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TORONTO — Following the Blue Jays’ 6-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night, Toronto starter Marco Estrada spoke about how tough it was having a bad start at this time of year because the Jays have recently climbed back into the wild-card hunt.
And my cat can speak Tagalog.
To a man, the players are still spewing that “it ain’t over until it’s over” mantra.
To be realistic, it is over.
Sure Toronto was only four games out of a wild-card spot heading into Wednesday’s games against the Tampa Bay Rays, but the odds of reaching the post-season are miniscule at best. They’re four games behind, with seven teams to pass. It’s almost guaranteed that not all of those teams will go in the tank. Some will keep winning.
It’s time to face facts: The 2017 season is a washout for the Jays. And it’s time to think ahead. No use pushing Aaron Sanchez back to the starting lineup. Or Devon Travis.
The baseball statistics and analysis website Fangraphs calculates that the Jays have a 5.2% probability of reaching the post-season (prior to Wednesday’s game). Further to that, Fangraphs lists the chance of Toronto getting a wild-card spot at 5%.
Many factors are taken into consideration with those calculations. But the odds get even longer when you consider what the Jays have going forward.
They still don’t have Sanchez and they’re not sure when they get him back.
Instead, they have to rely on a series of spot starters, including rookie Chris Rowley and journeyman Nick Tepesch. Rowley won in his debut this week and Tepesch picked up his first win as a Jay on Monday, but you can hardly count on either to roll up consistent victories or give Toronto consistent quality starts.
The other problem with the Jays is their offence. Jose Bautista is hitting .214 with a .720 OPS with 20 home runs, one of his worst seasons as a Major Leaguer. And there are few signs that he’s coming out of it. Even though Bautista appears to be in great shape physically, the fear is Father Time has caught up to him.
Kendrys Morales is hitting .246 with 21 home runs, but he has been a bit of a disappointment.
Justin Smoak, he of the .296 average and 32 homers, is having a career season and Josh Donaldson is carrying the club right now.
But that’s not enough. The bottom of the batting order is far too anemic.
With shortstop Troy Tulowitzki out, on any given day the Jays are running out a middle infield that consists of Ryan Goins, Darwin Barney or Rob Refsnyder, none of whom fill manager John Gibbons with visions of batting titles.
Last season’s best starter, Estrada, has been better lately, but he did not look good in his last start against the Rays and has been inconsistent this season. J.A. Happ and Marcus Stroman are the two best starters but, again, it’s not enough.
As long as this club has to rely on a series of spot starters called up from the minors, they’re doomed. There will be no major winning streak, which would be their only salvation.
It’s time to rethink the end of the 2017 season.
When he’s fully healthy, call up outfielder Anthony Alford from the minors and play the hell out of him, to see what he can do at the Major League level.
Same with Teoscar Hernandez, whom the Jays got from Houston in the Francisco Liriano trade. Hernandez is starting to catch fire in Buffalo. He hit a walk-off single Wednesday night to produce a 5-4 win over Indianapolis in 10 innings. He went 3-for-5 and is 7-for-14 in his last three games.
Hernandez was recently listed as the Jays’ fourth best minor-league prospect by Fangraphs, behind third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Alford and second baseman Bo Bichette. A very rapid rise indeed.
Guerrero and Bichette are 18 and 19 respectively and aren’t ready for the call to the Big Leagues.
Of course, the Jays want to win as many games as possible, but reaching the post-season is just not realistic — so if GM Ross Atkins can get any young, controllable players like Hernandez for some veterans, then he should go for it.
Ask Bautista to waive his no-trade clause (if they haven’t already). Trade Estrada if you can, and if you want him back for the rotation in 2018, re-sign him after the season.
If he can find a way to get rid of Tulowitzki and his massive contract, Atkins should win MLB Executive of the Year, straight up. But, sadly, that’s virtually impossible. Tulowitzki can veto any trade anyway, having picked up a full no-trade clause when he was traded from the Rockies.
Atkins has said that the front office is now putting an emphasis on the 2018 season while hoping the team stays “relevant” this year.
But there’s no relevancy anymore. The season’s a wash. And hoping for a wild-card spot is just a silly pipe dream and, frankly, a con job at this point.
The players mean well, but they know it’s not going to happen.
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