The Runner Sports

Can Toronto Blue Jays Gain Ground On The Boston Red Sox?

The Toronto Blue Jays finished fourth in the American League East with a 76-86 record. Obviously, it was a disastrous season when you consider this team reached the ALCS in 2015 and 2016. It was Toronto’s first losing season since 2013.

For the second consecutive year, the Jays saw the Boston Red Sox take home the American League East with a 93-69 record. The Red Sox rotation posted a 4.06 ERA, and the Blue Jays formed a 4.57 ERA. Not bad, considering J.A. Happ missed half a month, Marco Estrada was awful for one-third of the season, and Aaron Sanchez lost the 2017 season with ongoing blister issues.

The Red Sox also saw their offense take a major nosedive. After leading the majors with 878 runs in 2016, Boston finished with 785 –good for 10th in baseball. The retirement of David Ortiz hurt, but young guys like Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, and Jackie Bradley Jr. also didn’t come close to matching their plate production from a year ago.

Yet the Red Sox finished 17 games ahead of the Blue Jays. The rotations seem fairly even, Boston’s offense was not a juggernaut, and the bullpens were somewhat similar, minus Craig Kimbrel’s impressive campaign vs. Roberto Osuna’s 10 blown saves this year.

But for Boston, they built their lineup around speed. They hit well for average, drew a lot of walks, and stole a ton of bases. The Blue Jays’ entire offense lived-and-died by the home run. Old and slow guys like Kendrys Morales, Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin, and Jose Bautista didn’t scare pitchers much. Having bench players like Ryan Goins, Ezequiel Carrera, and Darwin Barney come in to replace the oft-injured starters didn’t account for much, obviously.

Looking at these rosters, can the slow and injury-prone Jays core find a way to catch a Red Sox team loaded with young, up-and-coming players? The answer is yes, if the front office wants to go that route.

Toronto absolutely has to inject more youth, athleticism, and speed into their lineup. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports noted that the Jays are interested in Miami Marlins’ second baseman, Dee Gordon. He batted .308 and stole 60 bases. He’s also tough to strikeout and could be an ample piece of the Jays’ lineup.

Other speedsters include Eduardo Nunez –who batted .313 this season and probably won’t re-sign with the Red Sox as knee injuries forced him to miss the ALDS. He could be a huge bargain, if GM Ross Atkins is willing to make an offer.

Ultra-speedster Lorenzo Cain of the Kansas City Royals makes sense, but he’s 31 years of age and could price himself out of Toronto’s budget. A $90-100 million contract isn’t out of the question for him.

So let’s just assume the Jays get Gordon and Nunez for a moment. Their lineup would then have a great balance of power hitters like Josh Donaldson, breakout star Justin Smoak, and Morales. Nunez, Gordon, Devon Travis (if healthy), and Kevin Pillar would form a tremendous lineup built with power, speed, and athleticism.

Now, the Jays have a lineup that looks more dangerous than Boston’s. If the team were to stay healthy in 2018, then the Jays could absolutely force a three-way horse race for the American League East. That is if the front office wants to compete in 2018.

A little more speed in the lineup is all Toronto needs to challenge for the AL East crown once again. It doesn’t seem that hard on paper, but I’m not the GM of the Jays — so what do I know?

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Alex Hoegler

I'm a graduate of the journalism program at Langara College in Vancouver, B.C.

I've been an avid sports fan since I was seven years of age. A lifelong follower of the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Blue Jays, my passion is to deliver news through writings while building bridges with other sports fans.
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