Whether they want to admit it or not, the Toronto Blues Jays have been in the midst of a rebuild since the team last made the MLB playoffs in 2016. In this post I will have a look at what happened to the 49 players who made appearances with the 2016 Toronto Blue Jays, only 10 of which remain with the organization as of April 21 2019.
Although many fans were aware of the fact that the Jays were in a rebuild intellectually, many didn’t feel it in their heart until the trade of Kevin Pillar shortly after the start of the 2019 season. By the time this trade was made, Pillar, a long-time fan favorite, was one of the few remaining familiar faces left on the team. A lot of fans voiced their displeasure over the Pillar trade on social media, but the reality is, at that point the rebuild was fully in-flight which meant difficult choices needed to be made. Now that the anger from that trade has died down a bit, I thought it would be a good time to look back at how we got there.
When the current Blue Jays executive leadership team of Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins took over after the successful 2015 season, they made very few changes right away and were probably a bit surprised to see the 2016 team make another playoff run. After that, it became apparent to the Blue Jays’ new leadership team that the Jays were not set up for continued success since they were getting increasingly old and slow. Something needed to be done, but the general feeling seemed to be that Toronto fans would not put up with a full blown tear-down and rebuild.
During the 2016 season a few minor transactions were completed to set the team up for a potential post-season run. When the 2016 post-season was over, more significant changes started to happen. Twelve 2016 Blue Jays who elected free-agency during the 2016 off-season were not re-signed by the team. The only one of those that was really felt by fans was the loss of Edwin Encarnacion to the Cleveland Indians. The Blue Jays actually offered Encarnacion a contract, but it was early in his free agency, and it was not yet apparent that the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed on December 1, 2016 would put a chilling effect on the MLB Free Agent market. When Encarnacion balked, the Blue Jays quickly signed Kendrys Morales to be their DH. Encarnacion ended up taking a deal from Cleveland for the same money but one less year than the Blue Jays were offering. I think both Encarnacion and the Blue Jays probably ended up regretting that they could not get a contract done on the 2016 off-season.
During the 2017 season, only four more of the players from 2016 left the organization. Two were released at the beginning of the season (Gavin Floyd, and Melvin Upton Jr.) and another two were traded close to the trade deadline in late July (Jason Grilli and Francisco Liriano). At the end of the unsuccessful 2017 season, six more players who opted for free agency were not re-signed by the team including fan favorites Jose Bautista, Michael Saunders (a Canadian), and Ryan Goins.
By the time the 2018 season rolled around, the Blue Jays were officially the oldest team in Major League Baseball at an average of 31 years old. Despite all of the changes that had happened over the previous year and a half, there was a lot more work to be done. J.A. Happ and Roberto Osuna were traded before the trade deadline in late July of 2018 and Josh Donaldson, who had been injured most of the year, was traded for not much in late August. At the end of the even more disappointing 2018 season, Aaron Loup and Marco Estrada both opted for free agency and were not re-signed by the Jays.
In December of 2018, the Blue Jays got even more serious about their rebuild and decided to eat the $40 Million remaining on injury-prone Troy Tulowitzki’s contract to clear roster room for their young infielders. Tulo soon signed a free agent contract with the New York Yankees for the major league minimum – he had 13 regular season plate appearances before going back to the Injured list, where he remains as of April 21, 2019. The Blue Jays next parted with catcher Russell Martin in a trade with the L.A. Dodgers. Finally, only five games into the 2019 season, the Blue Jays parted ways with fan favorite Kevin Pillar, trading him to the San Francisco Giants.
“So where does all of that leave us?”, you might ask. Of the 49 players who appeared in a game for the 2016 Toronto Blue Jays, only 10 remain with the organization as of April 21, 2019. Three of those are in the minor league system, and two are on the Injured List – Devon Travis and Dalton Pompey. That leaves a total of five players from 2019 that are still on the active Major League roster – Justin Smoak, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Ryan Tepera, and Joe Biagini. I think it is safe to say that not all ten of those guys will be with the team on opening day of 2020.
Below is a list of players from the 2016 team with details of their departure or their current status with the Jays. Salaries are also included for the players who were still with the team on December 1, 2018:
|Name||Left Jays||2019 Jays Salary||Transaction / Status as of 2019-04-21|
|Justin Smoak||N/A||$8,000,000.00||Toronto Blue Jays – Majors|
|Marcus Stroman||N/A||$7,400,000.00||Toronto Blue Jays – Majors|
|Aaron Sanchez||N/A||$3,900,000.00||Toronto Blue Jays – Majors|
|Devon Travis||N/A||$1,925,000.00||Toronto Blue Jays – Majors (60 Day IL)|
|Ryan Tepera||N/A||$1,525,000.00||Toronto Blue Jays – Majors|
|Joe Biagini||N/A||$900,000.00||Toronto Blue Jays – Majors|
|Dalton Pompey||N/A||$562,800.00||Toronto Blue Jays – Majors (60 Day IL)|
|Danny Barnes||N/A||$0.00||Toronto Blue Jays – Minors|
|Andy Burns||N/A||$0.00||Toronto Blue Jays – Minors|
|Matt Dermody||N/A||$0.00||Toronto Blue Jays – Minors (7 day IL)|
|Kevin Pillar||2-Apr-19||$5,800,000.00||Traded to the San Francisco Giants for Juan De Paula (minors), Alen Hanson and Derek Law.|
|Russell Martin||11-Jan-19||$20,000,000.00||Traded with cash to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Ronny Brito (minors) and Andrew Sopko (minors).|
|Marco Estrada||29-Oct-18||Granted Free Agency|
|Aaron Loup||29-Oct-18||Granted Free Agency|
|Josh Donaldson||31-Aug-18||Traded with cash to the Cleveland Indians for a player to be named later – Julian Merryweather (minors) (October 5, 2018)|
|Roberto Osuna||30-Jul-18||Traded to the Houston Astros for Hector Perez (minors), Ken Giles and David Paulino.|
|J.A. Happ||26-Jul-18||Traded to the New York Yankees for Brandon Drury and Billy McKinney.|
|Ryan Goins||1-Dec-17||Granted Free Agency|
|Bo Schultz||6-Nov-17||Granted Free Agency|
|Darrell Ceciliani||6-Nov-17||Granted Free Agency|
|Darwin Barney||2-Nov-17||Granted Free Agency|
|Michael Saunders||2-Nov-17||Granted Free Agency|
|Jose Bautista||2-Nov-17||Granted Free Agency|
|Francisco Liriano||31-Jul-17||Traded to the Houston Astros for Nori Aoki and Teoscar Hernandez|
|Jason Grilli||2-Jul-17||Traded with cash to the Texas Rangers for Eduard Pinto (minors).|
|Melvin Upton Jr.||2-Apr-17||Released|
|Chris Colabello||6-Dec-16||Granted Free Agency|
|Josh Thole||18-Nov-16||Granted Free Agency|
|Dustin Antolin||7-Nov-16||Granted Free Agency|
|Matt Dominguez||7-Nov-16||Granted Free Agency|
|Junior Lake||7-Nov-16||Granted Free Agency|
|Edwin Encarnacion||3-Nov-16||Granted Free Agency|
|Joaquin Benoit||3-Nov-16||Granted Free Agency|
|R.A. Dickey||3-Nov-16||Granted Free Agency|
|Brett Cecil||3-Nov-16||Granted Free Agency|
|Dioner Navarro||3-Nov-16||Granted Free Agency|
|Scott Feldman||3-Nov-16||Granted Free Agency|
|Scott Diamond||14-Oct-16||Granted Free Agency|
|Pat Venditte||6-Aug-16||Traded to the Seattle Mariners for a player to be named later – Tim Lopes (minors) (September 30, 2016)|
|Drew Hutchison||1-Aug-16||Traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Harold Ramirez (minors), Francisco Liriano and Reese McGuire.|
|Jesse Chavez||1-Aug-16||Traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Mike Bolsinger.|
|Drew Storen||26-Jul-16||Traded with cash to the Seattle Mariners for Joaquin Benoit.|
|Jimmy Paredes||1-Jun-16||Purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies.|