Toronto Blue Jays Cannot Afford To Waste Another Year Of Jose Bautista's Prime

By Mark Hock

It’s been nearly 20 years since the Toronto Blue Jays have made the post season. What’s interesting about this is that the Jays haven’t struggled to get superstar calibre players. During that time the team has developed or acquired players like Carlos Delgado, Shawn Green, Roy Halladay, Roger Clemens. At one time or another during their tenure they were considered one of the best players at their positions, and in the case of Halladay and Clemens one of the best players in baseball. The problem has never been that the Jays couldn’t get high ceiling talent – it was that they couldn’t support their superstars with the right players. Unfortunately for Jays fans, history seems to be repeating itself as Jose Bautista, arguably one of if not the best player in the game over the past few seasons, is having the prime of his career wasted on a .500 club.

Since his breakout season in 2010, Jose Bautista has hit 272/400/594 (994 OPS, 163 OPS+) with 124 home runs and 18.3 WAR. He’s led the league and at times the majors in virtually every meaningful offensive category during that time. While he got off to a slow start in April, over the past few months he’s returned to form as one of the best hitters in baseball.

And yet for all of his efforts, the Jays can’t seem to improve over a 500 team. Some would argue that a superstar like Bautista should be able to put his team on his back and lead them to the playoffs. But baseball isn’t like hockey or the NBA, where a Sidney Crosby or a Lebron James can singlehandedly transform a team. Baseball requires the efforts of an entire team, and no matter how good any one player is they need a strong supporting cast to succeed.

Last year’s MVP winner Justin Verlander is pitching identical to last season – and yet the Detroit Tigers trail the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central. Does that mean Verlander suddenly forgot how to carry the team on his back, or that as I previously argued his supporting cast isn’t as strong as in the previous year? The Blue Jays can look to past years when they got stellar seasons from Roy Halladay, Roger Clemens and Carlos Delgado and should instantly recognize that these talented players just never had the supporting cast to help them win.

This year Jose Bautista has some offensive help, as Edwin Encarnacion has been one of the deadliest bats in the American League. At one point the Jays even led the American League in runs scored. But as has been the case, the Jays couldn’t build a strong supporting cast around their superstar. Their pitching, both in the rotation and in the bullpen wasn’t strong enough, and it cost the Jays their season.

At 31 Jose Bautista doesn’t likely have many elite years left in his bat. And it’s a shame that the Jays wasted the prime of one of the greatest players in club history. Carlos Delgado is often considered one of the most dangerous hitters the Blue Jays have ever had in their everyday lineup, and even his seasons pale in comparison to Bautista’s.

If the Jays are going to make the playoffs over the next few seasons, it won’t be because they waited for Anthony Gose, Travis D’Arnaud, Jake Marisnick or any of their other prospects to develop. It will be because they put a strong core around their superstar, Jose Bautista. It’s imperative that the Blue Jays don’t waste the prime years of another superstar, and they need to do whatever they can to field a contending team in 2013. The Jays simply can’t afford to waste another prime season of their superstar, which is why next year the Jays need to go all in to create a strong supporting cast for Jose Bautista.

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