North Pole H0H 0H0
Can you believe that another year has nearly come and gone? I know you and the elves have been incredibly busy the last twelve months preparing for this very day, and so perhaps you haven’t really paid much attention to what has transpired in 2017 (aside from keeping track of those who have been naughty or nice, of course) but, frankly, this year can’t end soon enough.
As a matter of fact, this year has been so dreadful that I along with many others have already turned our attention towards 2018. You see, I am a baseball fan. More specifically, I cheer for the Toronto Blue Jays (I assume you do as well, Santa, given that nearest inhabited place to the North Pole is Alert, Nunavut) and this past season can only be described as abysmal. After back-to-back appearances in the ALCS, a season in which the Jays never once reached .500 (they were 0-for-9 in attempts to break even and were outscored 73-24 in those games) was fraught with frustration and disappointment.
The only good that came of last season is that it cast a spotlight on those areas in which the team must improve if it wishes to contend in 2018. This is the refrain we hear from management (presumably at the behest of ownership), but the road to the postseason is littered with landmines. The New York Yankees, who were surprisingly good last season despite being in the midst of their own mini-rebuild, became that much better when they added the NL MVP to their roster. The Los Angeles Angels added Japanese sensation and double-threat Shohei Othani, and the Red Sox and Astros will once again be tough to beat. If the Blue Jays are going to have a real shot at a wild card berth this upcoming season, they must improve their core roster.
This is where you come in, Santa. Now, I understand that you have more important things to worry about this time of year. Children all around the world are will dream of dancing sugar plums in anticipation of your visit. But, if you could indulge me, you would be joy to countless Jays’ fans. The Jays’ front office is adamant that the team contend in 2018 – the final year of superstar Josh Donaldson’s contract. If they are serious about making a run at the playoffs there is some heavy lifting to be done, and that’s where you come in. So, here it is, Santa. My off-season wish list:
After having used just seven starting pitchers for all of 2016, the Jays sent fourteen different starters to the mound last season. With the exception of Marcus Stroman, the entire rotation as set on Opening Day either suffered injury or struggled greatly for an extended period of time. The result was a revolving door of test subjects and reclamation projects – and none of them were quite good enough.
As things currently stand, Joe Biagini is slated to be the Jays’ fifth starter. Every indication last season was that, while he filled in admirably, he still has some work to do if he is to be a major-league quality starting pitcher and ideally he would provide depth next season.
The Jays have already missed out on signing C.C. Sabathia and, truth be told, it won’t be easy for the front office to convince a free agent to sign north of the border. But Yu Darvish would look awfully nice in a Jays’ uniform. Now, I know he’s not the same pitcher who finished second in Cy Young voting in 2013 – both his K/9 and HR/9 rates in 2017 were the worst they’ve been in his major-league career and his prior Tommy John surgery is a concern, but he is a far better option than any the Jays currently have in-house. And he would only cost money – having been traded during the season, he was not eligible for a qualifying offer and thus the acquiring team would not have to give up a draft pick. He’s projected to receive a contract in the neighbourhood of six years, $160 million. It would be tremendous, Santa, if you could convince Jays’ ownership to ante up and make an offer that he can’t refuse.
Corner Outfield: As was the case last year, the Jays are once again in need of outfielders. The unceremonious departure of franchise icon José Bautista has left a hole in right field (and in the hearts of fans) and the tandem of Ezequiel Carrera and Steve Pearce in left leave little to be desired.
The Jays do have Teoscar Hernández and Anthony Alford poised to contribute in 2018, but if the Jays are serious about contention they must add at least one quality major-league outfielder to their roster.
There are two big names available, Santa, and either one would do. Free agent Lorenzo Cain hit .300/.363/.440 with 15 home runs, 27 doubles and 26 stolen bases, which would almost assuredly land him in the lead-off spot. His 5.6 WARP was the eighteenth best in all of baseball last season (the closest Blue Jay to that mark was Josh Donaldson at 3.79, and that was with him missing 49 games, so that will tell you something about how the rest of the team fared last year). Cain would cost money (he’s projected to snag a four-year, $70 million contract) plus a second-round draft pick, and there is the issue of whether or not his speed can be maintained into his thirties. But don’t let the age fool you. He’s still a worthy pickup.
The other big target out there is the Marlins’ Christian Yelich. Simply put, he’s young, he’s controllable, and he’s a stud. Yelich possesses speed, patience, and power and, at just twenty-five years of age, should be a star for the length of his contract – which is very team-friendly, I might add. He put up a line of .282/.369/.439 last season with 18 home runs and 36 doubles. The only catch is that the tire-fire that is the Marlins will not part with him unless they receive a hefty return. The Jays would likely have to part with the likes of Bo Bichette, and I’m not certain they are willing to do so. But Yelich is a known commodity as opposed to the uncertainly that accompanies any prospect, even one as promising as Bichette. All I am hoping for here, Santa, is that you convince Ross Atkins to give it some serious thought.
I realize that I am essentially asking for the moon here, but, you see, there is a sense of urgency. As I am sure you are aware, it is likely Josh Donaldson’s final season in Toronto and, quite frankly, it would be a travesty if his superstar talents were wasted this year. If the powers that be are adamant about keeping him, they must build the best team possible around him.
Now, Santa, I am going to ask for one more thing, and this one isn’t easy. If management is unable to put a JD-worthy team on the field next season, then please deliver a package of players to the Jays’ brain trust that will convince them to trade him and hit the reset button for 2019/2020. It will not be a popular decision with the masses, but if they can’t win with him next year and can’t re-sign him, trading him now would be more palatable than letting him walk for free. I think I speak for many fans when I say that I am willing to concede 2018 if it means renewed hope for the foreseeable future.
I understand if you can’t deliver on my requests as they are quite lofty. But if you could bring Jays’ fans a gift sometime soon, it would go a long way to quelling some of the angst that is beginning to build. Safe travels tonight, Santa. I’ll be sure to leave out milk and cookies for you – and carrots for the reindeer.
P.S. I asked you for this last season, but you kind of dropped the ball, so I am asking you again. Please give us the gift of a healthy Devon Travis next year. He has all the tools to hit near .300 with some pop and after struggling so much through injury, he really deserves a shot at playing for a full season.
P.P.S. One more thing. For the love of candy canes, please let us never hear the word “blister” again.
Lead Photo – Rob Kinnan-USA Today Sports