By Hunter Surphlis
One of my favourite things about Toronto is that it has so many professional sports teams. Chances are, there is at least one good team in a given year. The past few years, however, we’ve been lucky as a city. The Raptors, Jays and Leafs have found success after long droughts for each team.
The Jays are now seeing some tough times and have entered a rebuild phase. The team really has no stars anymore and the ones they do have are well past their prime. The majority of the Jays impact players will be young talent. As interesting as the development of guys like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette will be, they won’t make much of a difference right away. They definitely won’t be in playoff contention and by the All-Star break, majority of fans will have lost interest.
Making matters worse, the Jays struggles will be highlighted by the rest of AL East. The Red Sox are by far the best team in the MLB this year and will be a top team again next year, and the year after and the year after that. They won 108 games this year, which is 15 more than the Jays 93-win season in 2015 and nine more than their most successful season in 1985. The Yankees, who finished second in the AL East, ended with 100 wins. Also more wins than the Jays 2015 & 1985 seasons. Tampa Bay finished just shy of the Jays 2015 record with 90 wins and, as they do, will find a way to stay competitive again.
John Gibbons said he doesn’t want to be part of a rebuild and I’m sure a lot of fans feel the same. They might be able to fly under the radar
There might not be a better time for the Jays to rebuild. Here’s why:
The MLB season starts at the end of March and the postseason ends in early November. With this in mind look at where the other schedules start and end:
NHL & NBA: Starts in October (preseason in September) and playoffs end in June
MLS: Pretty much runs all year
Both the Leafs and Raptors seasons run through the beginning and end of the MLB season. Both teams have exciting seasons coming up and have had exciting off seasons. The Raptors and Leafs have improved their already good squads by adding star players John Tavares and Kawhi Leonard. There has been a ton of buzz around these guys and I bet they alone will be able to overshadow the struggles the Jays will go through.
Although they’re going to be coming off of a disappointing season, chances are TFC will be closer to the dominant force they were in 2016-17. They play directly through the Jays season and despite the many days off between games they’ll be able to hold the attention of fans throughout the city.
High Expectations Of Other Toronto Teams:
No question, the two most exciting teams in Toronto right now are the Raptors and the Leafs. Both teams added bonafide stars to already talented rosters. If all goes well this season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see either or both in the finals of their respective leagues.
Bleacher Report is predicting that the Raptors will win 54 games next season and be the 3 seed in the East, ESPN puts them around the same area with 55 wins. I think that’s a little low. They won 59 games last year, swapped Demar Derozan for a potential MVP candidate and added a good defensive guard in Danny Green for Jakob Poeltle. They definitely aren’t a worst team than last year and they were the #1 team in the East.
Last season, the Leafs had 105 points and finished behind Boston and Tampa Bay in their division. This off season they added John Tavares without losing a real crucial part of their roster. Joe Bowen predicts that the Leafs will win the Cup for the first time since 1967 this year. Hockey News says they’ll have more than 106.5 points in the regular season which will place them in the top of the Eastern Conference.
When teams are good in Toronto, there’s nothing more important to the city. When the Blue Jays had their recent run of success, they had the highest attendance in the American League. That exact same energy and passion will be brought to the Leafs and Raptors.
TFC, the Raptors and the Leafs have exciting off seasons coming up trying to keep their lineups potent. With the success that will come in their seasons, more and more fans will be invested in what goes on in the off season. This excitement will turn attention away from the Jays struggles and onto the moves each team will make. We saw this with the trade bringing Kawhi Leonard here and the signing of John Tavares. Once fans get a taste of what these guys bring to the table, they won’t be able to talk about anything else.
At the end of 2018, there are a lot of contracts ending for TFC. The most important ones being the young, Brazilian right-back, Auro Jr. and Lucas Janson who is on loan at the moment. The end of the 2019 season sees more talented players hitting the market including stars Sebastian Giovinco, Michael Bradley and Nick Hagglund. Being able to keep these guys around will help the team stay competitive and potentially get back to the team they were last season.
This upcoming Leafs season will give insight as to who the team is going to pay and how much it will cost to keep them. They have six Restricted Free Agents (RFA) and four Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA) coming up in the 2019 offseason. The biggest names of those free agents are Auston Matthews (RFA), Mitch Marner (RFA), Kasperi Kapanen (RFA), and Jake Gardiner (UFA). Seeing how the Nylander contract situation has gone, contract negotiations with the bigger name players will definitely garner lots of attention throughout the city.
The Raptors probably have the most important off-season of teams in Toronto. They went out on a limb and traded their franchise player for a superstar who can, and very possibly will, leave in the off-season. The Raptors will be looking to dish out cash as they are the only team allowed to pay Leonard $50M more than any other team. So keeping him is quite possible. Other than Leonard, the Raptors have three other players who can potentially move: young big man, Jonas Valanciunas; three-point specialist, C.J Miles; and young backup guard, Delon Wright. Valanciunas and Miles have player options which both will probably take based on the market for their talents. Delon Wright will be offered a qualifying offer; if he doesn’t take it, he can field offers from other teams which the Raptors can match. Inking Leonardi to a long-term deal would be a massive step in the right direction for the Raptors becoming a championship team but being able to keep the other guys is also important.
We were teased with greatness from the Jays a few years ago and since then, it really hasn’t been the same. As the team wins less and performs worse, Toronto has been growing more frustrated with them. During the regular season of the Leafs and Raptors, fans in Toronto will forget there’s even a baseball team here. Which is a good thing; it allows the failures to hide behind the success of other teams.