Winter Came: The 2017 Toronto Blue Jays

Welcome to The Stew’s annual team elimination posts. Like our video-game posts of last year, these are best done in theme. This time? We’re going with “Game of Thrones.” Each eliminated team will join the “army of the dead.” But we won’t just talk about their demise. We’ll also highlight some positives, pick out a memorable moment, tell you their biggest need and let you know when the club might be good again. 

Sorry, Toronto Blue Jays, but you won’t sit on the Iron Throne this season.

You had high hopes, but things unraveled quickly. Injuries struck early. Josh Donaldson missed time. Aaron Sanchez missed time. One of them recovered, but the team’s fate was already sealed.

Unfortunately, you have to join the army of the dead. Well, all of you except Jose Bautista. He’s already been there for months, it seems.

The club already lost a big part of their former core with the departure of Edwin Encarnacion last winter. With Bautista’s exit expected, the Blue Jays are facing uncertain times. Josh Donaldson remains, but he may not be enough, putting the Blue Jays in a difficult place heading into 2018.

The Blue Jays won’t be going to the postseason. (Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)

UNBOWED, UNBENT, UNBROKEN (aka WHAT WENT RIGHT)
If you asked Blue Jays fans, they would tell you nothing went right for this year’s squad. We’ll try to be a little more positive, and we’ll do so by pointing out how excellent both Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales have been in the middle of the order. They managed to replace Edwin Encarnacion’s production and then some, combining to hit 66 homers. Even better, the minor league system took a step forward with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette establishing themselves among the game’s best prospects. (Mark Townsend)

THE RED WEDDING (aka WHAT WENT WRONG)
While Smoak and Morales sparked the offense, Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki all struggled to put up even pedestrian numbers. Injuries were definitely a factor, but that doesn’t ease the reality this once powerful offense will likely finish among the bottom five in runs scored. With the Red Sox and Yankees once again dominating the AL East, the Blue Jays window has slammed shut. (Mark Townsend)

THE NORTH REMEMBERS (aka MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT)
In a Blue Jays season that didn’t go according to plan, let’s go with a moment that no one probably ever expected. That’s pitcher Marcus Stroman homering. Yes, Stroman — an American League pitcher, all 5-foot-8 of him — homered in a May interleague game on the road in Atlanta.

AL pitchers don’t see a ton of time at the plate. Before this season, he’d never even gotten a hit in the big leagues. But he got TWO this year and one of them happened to be a homer. Not bad. If you’re wondering where Stroman gets his power, have you seen his dad? (Mike Oz)


WORDS ARE WIND (aka MOST IMPORTANT THING TO FIX)
Jose Bautista has been given his official Blue Jays farewell, but in reality the Jays have been trying to replace him for several years now. Offensively, Joey Bats is a shadow of his former self. That alone wasn’t the key to prolonging their competitive run, but it would have helped. The bottoming out (and injury) of Troy Tulowitzki, who had been a powerhouse in Colorado, is just staring everyone in the face, and Josh Donaldson, one of the Jays’ most reliable hitters, won’t be with the team much longer. That says nothing good about their lineup in the future, so finding some offensive help has to be on their to do list this offseason. The Jays’ rotation could use a little more depth, but that has to come second to offense. Good pitching won’t matter in the slightest if they can’t score runs. (Liz Roscher)

Josh Donaldson remains in Toronto, but for how long? (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

A DREAM OF SPRING (aka HOPE FOR THE FUTURE)
The farm system is pretty strong. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. may top most prospect lists heading into 2018 after Yoan Moncada exhausted his rookie eligibility. Bo Bichette has also shot up the rankings.

Problem is, both players are young and still need some time to develop. Of the team’s elite prospects, Anthony Alford should be up at some point in 2018. It’s tough to say that about the rest of them, as talented as they are.

You could go a lot of ways here. The Jays were supposed to be good in 2017 and many of those pieces will return. With some additions, you could argue they could get back into contention.

But those pieces failed them this year, and may do so again. Because of that, there’s a compelling argument they should consider dealing Josh Donaldson — who’s only under contract through 2018 — to help supplement their already great farm system. It’s not an easy choice. (Chris Cwik)

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!