2015 was a heck of a year for the Blue Jays. Their dominant offense propelled them to the postseason for the first time in over 20 years, but they fell short of winning the World Series. Can they make it back to the postseason again this year?
What they did last year:
For the first couple months of 2015, no team in the AL East really stood out, though the Yankees were at the top of the division for a few weeks. By the time August rolled around, the Blue Jays really kicked things into another gear. They only lost six games in August and they stayed hot enough in September to easily win first place in the division, earning their first postseason berth since 1993.
They were victorious over the Rangers in the ALDS, even though they opened the series down 0-2. The Blue Jays' postseason dreams came to an end during the ALCS as they lost 2-4 to the eventual World Series champions. They may not have won the rings, but at least they ended a very long postseason drought and put together a great season.
Who they lost:
When the Blue Jays traded for David Price, they sent top prospect Daniel Norris to the Tigers, along with Jairo Labourt and Matt Boyd. They undoubtedly would have liked to sign Price when the season ended, but he ultimately ended up signing with the Red Sox. All that for what ended up being just a three-month rental. Cliff Pennington, Dioner Navarro, Mark Lowe, Mark Buehrle, LaTroy Hawkins and Jeff Francis all left via free agency. The Blue Jays also traded Ben Revere to the Nationals and sent reliever Liam Hendricks to the Athletics.
Who they gained:
Prior to the start of the 2015 season, the Blue Jays traded J.A. Happ to the Mariners. After deciding not to pursue Price, the Jays turned around and signed Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million. Much like the Orioles, the Blue Jays also worked to bring back their own free agents and were able to re-sign Marco Estrada for two-years and $26 million to bolster the rotation. Backup catcher Josh Thole also re-signed for another year. The team was in need of a utility infielder, so they signed Darwin Barney to a one-year deal.
The Blue Jays also acquired reliever Arnold Leon, closer Drew Soren, and starting pitcher Jesse Chavez. They wrapped up their offseason by going dumpster diving for veteran relievers, and signed both Randy Choate and Rafael Soriano to minor league contracts. One or both will probably wind up making the team.
The Blue Jays have one of the most dangerous lineups in all of baseball, and they will need repeat performances from their top players. Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson combined for 120 home runs last year. The latter was worth 8.7 fWAR, while Bautista and Encarnacion were worth 4.5 each. Unsurprisingly, the 2015 Blue Jays led the majors in terms of both runs scored (891), and home runs (232). Some of these players might experience a bit of a drop-off, but they are all projected to have good seasons. One of the newer Blue Jays, Troy Tulowitzki, also has the potential to have a strong year if he can find a way to stay healthy.
Now that he has recovered from ACL surgery, Marcus Stroman appears to be the ace of the rotation. He is followed by Estrada (who is dealing with a back injury), Happ and R.A. Dickey. Just like the Yankees are having Ivan Nova and CC Sabathia compete for the last spot in the rotation, the Jays are holding their own competition. Aaron Sanchez, Gavin Floyd, Drew Hutchison and Roberto Hernandez are all in the mix, and the Blue Jays need one of these guys to step up in a big way. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays strengthened the bullpen by adding Storen. Brett Cecil is coming off of his best season pitching in relief and Roberto Osuna somehow excelled in the 'pen despite the fact he had never pitched above High-A prior to last year.
None of the teams in the AL East seem to have any huge advantage over the others. The Blue Jays lineup is potentially the best in the division, though it seems unrealistic to expect their offense to hit quite as well as last year. Aside from Stroman, the rotation looks to be largely mediocre. There are some strong arms in the bullpen, but this is true of just about every other team. The Blue Jays could very well find themselves back at the top of the division if they can find a way to duplicate last year's performances.