The 2020s are about to dawn and we have a few wishes for the Toronto Blue Jays and baseball beyond just the Jays that we hope can come true in the coming decade.
Wish #1 – Labour Peace
Things are a little tense right now between the MLB Players Association and the league and there could be a very contentious lockout when the current CBA expires after the 2021 season. The late signing of many high-profile free agents in the 2018/19 offseason really resonated with players and while the “C-word” (Collusion) wasn’t really thrown around, a lot of players were wondering if teams really cared about getting better. There were four 100-loss teams last year and there was definitely a race to the bottom as teams competed for the first-overall draft pick. That desire to tank means that those teams eliminate themselves from bidding on free agents, driving down the market. That’s just one issue that’s out there with others looming like the management side wanting an international draft, players wanting an end to service time manipulation (a la Vladimir Guerrero Jr.) and other issues. It could be a contentious battle.
Wish #2 – Keep the Minor Leagues as they are
There have been plenty of reports on how the major leagues have made their request known to the Minor Leagues that after the current agreement expires after the 2020 season, MLB wants to contract the minors by 42 teams. They argue that there are too many teams without facilities that are up to the standards that they think professional baseball players require and are also trying to improve conditions for minor leaguers by having fewer and shorter bus rides by reorganizing the minor leagues. The fact is that MLB also doesn’t want to waste as much money on players whom they don’t believe will make the majors (a large portion of the current minor league players) by cutting down the size of the farm systems and shortening the draft to 20 rounds.
In many ways, the MLB clubs want to save money at the expense of grass roots baseball played in communities that would otherwise not be able to afford to have players of such high quality in their towns.
MLB is making a ton of money these days. There’s no reason why they can’t increase minor league player salaries, improve living conditions and still maintain the current minor league system.
Wish #3 – Make Good Use of Their Draft Picks
With Steve Sanders following Ben Cherington to the Pirates’ organization, the Blue Jays have hired Shane Farrell as their new amateur scouting director and he’s going to have some big shoes to fill. The Jays have the #5 pick in this year’s draft and we definitely want to make sure that they get someone who is going to have an impact on the major league team. The Blue Jays’ last few drafts have seen some very intriguing players come to Toronto. As a 28th overall pick, Nate Pearson is quickly becoming baseball’s top pitching prospect and he’s on the cusp of the major leagues. Jordan Groshans, further down in the organization, is looking great while Bo Bichette, who some teams avoided due to concerns about his swing, has already lit up the majors.
But none of those guys were picked at the #5 position. The Blue Jays have an opportunity to get someone about whom there is more consensus in the 2020 draft and Farrell needs to ensure they get it right. Beyond that, the Blue Jays will need to keep adding talent that they’ll be able to use to supplement what we think the core going forward is going to be.
Wish #4 – Health and Meeting Potential
The Blue Jays have an exciting core group of players right now and several more exciting players on the way. What we really need for this team to be competitive through the 2020s is health and the ability of those players to meet their potential in a sustained, consistent fashion. We need players that we can rely upon to give us production year in and year out. While it’s probably asking too much to get that from everyone, it’s still something that is going to be necessary for the Blue Jays to compete. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Nate Pearson can definitely be the star core to this team going forward but they all need to meet their potential and stay healthy. The Jays also need the role players (as we currently envision them now) like Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel, the catching tandem and some of the younger pitchers (Anthony Kay, Ryan Borucki, T.J. Zeuch) to reach their potential and stay healthy.
Wish #5 – A Star Outfielder
Have the Blue Jays drafted many outfielder high up in the draft or signed many high-end international free agents to play that position? Not really. Griffin Conine is one of the few outfielders drafted in the top few rounds in the last few years as the Jays have focused on infielders and pitchers. In the minors, the Jays have a lot of solid guys for the level that they’re playing at but no one has really stood out and dominated all the way up the ladder. Conine is the most interesting but he has a big hole in his game that needs to be improved before we can dream on him.
Anthony Alford has been hamstrung by injuries and performance issues and other players like Chavez Young, Ryan Noda, Forrest Wall and Josh Almonte have all had solid years at some levels but haven’t blown the doors off.
As we’ve seen at the major league level, the Jays need some help, and they need it soon if they want to augment their core with a solid major league hitter and defender. While I’m sure the Jays will go for the best overall player at the #5 pick this year, I hope that they can find an outfielder in the rough who blossoms in the Jays’ system, or they’re able to trade for an established star outfielder in the next couple of years.
Wish #6 – Lead the Charge for Minor League Quality of Life
The Blue Jays put into place a large increase in minor league salaries in 2019, making things easier for the players I talked to to make ends meet and focus on baseball in the offseason. I wish that the Blue Jays continue to do so, making this an organization that minor leaguers want to join but also that it can apply pressure to the rest of the minor leagues. And, like in Wish #2, the teams don’t see the increase of minor league salaries (and hopefully per diems too) as a either/or scenario with a smaller minor leagues.
Wish #7 – More Canadian Baseball Stars
I love the fact that James Paxton is Canadian. And Mike Soroka. There’s a whole new generation coming into the MLB ranks of Canadians and I’d love to see even more Canadian stars who can make Canada more competitive in the next World Baseball Classic.
Wish #8 – Keep Reading Blue Jays from Away (and tell your friends)!
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