Toronto faces challenge in replacing Encarnacion and Bautista

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Toronto Blue Jays' Edwin Encarnacion, left, celebrates his solo home run with Jose Bautista (19) in the fifth inning of Game 2 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers on Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Five days after the Toronto Blue Jays were bounced from the ALCS for the second straight season, general manager Ross Atkins sat at a podium at the Rogers Centre to address the media. Rather than a post-mortem on the season that was, the discussion focussed on the pending offseason and what the front office perceives its needs to be in order to extend the window of opportunity afforded by a young, dynamic starting rotation and a core centered around Josh Donaldson.

Chief among the questions posed by media was where the team stood with regards to their pending free agents, most notably Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. As one would expect, Atkins confirmed the team would extend each a qualifying offer and would try to take advantage of the team’s exclusive negotiating opportunity for the five days following the World Series to discuss contracts with both players.

This is, of course, what many fans want to hear. Both Bautista and Encarnacion have anchored themselves as the faces of the franchise for years, providing offensive production that has far surpassed the value of their contracts that have long been considered “team-friendly.” It stands to reason that both sluggers, after having waited so long to reach this point, will want to test the free-agent waters.

The flip side to this is that, despite Atkins’ insistence that signing the two constitutes a priority, neither fit into the new mantra of becoming younger, faster and more balanced (that is, more left-handed and more contact hitters) at the plate.

Speculation is that Encarnacion could be offered a five-year deal north of $100 million, while Bautista, despite coming off one of his least productive seasons during which he landed on the disabled list twice, will no doubt have suitors who will pay for past production and his reputation for having a good eye at the plate.

Unless the Jays blow them away with an offer – which, considering all parameters in this decision, seems unlikely – the Jays will need to plan for life after Bautista and Encarnacion. Akins suggested in his presser that of all the needs he must address this offseason, the easiest to fill via free agency is first base/DH and corner outfield.

Here is a look at some of the various options available to Toronto should they lose both Bautista and Encarnacion to free agency.

First Base/DH

  • In-House Options

The Jays already have a first baseman on their 2017 roster in Justin Smoak, who signed a two-year, $8.5 million contract extension back in July. Smoak, a switch-hitter, represents a defensive upgrade over Encarnacion, but his bat leaves a little to be desired. Last season he hit .217/.314/.410 with 14 home runs, 34 RBI and a wRC+ of 90. Moreover, with the exception of this past season, Smoak has hit left-handed pitchers better over the course of his career and thus would ideally play as part of a platoon.

One long-shot possibility to share first base duties with Smoak is Rowdy Tellez, who had an impressive season in Double-A in which he hit .289/.364/.470/.834 with 23 home runs and 81 RBI in 124 games. Moreover, Tellez is a lefty who hit .310 against right-handers and would be a nice compliment to Smoak. Should the Jays be unable to acquire a full-time first baseman this offseason, the Jays are likely to give Tellez an extended look in spring training, making him a dark horse candidate for the job.

  • Free Agent Market

Switch-hitting Kendrys Morales hit .263/.327/.468 with 30 home runs for the Royals this past season. If the Royals do not make him a qualifying offer, which could very well be the case according to Jon Heyman, the Jays would not lose a draft pick should they be able to sign him.

Thirty-four-year-old Mike Napoli could certainly fill the first base/designated hitter void should Encarnacion sign with another team. If 2016 is any indication, Napoli cannot replace Edwin’s production. His 34 home runs and 101 RBI would certainly come in handy, but Napoli hit just .239/.335/.465 with a whopping 30.1 K% in comparison to Encarnacion’s .263/.357/.529 and 19.7 percent strikeout rate. However, Napoli could easily be had on a one- or two-year deal at a much more affordable cost.

Another name that has been bandied about is former Blue Jay Adam Lind. The 33-year-old certainly does not fit into the team’s plans to get younger and faster, but he is a solid defensive player and a proven left-handed bat who could also serve as DH. Lind is coming off one of his worst offensive seasons during which he hit .239/.286/.431 with a 92 wRC+ and -0.6 WAR in 126 games, which may lower his cost this offseason.

  • Potential Trade Targets

Acquiring Joey Votto from the Cincinnati Reds would be just about the boldest move Toronto could make this offseason. The two teams are rumored to have been involved in discussions last season that ultimately went nowhere, but a report surfaced amidst the Jays’ playoff run claiming the Jays had inquired as to whether or not he was available in trade.

Votto is exactly the type of offensive player the Jays claim to need – a lefty who has established himself as one of premier hitters in the game, with the second-highest OPS in the majors. If money were no object, the Jays could take on the $182 million he’s owed through the 2023 season, during which he will turn 41 years of age. Although the budget is likely to increase for next season, the fact that the Jays already have $107 million committed to just eight players in 2017 suggests that room would not be made for Votto’s contract.

The other consideration is what the Jays would have to give up in order to pry Votto away from the Reds. Both Atkins and President Mark Shapiro have made it clear that rebuilding the Jays’ farm system is a priority and they may not be willing to part with the pieces necessary to facilitate such a trade. All around, the cost of acquiring Votto is quite prohibitive and, frankly, incredibly improbable.

(Juan DeLeon / Icon Sportswire)

(Juan DeLeon / Icon Sportswire)

Corner Outfield

  • In-House Options

While confirming that the team would extend qualifying offers to Bautista and Encarnacion, Atkins said the Jays were still in the deciding as to whether or not to do so with outfielder Michael Saunders. The 29-year-old was named to the All-Star Team based on impressive first-half numbers: .298/.372/.551 with 16 home runs and 42 RBI. His offensive stats fell off a cliff during the second half, however, during which he hit .178/.282/.357 with eight home runs and just fifteen RBI. Though he was one of the few lefties in the lineup, it is very possible the Jays won’t risk him taking a qualifying offer and may be content with letting him walk.

The Jays have two other corner outfielders in the fold. Ezequiel Carrera and Melvin Upton, Jr. both represented the Jays’ only true base-running threats, but neither has proven himself to be an everyday player. Carrera won the fourth outfielder’s job out of spring training and batted .248/.323/.356 with a wRC+ of 85. A lefty who hit .329 off of left-handed pitchers in comparison to .218 off of righties last season, Carrera is a platoon player at best. Upton Jr. was enjoying a decent offensive season when acquired from the Padres but could do little at the plate in a Jays uniform, hitting .196/.261/.318. Its stands to reason the Jays would aim to improve over these two options.

Dalton Pompey was named the starting center fielder out of spring training but struggled mightily before being sent first to Triple-A and then to Double-A. He spent all of 2016 in Triple-A and batted .270/.349/.353 with an OPS of .702 before being called up in September. Pompey is a switch-hitter and has spent time at both corner outfield positions. One of his greatest assets is his speed, but unless he can hit major league pitching, that won’t be enough.

  • Free Agent Market

Former gold-glove winner Josh Reddick is a solid option to take over for Jose Bautista in right field. Though he lacks power, Reddick hits for average (.281 last season) with a low strikeout rate. He did miss time due to a broken thumb and slumped after the trade deadline and thus may be looking to rebuild some value. At 29 years of age and left-handed, Reddick is along the lines of what the Jays are looking for this offseason.

Switch-hitting Dexter Fowler batted .276 with an OPS of .840 with the Cubs this season. He possesses speed and a bit of pop in his bat, but struck out 22.5 percent of the time in 2016. Regardless, he would represent an offensive upgrade over all current in-house options and would also solve the Jays’ lead-off question. Acquiring Fowler would likely mean shifting Kevin Pillar to either right or left field.

  • Potential Trade Targets

Charlie Blackmon is coming off the most productive season of his career, hitting .324 with 29 home runs and an OPS of .933 with the Colorado Rockies. The left-hander, who is in his second year of arbitration, has been the subject of trade rumors as the Rockies may be looking to shed payroll. He’s also fast – he stole 43 bags in 2015, a number greatly diminished in 2016 likely due to a turf toe injury early in the season.

Adam Eaton is another left-handed hitter coming off a good offensive season. He hit .284/.362/.428 with an OPS of .790 and wRC+ of 115, and provided excellent defense in right field. He’s signed to a team-friendly contract through to the end of 2019 worth just over $21 million total, with a team option for 2020 and 2021, and thus the asking price for the White Sox may simply be too high for the Jays to pay.

Without knowing what Toronto’s budget will be for the 2017 season or which players might be available for trade, it is difficult to speculate as to which direction Jays’ front office is leaning. Surely, they will present a budget to ownership that includes several different scenarios.

While it may be difficult for some fans to accept, Bautista and Encarnacion may not be a part of Toronto’s plans moving forward given potential budget constraints as well as the stated goal of diversifying the lineup. If both have indeed played their last game in a Toronto uniform, the Jays have plenty of options — and decisions to make — with regards to how to best move on from two of the most popular players in franchise history.

The post Toronto faces challenge in replacing Encarnacion and Bautista appeared first on Todays Knuckleball.

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Ezequiel Carrera turning into unlikely postseason hero

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October 18, 2016: Ezequiel Carrera (3) of the Toronto Blue Jays scores on a sacrifice fly during the eighth inning of MLB ALCS Game 4 between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Cleveland Indians at Rogers Centre in Toronto, ON, Canada. (Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire)

Chants of “Zeke! Zeke! Zeke!” rain down from the Toronto faithful when he steps to the plate.

While so many Blue Jays hitters are struggling at the plate – Toronto managed only 17 hits and three runs in the first three games of the ALCS – 29-year-old journeyman Ezequiel Carrera has quietly transitioned from reserve outfielder to unlikely postseason hero.

Since signing with the New York Mets as a non-drafted free agent in 2005, Carrera bounced around the minor leagues from one organization to the next until signing a minor league deal with Toronto in 2014. After splitting his time between Toronto and Triple-A Buffalo during the 2015 season, Carrera won the fourth outfield spot out of spring training.

He had a decent season at the plate, making 310 plate appearances (270 at-bats) over 110 games during which he hit .248/.323/.356 with an OPS of .679. The lefty is certainly not known for his power; he hit one home run and six triples all season, driving in 23 runs and scoring 47.

Although this is not the first time Carrera has appeared on a postseason roster – he was on the Detroit Tigers’ playoff roster in 2014 as well as last season with the Jays – he had never previously started a playoff game. In his two previous trips to the postseason, he appeared in just five games with a .000 batting average over four plate appearances and just three at-bats.

With a lineup composed of some of the best hitters in the game, such as Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki, one could be forgiven if Ezequiel Carrera was not the first person to come to mind when imagining who would be the X-factor for the Jays’ playoff hopes.

October 18, 2016: Ezequiel Carrera (3) of the Toronto Blue Jays bats during the sixth inning of MLB ALCS Game 4 between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Cleveland Indians at Rogers Centre in Toronto, ON, Canada. (Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire)

His line thus far this postseason speaks for itself: 32 plate appearances in eight games, batting .333/.375/.567/.942 with ten hits, including two triples and a home run, three RBI, two walks and six strike outs.

The line itself is impressive, but what has garnered him the nickname of “MVZeke” is the fact that he has managed to change the complexion of a game on more than one occasion by coming up with the big hit in a clutch situation.

With the Jays down 2-1 in the Wild Card Game, Carrera singled to score Michael Saunders from third to tie the game, setting up Edwin Encarnacion’s eleventh-inning walk-off home run to send Toronto to the ALDS for the second straight year.

Though the Jays as a team had no problem scoring runs during their sweep of the Rangers, Carrera was involved in the scoring in all three games, including an unlikely home run off of Yu Darvish in Game 3. It was in Game 3 in which his bat was pivotal, though, when his lead-off singles in the first and third innings came around to score in a game in which every run was necessary to secure the 7-6 extra-inning win.

Carrera’s heroics continued at the Rogers Centre Tuesday night when, on the brink of elimination, the Blue Jays looked to avoid an early exit from the ALCS. With Troy Tulowitzki on second, Carrera singled in the fourth inning to not only score the game’s first run, but to also give Toronto their first ALCS lead. His lead-off triple and run scored in the eighth capped off a 5-1 victory to keep the Jays’ postseason alive.

What makes him particularly valuable in the Jays’ lineup is the fact that he is a very different hitter from most of the others in the lineup. He’s a lefty in a sea of right-handed batters who, in the absence of power, is simply looking to get the bat on the ball, hitting into gaps or driving the ball the other way. He also possesses speed and thus is a threat to steal or even to drop down a well-timed bunt, adding a dimension to his game that alludes many in the Jays’ lineup.

Toronto will need another offensive outburst today as they look to prolong their season by forcing a Game 6 in Cleveland on Friday. While there’s no doubt that the heart of Toronto’s lineup must come up big in order to do so, one can expect at this point that Ezequiel Carrera will somehow factor into the scoring opportunities.

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Blue Jays turning it around at perfect time

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October 9, 2016: Josh Donaldson (20) of the Toronto Blue Jays hits a double during the tenth inning of the MLB ALDS Game 3 between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers at Rogers Centre in Toronto, ON, Canada. (Photograph by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire)

What a difference a turn of the calendar can make.

After playing an incredibly frustrating brand of baseball for most of September, the Toronto Blue Jays are now undefeated in six games this month, culminating in a sweep of the Texas Rangers to advance to the ALCS for the second straight season.

The team to which they lost their title as AL East champions, the Boston Red Sox, went 0-5 in October, including being swept from the playoffs by Cleveland.

The two teams were the antithesis of one another during September; while one faltered, the other dominated. An untimely lack of offense coupled with bouts of bad luck left the Jays 11-15 in September, while the Red Sox absolutely brutalized the opposition to the tune of a 19-8 record. But, in an interesting twist of fate, the last game won by the Red Sox, a 5-3 victory on September 30, was also the last game the Blue Jays lost.

The Blue Jays came perilously close to being knocked out of a playoff berth during September, when absolutely everything that could go wrong for the Jays seemingly did. The Jays did not play their best baseball — far from it. The offense was a shadow of its former self, while the bullpen blew leads. The results were some of the most heartbreaking losses of the season:

  • Sept. 6 – Gardner’s Catch (Yankees win 7-6)

Down 3-2 in the seventh, the Jays rallied for two runs to take a 4-3 lead in the top of the eighth inning. But, a gassed Jason Grilli surrendered four runs on two hits in just two-thirds of an inning to put the Jays behind 7-3. Once again, the Jays rallied to score two runs in the top of the ninth. With two out and the bases loaded, Justin Smoak launched a ball 371 feet to left fielder for what appeared to be a sure double, but a game-saving catch made by a leaping Brett Gardner ended the rally.

Sept. 26 – Bean Brawl (Yankees win 7-5)

In search of his 21st win of the season, J.A. Happ pitched 7.1 innings of one-earned run ball and the Jays took a 3-2 lead into the ninth. Once again, Grilli couldn’t close it out, surrendering four runs on four hits to give the Yankees a 7-3 lead. And, once again, the Jays rallied to score two in the bottom of the inning but fell short in the 7-5 loss. The blown save and subsequent loss were only part of the story, however.

A series of one-upmanship led to two benches-clearing incidents that should not have occurred had the Jays kept their cool. The Jays lost far more than just the game that night – they also lost the services of reliever Joaquin Benoit, who was injured during the fracas.

Sept. 28 – Kim’s Home Run (Orioles win 3-2)

An anemic offense took a 2-1 lead into the ninth inning thanks to a solid performance from starting pitcher Francisco Liriano, who went 6.1 scoreless innings with ten strikeouts. With two outs and a runner on base in the bottom of the ninth and closer Roberto Osuna on the mound, Hyun Soo Kim hit a two-out pinch-hit home run to give the Orioles a walk-off victory.

For whatever reason, as soon as the calendar turned over, so too did the Jays’ fortunes. Fighting for their playoff lives, they beat the Red Sox in Boston in the final two games of the regular season, securing home-field advantage in the AL Wild Card Game. All at once, everything has come together for this team; timely offense, strong bullpen performances and perhaps even a little luck. After taking those final two games, the Jays have looked unbeatable ever since:

Oct. 4 – Wild Card (Jays win 5-2)

In the first-ever Wild Card Game in franchise history, the Jays and Orioles took a 2-2 tie into the 11th inning. It was a position in which the Jays did not want to find themselves – needing to score runs late in the game with the season on the line and the league’s best reliever, Zach Britton, in the opposition’s bullpen. But, in a decision that still cannot be explained, Orioles manager Buck Showalter chose to not use best weapon, setting the stage for an epic three-run home run by Edwin Encarnacion in the bottom of the 11th to send the Jays to the ALDS.

Oct. 7 – Long Ball (Jays win 5-3)

Despite an unusually shaky outing by J.A. Happ, the Jays won their second straight in Texas thanks to an offensive production that resembled that of the 2015 season. The Jays hit four home runs off of Yu Darvish, including dingers from two unlikely sources, Kevin Pillar (who belted a pitch that was at eye-level) and Ezequiel Carrera, a bench player who is hitting .375 this postseason. Though the Rangers rallied to score two runs in the eighth, a five-out save by Osuna sent the Jays back to Toronto up 2-0 in the series.

Oct. 9 – Series Swept (Jays win 7-6)

In a game that had just about everything, the Jays and Rangers were deadlocked at six runs apiece going into the 10th. Josh Donaldson, who has been battling injury for much of the second half of the season, led off the inning with a double, followed by an intentional walk to Encarnacion. After Jose Bautista struck out, Russell Martin hit a ground ball that seemed destined to end the inning with a rally-ending double play. But, a throwing error from second baseman Rougned Odor – with whom the Jays have so much history – and an absolutely gutsy heads-up mad dash from Donaldson gave the Jays a walk-off victory and series sweep of the Rangers, sending them once again to the ALCS.

*****

The Jays will take their 6-0 October record to Cleveland, who are also undefeated this month, when the two teams begin their ALCS battle this Friday. Though the Jays went 3-4 in their head-to-head matchup this season, this is not the same Toronto team that dropped two in Cleveland this past August. The Jays seem to have found their swing and, with it, their swagger. Should they continue to play to their potential in all facets of the game as they have thus far this month, the Jays very well could be headed to the World Series for the first time since 1993.

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Biagini, Cecil are Blue Jays’ ALDS X-factors

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With their spectacular walk-off win against the Orioles in Tuesday’s AL Wild Card Game, the Toronto Blue Jays advanced to the American League Division Series where they will renew their rivalry against the Texas Rangers.

Though much of the hype surrounding the ALDS centers around Jose Bautista’s bat-flip in Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS and the subsequent fireworks between him and Rougned Odor, the two teams say they are focused on the task at hand: winning ballgames.

For the Blue Jays, winning ballgames in 2015 meant crushing opponents to the tune of a +221 run differential. This season, the team has relied on its starting rotation, which led the American League in ERA (3.64) while throwing the most innings in baseball (995.1), despite not having even one complete game.  

The relative lack of offense on the part of the Blue Jays this season combined with a volatile bullpen – which on Oct. 1 had blown five saves in seven games — the key to the Blue Jays’ success in this series may hinge upon two relievers who have had very different seasons: Brett Cecil and Joe Biagini.

One looks to resolve unfinished business from last season; the other to add to his already glowing list of accomplishments in his rookie campaign.

The 2015 season was a tale of two halves for Cecil. Named the closer at the start of the season, his early struggles caused him to lose the role, be reinstated, and then permanently lose the position to Osuna before the end of June. Cecil turned his season around from that point on, not allowing an earned run the remainder of his appearances to lower his ERA from 5.96 to 2.48.

In Game 1 of the ALDS, he faced four Rangers and did not give up a hit, both walking and striking out a batter. Game 2, however, proved devastating.

While making a play during the last out of the inning, Cecil tore a calf muscle, thus prematurely ending his season. It was a devastating blow to both Cecil and the Blue Jays, leaving some to surmise a different outcome in the ALCS had Cecil been available.

Cecil may be seeking a redemption of sorts – his up-and-down 2016 campaign included three very short outings against the Rangers when the two teams squared off in May. He was, however, solid through September with an ERA of just 1.04 through 8.2 innings.

Acquired from the San Francisco Giants in last year’s Rule 5 draft, Biagini quickly gained a reputation for his awkward and eccentric interviews. Used initially in low-leverage situations, the 26-year-old has since earned himself another reputation: that of being absolutely nails on the mound.

In 67.2 innings pitched, Biagini, who had never pitched above Double-A, has been impressive: a 3.06 ERA with a 8.25 K/9, 2.53 BB/9, 0.4 HR/9 and 2.95 FIP. His repertoire of fourseam fastball, downward-moving curve, hard slider and changeup generates more than his fair share of ground balls and whiffs, contributing to him being the last reliever to surrender a home run during the regular season.

Twice Biagini has faced this powerful Rangers lineup. His first time out, he faced eight batters over two innings, working around two hits to walk away without giving up a run. A few weeks later, Biagini was called upon in place of Cecil with a runner on third and got out of the inning unscathed.

One might be concerned with the ability of a rookie pitcher to cope with the pressure of pitching in the postseason, but Biagini has been there and done that. He faced two Orioles in the 7th inning of the Wild Card Game, striking out Jonathan Schoop and Michael Bourn, once again picking up Cecil, who was removed after walking Chris Davis.

After the victory in the roll-of-the-dice that is the Wild Card Game, the Jays have a legitimate shot at going deep into the postseason. Somewhat lost amidst the exuberant victory in Tuesday’s Wild Card Game, however, is the fact that Blue Jays’ closer Roberto Osuna was removed from the game for what he described as a “stretch” in his right shoulder. The issue has since been shrugged off by the team as being nothing serious, though manager John Gibbons stated on Wednesday that he was unsure as to whether or not the 21-year-old would be good to go for Game 1.

One would assume that the team will err on the side of caution. One might also wonder if the issue will again flare up.

The Blue Jays are already shorthanded with respect to relievers – reliable ones, that is – due to the loss of Joaquin Benoit, who is out two-to-three weeks with a torn calf muscle sustained during a brawl with the Yankees during the final week of the season. Benoit had been one of the few relievers who could be counted upon to bridge the gap between the starters and Osuna – a problem that has plagued the Jays for much of the season, particularly in September as certain guys became overused and fatigued, including Jason Grilli, who faltered down the stretch.

With the four Toronto starters set to take the mound in this series, the Jays should feel confident they’ll have an opportunity to win each game. It’s those later innings — as we saw in the Wild Card Game — that are key, particularly given the Rangers’ 36-11 record in one-run games.

Expect both Cecil and Biagini to be given the ball in high-leverage situations late in the game. Should they perform to expectations, count on them to be the Blue Jays’ X-factor in this series. 

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Column: Jays rely on Sanchez and Stroman, as it should be

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April 14, 2016; Toronto, ON, Canada: Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (6) gestures at a team mate after an out against New York Yankees at Rogers Centre. (Photo by Dan Hamilton/Icon Sportswire)

Standing side-by-side, their uniform numbers pay homage to the city they represent – 41 and 6, a reference to Toronto’s area code designation. Virtually inseparable since their ascension to the majors in 2014, Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman could not be more different in their demeanor. Tall and lanky, Sanchez is calm and cool on […]

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Despite rough September, Blue Jays still control own destiny

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September 28, 2016: Toronto Blue Jays Designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion (10) [4352] hits a sacrifice fly during the game between the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre in Toronto, ON. (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire)

John Gibbons: "It won't be easy. It's not supposed to be easy" #BlueJays — Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) September 30, 2016 The 2016 Toronto Blue Jays certainly have a knack for making things difficult for themselves. Despite entering the month of September with a two-game lead over the Boston Red Sox for the AL East division […]

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Blue Jays lose cool, may hurt playoff odds in process

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September 26, 2016: New York Yankees Pitcher Luis Severino (40) [10882] gestures at the Blue Jays players and is restrained by New York Yankees Catcher, Gary Sanchez (24) in the second bench clearing brawl during the game between the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays at rogers Centre in Toronto, ON. (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire)

The Blue Jays lost the fourth and final game of their series against the New York Yankees in spectacular fashion Monday night, with Jason Grilli getting knocked around in the top of the ninth leading to a five-run come-from-behind rally to prevent Toronto’s first-ever four-game sweep of Yankees. Within the context of the playoff picture, […]

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Blue Jays’ inability to get clutch hit could prove their downfall

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16 September 2016: Toronto Blue Jays Third base Josh Donaldson (20) chats with the umpire after striking out in the first inning during the game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim played at Angel Stadium of Anaheim in Anaheim, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

After the phenomenal outpouring of offensive production by the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays, who essentially won the AL East by bludgeoning opposing teams to the tune of a +221 run differential, the 2016 version of the Jays has been, at times and particularly during the month of September, incredibly frustrating to watch. Perhaps no game […]

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Blue Jays September woes can be traced to seventh-inning struggles

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29 August 2016: Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Joe Biagini (31) pitches against the Baltimore Orioles at Orioles Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, MD. where the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Baltimore Orioles, 5-1. (Photograph by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

The month of September has been fraught with frustration for the Toronto Blue Jays. After beginning the month with a two-game lead over the Boston Red Sox, the Jays appeared poised for to defend their AL East crown. Instead, they have lost 12 of their 17 games and have fallen to four games back of Boston and […]

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