.

Then there’s Alex Rios.

Yes, he had his struggles last season, and that infamous run-in with a fan after his unsightly five strikeout night didn’t help his reputation in Toronto. But even in a down year, the incredibly gifted, five tool talent finished the season with 17 home runs and 24 stolen bases, and that’s after playing terribly for 41 games with the White Sox (.199/.229, yikes)

Through 89 games with the Sox this season, Rios has 16 home runs, 55 RBI, 23 SB, 60 runs, and a .306 average. And honestly, is it really that surprisingly? Sure, maybe he’s playing a bit above his head, but everyone in this city, including Blue Jays management, knew he was capable of something like this.

Rios is on pace for 28 long balls, 96 RBI, and 40 steals. That’s Alfonso Soriano in his prime territory. And JP put him on waivers.

And finally, there’s Roy Halladay. What can be said about Roy that hasn’t been said a million times before? He’s been predictably brilliant for his new club, the Philadelphia Phillies, with 10 wins, a 2.40 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 131 strikeouts (although to be honest, I was expecting even more out of Halladay pitching in the NL East; that’s how good this guy is).

So I can’t help but wonder, what if Hill and Lind played like they did last season? What if we still had Rios, Rolen, and Halladay? I present to you, the Toronto Blue Jays Dream Team;

C – John Buck (2010 pace): .284 AVG, 26 HR, 87 RBI, 59 R

1B – Lyle Overbay (2009 stats): .265 AVG, 16 HR, 64 RBI, 57 R

2B – Aaron Hill (2009 stats): .286 AVG, 36 HR, 108 RBI, 103 R

SS – Alex Gonzalez (2010 pace): .268 AVG, 29 HR, 89 RBI, 86 R

3B – Scott Rolen (2010 pace): .287 AVG, 30 HR, 103 RBI, 77 R

LF – Jose Bautista (2010 pace): .238 AVG, 43 HR, 108 RBI, 99 R

CF – Vernon Wells (2010 pace): .272 AVG, 32 HR, 86 RBI, 79 R

RF – Alex Rios (2010 pace): .306 AVG, 28 HR, 90 RBI, 40 SB, 105 R

DH – Adam Lind (2009 stats): .305 AVG, 35 HR, 114 RBI, 93 R

SP1 – Roy Halladay (2010 pace): 17 W, 2.40 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 222 K’s

SP2 – Shaun Marcum (2010 pace): 13 W, 3.37 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 151 K’s

SP3 – Ricky Romero (2010 pace): 11 W, 3.52 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 197 K’s

SP4 – Brett Cecil (2010 pace): 13 W, 3.99 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 114 K’s

SP5 – Brandon Morrow (2010 pace): 10 W, 4.71 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 199 K’s

Combined with the usually steady (and at one time just a few years ago, the best in baseball) bullpen, this team would be a World Series contender, even in the American League East.

It’s a lot of if’s, but quite frankly, it’s not so farfetched that it could have happened. If the Jays hadn’t traded Rolen and dropped Rios, and management decided to make a playoff push in 2010 spearheaded by Roy Halladay and the final year of his contract (or at least until the trade deadline, if the Jays were out of contention), this dream team could have been realized.

Regardless, as a die hard baseball fan it has been a pleasure to watch these All-Star players play for Toronto, and to know that at one time it was at least possible for the Blue Jays to emerge from the East for the first time in 17 years.

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Al from Burlington
Al from Burlington
July 23, 2010 4:49 pm

As a long time Jays fan, I am pretty excited about what I see with this team and what they are stacking in the minors. We have waited this long, let’s wait until the year end, hopefully Hill, Lind and Snider work out the kinks and Arencibia and Wallace get a chance in September for some playing time.

Not to mention, no Cito next year, good guy and all, but time to move on. Let’s get some fire, bring in Valentine!

July 23, 2010 5:46 pm

Ironic that you write this when Rolen is out for the year.
It would have never mattered, TB and NY are way to good this year.

FYI, Edwin was the throw in to balance Salary in the Rolen Trade. The real guy the Jays wanted and got was Zach Stewart. Josh Roenickie was the second piece, a potential solid reliever. You should report that just to keep things balanced.

I too am looking forward to next year, so many high end players could make their debut.

July 23, 2010 6:02 pm

* Sorry, out indefinitely, not for the year.

July 23, 2010 6:33 pm

Bringing up the Encarnacion/Rolen deal wasn’t to suggest it was a bad/misguided trade by Toronto. The point was the Jays had a very good third baseman, and now they don’t.

Rolen wanted out of Toronto for whatever reason(s), Cinci was a good trade partner because they had a seemingly capable 3B to replace him, as well as Stewart and Roenickie who could prove to be effective in the near future.

The article is a just a big giant hypothetical; it seems like in the last few years all the pieces were there to be a truly competitive team in the East, but they just weren’t all there at the same time…

In 2008 the Jays had quite possibly the best bullpen/starting rotation in baseball thanks to a healthy Marcum/McGowan (for the first few months, at least) but the offense was garbage. Wells had seemingly lost his touch, due to injury or not, Hill was hurt for virtually the entire season, Rolen had a subpar first year as a Jay, and Lind hadn’t emerged yet (not to mention having to deal with the Frank Thomas situation in April).

In 2009, despite a few flashes of long term potential from the likes of Romero, Cecil, and Rzepczynski, the pitching staff wasn’t particularly good, and the offense really came together. Hill and Lind’s breakout seasons, Rolen’s effectiveness at third, as well as Scutaro’s very effective, 100 run leadoff year.

Imagine if the 2009 offense was there in 2008? Or vice versa with the 2008 pitching staff in ’09?

At the end of the day, while it’s interesting to reflect on what could have been, it’s good to see that you and Al are both excited for the possibilities in the future. Who knows, maybe Snider will be hitting 35 home runs in two years, Hill and Lind will remember how to play baseball, and Arencebia and Wallace rake as hard with the big club as they are in the minors.

Here’s to hoping.

Go Jays go.

July 23, 2010 7:11 pm

I think that if you mention the Rolen trade, you should mention the others comming back, otherwise it just reads like a bad Steve Simmonns Article.

July 23, 2010 7:14 pm

Still waiting for them to spend the money saved on Rios on additional payroll after getting the Sox to take on his entire contract

July 24, 2010 2:05 pm

But isn’t this the problem to begin with, for the Jays to have a chance you need EVERY signing to be great, every trade to be successful and every player to have his career year and nobody to be injured and saying that you need either the Sox or Yanks have an absolute injury filled year (like the Sox is having this year)

You have to literally run the table on ever aspect, it just shows how implausible the Jays are to even be in the Wild Card position

July 24, 2010 2:23 pm

I appreciate the article but it really IS farfetched. These stats are based on an unrealistic situation. Injuries, overachievers, underachievers are a normal part of the game. So the projections are based an extremely ABnormal season where everybody overachieves or meets their high expectations. Secondly, you’ve mixed ACTUAL stats this year with WHAT IF stats. If you’re going to project what Lind and Hill could have done did in Toronto this year, you’d have to do the same with Rios (who clearly needed a change) based on his previous stats, with Batista (wouldn’t have had the AB’s with a healthy Snider as well as Rolen and Rios supposedly putting up the same numbers) and for that matter, a healthy Snider if he hadn’t been injured (who was actually on a better HR pace than Rios.) Plus, that team projects as a higher average team which means more base runners which means pitchers pitching to the Jays differently than they have against this all-or-nothing 2010 line-up. Plus, players would have played in different positions of the line-up and had very different opportunities. In other words, some players are quite possibly having better seasons BECAUSE Hill and Lind are struggling and Rios and Rolen are not here. I won’t go on but honestly, you can’t combine actual stats with pretend stats with players having different opportunities on different teans and say this is what could have been here.

July 26, 2010 5:22 pm

The “2010 pace” stats, as well as the 2009 stats for guys like Lind and Hill, should be taken as a reflection of what they are capable of doing, moreso than to suggest that if the Jays had that team, that’s the kind of production we should expect from each individual player. Like you said Fm, there are numerous factors that contribute to the kind of seasons/half seasons I used as examples. There are always busts, always injuries, and always breakouts.

There are only a few teams in Major League Baseball that are without holes on their team. The Yankees, Red Sox (when healthy) and Rays are three of maybe five to six teams. The only way the Blue Jays will be able to fight for the AL East/Wild Card is to be like them; without holes.

The point of this article is to show that there was a chance that “holeless” lineup/pitching staff was possible in Toronto if they still had Rois, Rolen, and Doc.

Without them, the Jays have an inconsistent third basemen, a mediocre pitching staff, and a slightly above average outfield (I don’t want to take anything away from what Lewis has done, he’s been plenty serviceable this season).

It was worthy of note that the Toronto Blue Jays have been close in the last few years to being a truly competitive team in the most stacked division in Baseball, and that’s why I wrote the article. With Rolen, Rios, and Halladay all having All-Star seasons in their first full seasons away from Toronto, it inspired me to take some liberties with the other players on the Jays at their best over the last two years to show how complete this team could really have been this season.

Thanks for the feedback.

July 26, 2010 10:15 pm

Just an FYI on Rolen – he requested a trade to be nearer to his family. Ailing Father iirc? Don’t remember for certain, but pretty sure it was along those lines.

Jake Richards
January 3, 2013 2:18 pm

I think all these situations there is everything a little and in all teams but some more serious than others …Blue Jays are “volatile.” and they can go very far because they have the capacity to do it.

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