So here we are, another Jays season in the books and 85-77 looks a whole lot better than the 100-loss season that certain ‘experts’ (okay, me) were projecting heading into the year.
Let’s take a look back at the highlights and a few lowlights, as well as what it all means moving forward, with an end-of-season team report card. Keep in mind that player grades are based on relative expectations heading into the campaign.
Yep, a franchise record 54 home runs from a guy who started the year as a spare part and fringe starter merits a top grade. The question now becomes whether majors’ home run champion is the real deal, or if this has simply been a one-year blip. Regardless, Bautista has set himself up for a nice pay day this summer.
Shortly before the trade deadline, an opposing scout asked the Toronto Sun’s Bob Elliott to name a trade that the boy wonder GM had lost since taking the reins with the Jays. Here we are in October, and that question is still tough to answer. He gathered a nice haul in the Roy Halladay trade, got all key 2010 draftees under contract and made shrewd moves to help shape the team moving forward.
$21million isn’t a justifiable price tag for any major leaguer, but Wells’ 2010 season offered hope that he could return to the former of a reliable, middle-of-the-order power hitter. Despite getting to the plate 40 fewer times than last season, the centre fielder had 16 more home runs (31) and saw an improvement in batting average (.273), OBP (.331) and OPS (.847).
Yes, Cecil will need to improve on his 4.22 ERA in order to be a front of the rotation starter. But considering the left-hander didn’t start the season with the big club, it’s fairly impressive that he led the pitching staff in wins (15) and ranked third in innings pitched (172.2). Most promising stat: Cecil went 11-2 with a 3.47 ERA within the uber-competitive AL East.
There wasn’t much expected of bargain bin veterans John Buck and Alex Gonzalez when they were signed late in the off-season to fill holes on the roster, largely because there wasn’t much market interest for them. However, Buck enjoyed a career-best, 20-homer season and Gonzalez had a bounce-back year that ultimately led to Anthopoulos’ shrewd trade for Yunel Escobar. Fred Lewis, meanwhile, looked comfortable in the lead-off role when he wasn’t battling injuries.
Don’t look now, but the Blue Jays’ rotation seems to be just about set moving forward. Cecil enjoyed a breakthrough campaign, Shaun Marcum and Ricky Romero continued to serve as reliable top-line starters and Brandon Morrow offered enough promise in his first season with the team to secure his place among the big five. Sure, injuries could always play a role and the No. 5 spot will need to be addressed before Kyle Drabek is ready to step in, but this is certainly an area of strength for the club.
The “we’ll miss you, Cito” sentiments that have been in the air over this past farewell week have been a little much, but Gaston deserves kudos for his continued vocal support of his overachieving club. He was laughed off by media members for predicting that seven Toronto hitters would finish with 20 homers and he was a Gonzalez trade away from having eight 20-homer guys. The extent of his managerial influence will be made clear by what the new manager can squeeze out of this club next year.
A popular whipping boy among fans, Gregg took far too much flak when you consider he had to beat out Jason Frasor just to earn the closer role and then went on to have a career year. His 37 saves were not only a single season personal best, but good for the fourth-most saves in franchise history (despite the six blown saves). Many Jays fans would happily see the Jays back off of his $4.75 million 2011 option, but given the lack of alternate options in the bullpen (more later), Anthopoulos should at least consider holding onto the 32-year old.
Despite a tantalizing taste of what he is capable of in late September (hitting .373 over a 12-game hit streak), Snider didn’t emerge as was expected in 2010. The left fielder didn’t do much to damage his stock, but had an underwhelming injury-marred campaign with more strikeouts (79) than hits (76) in just 82 games. Next season will go a long way in determining whether Snider can develop into a middle-of-the-order offensive threat.
Third base could have been a set position for the Jays heading into next year, but Encarnacion simply never asserted himself as a viable starter or valuable return on the 2009 Scott Rolen trade. Even at 27 years of age and having hit 21 home runs this year, his .244 average and .305 OBP mean he will likely be non-tendered by the team this winter. Positions with questions marks heading into next year: third base, first base, catcher and left field.
The only reason the relief corps isn’t graded lower is that they weren’t expected to be all that good. Things get even murkier next season, with Jason Frasor and Scott Downs bound for free agency, Gregg holding an expensive team option and plenty of other questions. Top 2011 bullpen options include Shawn Camp, David Purcey, Jesse Carlson, Casey Janssen, Jo-Jo Reyes, Taylor Buchholz and possibly Gregg.
Aaron Hill and Adam Lind
Much has been made of the 2010 struggles of the Jays duo expected to be cornerstone players moving forward, but I don’t think you can overstate their significance to this club. Hill, who is under team control through 2014, hit 65 points lower than his career .270 batting average and committed more errors than the past two years combined. Lind, meanwhile, is controlled through 2016 and spent the year trailing his career averages in hits, home runs, RBI, batting average and OBP. Both men figure prominently into next year’s team (Lind may be the first baseman) and desperately need bounce back years.
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Written by Ben Fisher