ESPN’s devious plan to allay the fears of Jays fans ready to jump off the ledge came to its inevitable conclusion today, with the release of the top third of their Future Power Rankings (Insider Only), which ranked MLB teams’ well-positionedness for the future based on current talent, their minor league system, ownership and management quality and stability, finances, and contract mobility– i.e. how locked in they are to long-term, potentially ugly deals.
It was a tailor made concept for showing off the Jays as being on the right path, and it fully achieved that goal… kinda.
You see, the Jays turn up as the sixth-best positioned franchise in the Majors. Aaaaaand… the fourth-best positioned franchise in their division. Yes, New York (2), Tampa (3) and Boston (5) all rank ahead of them– based largely on current MLB talent and, in the case of two (guess which!), finances.
Yet, let’s not act like this is bad news (or… well… news at all, really, but you know what I mean).
“In any other division, Toronto probably would have made the playoffs a couple of times over the past decade, and no team will benefit from the extra wild card as much as the Jays. Of course, they could be in position to win the AL East outright very soon,” writes Buster Olney. “Not only do they have arguably baseball’s best hitter (Jose Bautista), phenom (Brett Lawrie) and farm system, they have virtually no long-term commitments. They are probably one or two pitchers from winning this division and have the payroll flexibility and trade chips to make it happen. This sleeping giant is almost ready to wake up.”
Jim Bowden adds that “Lawrie will be a fixture in Toronto’s lineup for years, but the Jays still will need a big bat to accompany him and Bautista. Toronto should pursue Canadian Joey Votto if he becomes available in a trade or as a free agent.”
Hard to argue. And while it’s discouraging to still be thought of as behind the division’s big three– even in terms of future potential– you sure as shit have a better shot of catching them from where the Jays are than if you’re the dead-last-ranked Baltimore Orioles.