First and foremost: WELCOME TO BLUE JAYS REPUBLIC!
The day you’ve been waiting for has finally arrived… Well, at least for us it has. But you’re here, and that’s the first step on what promises to be a fulfilling and righteous journey through the world of Blue Jays coverage — I swear.
Feel free to mark July 27, 2016 down in your history books (or at least on something you won’t eventually use as a coaster) as the day BJR was officially born. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
All half-kidding aside, and I can speak for everyone involved when I say this: Whether you’re old enough to remember those aluminum bleachers at Exhibition Stadium (you know, the ones with no backrests), or if you’re of the generation that actually refers to Sky Dome as Rogers Centre, we’re looking forward to experiencing all of this team’s ups and downs right along with you. I’m sure we’ll all get along just fine… Ok, you got me, the jury is still out on that last part.
Chances are you made it here through the announcement from the mothership, Raptors Republic. Which may even mean you’re familiar with the work of yours truly. What can I say, sometimes you need to fill your shameless plug quota.
Now, as THIS Republic strives to become its own animal, the connection between the two will surely stay consistent when it comes to having the same passion. Not to mention the same willingness to criticize when criticism is warranted.
As you can see, we’ve been working in the trenches packing the site with content to help you enjoy your first visit. So sit back, browse around, and don’t hesitate to join the conversation.
Ready to rock? … Well alright then. In the words of Toronto’s newest Blue Jay: #LetsGo.
— Melvin Upton Jr. (@MelvinUptonJr) July 26, 2016
This Friday night marks the beginning of 10 straight games versus teams the Jays are either chasing (Baltimore), holding off (Houston), or getting another chance to exact revenge against (KC). Combine that playoff atmosphere with the impending trade deadline (Monday, Aug. 4th, 4pm), and it’s only fitting that I start off Launch Day by assessing the added firepower that has the potential to make a substantial impact.
I’m referring to the man, who after taking a road trip to acquire a work visa, simply (yet awkwardly) had to pick up his gear and switch dugouts in the middle of a series. Or, if you prefer:
The Artist Formerly Known As Bossman Junior
After last season, it’s safe to say everybody’s on edge (in a good way). And when word of a trade hits a fan base with World Series aspirations, we’re ready to explode with emotion at a moment’s notice. Just as we were through every pitch of Devon Travis’s 14-pitch at bat in the bottom of the 12th, and eventual comeback victory late last night.
When the Upton deal was made official, and word that Hansel Rodriguez was going the other way, I can safely assume those emotions ran wild. Which ultimately led to more than a few questions/overreactions as one surfed Social Media and ventured into the world of Sports Talk Radio:
- Has a door now opened to trade Bautista?
- Who the hell is Hansel Rodriguez?
- Why are they acquiring a 5th Outfielder when the Bullpen is their most pressing need?
On the surface, Upton arguably opens a door. I can’t sit here and proclaim that Bautista is an absolute lock to stay past the trade deadline especially when the Jays’ farm system isn’t likely to net them anything more than mediocre pitching options — even the recently sent down Drew Storen could only fetch struggling journeyman, Joaquin Benoit.
Still, it’s not like a team that’s rebuilding is gunning for Jose, nor is a contender likely going to match another contender’s asking price. Bottom line: This situation leaves little room to speak in hypotheticals. But it would be foolish not to entertain any impact offers when Upton could be a serviceable backup plan.
On the flip side, Upton’s arrival, along with being an insurance policy for next year’s potential holes in the Outfield (Saunders being the other) also represents a perfect fit with Bautista staying right where he is. And it’s all due to how the club plans to use him.
But before I get into the team’s plans, let’s bring Hansel Rodriguez into the picture. The 19-year-old, who was rated as the Jays “18th-best” prospect by MLB.com, has put up fluctuating stats throughout his 3-year minor league career. Although, there are the noticeable exceptions of his annually decreasing ERA and WHIP.
Given that prospects are undoubtedly an inexact science, the fact that he was considered “18th-best” really has little meaning. But when you combine his less than notable pedigree with the Padres reportedly paying $17.5 Million of the remaining $22.5 Million left on Upton’s contract (Did I fail to mention that yet?), and this deal quickly transforms from likeable to a no-brainer.
And when you add in the ways he can and will be used:
- 4th Outfielder who can play all 3 spots, and is immediately the second best defensive option next to Kevin Pillar.
- If Pillar’s all-out lifestyle leads to injury, Upton has the speed to cover similar ground.
- Speaking of speed, and things that are immediate, meet the Jays best stolen base threat. No matter how much they don’t use that part of the game (ranking 23rd overall), it could be a saving grace in the postseason. For his career, Upton has three 40-plus seasons, two 30-plus, and two 20-plus.
- How about providing Bautista and Edwin time spent at DH or 1B?
- Which also stems from offering a platoon option for Smoak when facing lefties. This season’s OPS vs. Southpaws: Upton: .903, Smoak: .688
As the opposite of Rodriguez, Upton, who was billed the “second coming of A-Rod” was put on a path to greatness by pundits across the board. Even while he was still making an enormous amount of errors for the Durham Bulls, which ultimately moved him from shortstop to the outfield.
Likewise by every single Fantasy Baseball owner who deemed him untouchable in their Dynasty League (Yes, I’m still bitter). But other than his breakout 2007 (4.4 WAR, 5.1 oWAR) and his postseason rampage in 2008 of 7 Home Runs, 16 RBIs, and 6 Stolen Bases, he never managed a consistent career. He’s had to pick up the pieces from where everything went wrong on more than a few occasions including becoming a salary dump for the Braves.
San Diego, perhaps due to being out of the spotlight from not living up to his payday in Atlanta, was witnessing the Upton of old. Could it be that Upton can be classified as a Flash Player? One that lives up to his tools in spurts but not in the everyday lineup? Well, look for that trend to only go up in Toronto. And there really is only a short list of players who can match Upton’s versatility, no matter the level of inconsistency.
The Jays have one mission in mind, and that mission will be dependent on situational baseball when it’s all said and done. A player who can have a dramatic impact at any given moment has a chance to prove extremely valuable.
So far this season, he seems humbled by his past. And with the atmosphere of Tuesday night providing a spotlight of the positive variety, those “any given moments” just might come a little more often than one might think. A few more standing ovations yet to come?
Back at it for noon. Let’s keep the Republic party moving.