Assembling the Blue Jays' all-decade team of the 2010s

Dec 6 2019, 11:59 am

The Toronto Blue Jays end the 2010s just as they began the decade; as a fourth-place sub-500 rebuilding team, hoping to recapture some of that magic from decades prior.

The Blue Jays began 2010 without their franchise staple: Roy Halladay. The club ends the decade without a true bona fide face of the franchise, but there are plenty of internal candidates who could soon elevate themselves to become the next Blue Jays superstar.

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As the decade comes to a close, it seems only fitting to assemble the Blue Jays’ all-decade team from the 2010-2019 seasons. These are the very best Blue Jays players at their respective positions from the 2010s.

Catcher: Russell Martin

In December 2014, the Blue Jays signed Russell Martin to the richest free agent contract in franchise history: $82 million over five years. Although the team traded Martin away before the final year of his deal, his four years in a Blue Jays uniform were among some of the finest seasons all-time by a Blue Jays catcher.

First Base: Justin Smoak

The emergence of Justin Smoak was one of the most unpredictable events of the 2010s for the Blue Jays. Brought in as a platoon player ahead of the 2015 season, Smoak took the reins as the team’s everyday first baseman in 2017 and blossomed into an All-Star first baseman.

Second Base: Devon Travis

The Blue Jays and Devon Travis parted ways this year, but the second baseman flashed moments of brilliance during his 2015 rookie campaign in Toronto. Ultimately, a litany of injuries derailed Travis’ career, but when he was healthy, his star shone brightly.

Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki

Even though he’s no longer on the Blue Jays’ roster, the ghost of Troy Tulowitzki looms over the Jays until the end of 2020. The club released Tulowitzki last December, but they still owe $14 million to the since-retired shortstop.

Tulo was a treat to watch in the field. The famed Tulowitzki trade from July 2015 changed the course of the Blue Jays’ season. Tulowitzki was a driving factor in both playoff runs and had huge hits for the Blue Jays in October.

There were other shortstops who spent more time in Toronto during the 2010s, but none were as flashy as Tulowitzki.

Third Base: Josh Donaldson

Josh Donaldson only spent three-and-a-half seasons in a Blue Jays uniform, but he was a beast when he was on the field in Toronto. His 2015 MVP campaign still stands as the best overall season by WAR for a Blue Jays position player.

And Donaldson’s 2016 season ranks as the fourth best season for a Blue Jays position player in franchise history, too. His final days with the Blue Jays ended with a messy divorce, but the Bringer of Rain helped led the Blue Jays back to prominence in 2015 and 2016.

Left Field: Rajai Davis

Rajai Davis had the unfortunate fate of being just a few years too early ahead of the Blue Jays’ breakout in 2015 and 2016. Otherwise, he would have been the perfect player to compliment a deadly Blue Jays lineup in the latter half of the decade.

Davis spent three years with the Blue Jays from 2011 to 2013 and stole a staggering 125 bases as one of the fastest base runners in the American League. He veteran outfielder also authored one of the greatest catches in Blue Jays history.

Centre Field: Kevin Pillar

Kevin Pillar is the ultimate underdog story. As a 32nd round pick, the odds were never in favour for Pillar making it to the big leagues, let alone establishing himself as a starting centre fielder for four consecutive seasons.

978 names were called before Pillar’s at the 2011 MLB entry draft. He proved that sometimes even late-round draft picks can overcome all odds.

He stationed himself in centre field in May 2015 and never looked back until the Blue Jays traded him to the San Francisco Giants in April 2019. Pillar was a glove-first outfielder and his highlight reel of spectacular catches made him a fan favourite in Toronto.

Right Field: Jose Bautista

If there was an award for Blue Jays player of the decade, it would go to Jose Bautista. The man was already a legend in Toronto before the “bat flip”; a seminal moment that put the Blue Jays and the veteran slugger on the map.

Bautista was a cast-off from the Pittsburgh Pirates and a few years later, developed into one of the most lethal sluggers in baseball. He earned the name “Joey Bats” for good reason; Bautista made a living destroying American League pitchers.

During the 2010s, he collected three Silver Slugger awards, earned six All-Star game appearances, he places within the top 10 of AL MVP voting four times, and with one swing of the bat, Bautista cemented his legacy in Toronto sports history.

Designated Hitter: Edwin Encarnacion

Edwin Encarnacion shares a very similar career arc to his fellow countryman Bautista, in that they were both cast-offs that discovered themselves with the Blue Jays.

Encarnacion arrived as a Blue Jay in 2009 as part of a salary dump from the Cincinnati Reds. After middling for two-plus seasons with the Blue Jays, something clicked in 2012 when EE took off and swatted 42 home runs that season.

Along with Bautista, Encarnacion paired together with his teammate to become the Blue Jays’ modern-day version of the “bash brothers”. From 2012 to 2016, there were very few middle of the orders as feared as the Blue Jays.

Bench: Adam Lind, Colby Rasmus, Jose Molina

The rest of the Blue Jays’ all-decade position player roster is a mishmash of middle of the decade hitters. Adam Lind spent nine seasons with the Blue Jays and four seasons during the 2010s in Toronto.

Colby Rasmus was believed to be the next “centre fielder of the future” for the Blue Jays, but because of injuries, never had the runway to take off in Toronto. However, he stayed healthy for the entire 2012 campaign and posted career numbers with the Blue Jays last year.

Then there’s Jose Molina (not to be confused with Bengie Molina, who also played for the Blue Jays). He might have the shortest tenure of all the players on this list and the fewest games played, but Molina was a defensive stalwart behind the plate.

The bulk of Molina’s value came from defence and even though he was the team’s backup catcher, he controlled the running game and handled the pitching staff with ease.

Starting Rotation: Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero

The Blue Jays’ all-decade starting rotation is a motley crew of arms if there ever was one. It’s a collection of first-round picks, relievers-turned-starters and veteran arms who flourished in Toronto.

Marcus Stroman finished his five-year tour with the Blue Jays this past summer, but he took the ball in two of the most crucial games for the team during the 2010s: Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS series and the 2016 American League Wild Card game.

J.A. Happ was an interesting case because he made two separate tours with the Blue Jays; acquired as part of a trade in 2012 and then re-signed by the Blue Jays in November 2015.

Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays was much more memorable than the first, as he posted career numbers in the 2016 season and was part of Toronto’s stellar starting rotation.

Marco Estrada was also part of that starting rotation, but he had a one-year head start on Happ when it came to pitching with the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays thrust Estrada into the starting rotation by sheer necessity in May 2015.

He’ll be remembered most for his stellar playoff performances in 2015 and 2016, posting a sparking 2.16 ERA in postseason starts for the Blue Jays.

Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero are a bit of a package deal, as they became the Blue Jays’ 1-2 punch in the starting pitching department from 2010 to 2013. Romero took the baton from Halladay as the next number one of the Blue Jays rotation, and Romero earned an All-Star nod in 2011.

Morrow’s legacy with the Blue Jays might be as the pitcher who lost a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning. His 17-strikeout game remains one of the best single-game performances by a Blue Jays pitcher ever.

Bullpen: Ken Giles, Casey Janssen, Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, Jason Frasor, Darren Oliver, Steve Delabar

The Blue Jays’ all-decade bullpen corps is a mix of young and old, lefties and righties. Regardless of whether Ken Giles gets traded this offseason, he’s been an effective reliever for the Blue Jays in one-plus seasons.

Casey Janssen broke into the league in 2006, but became a household name in Toronto when he took the reins as the Blue Jays’ closer in 2012. He was one of the club’s iron man relievers, amassing 279 appearances during the 2010s.

Much like Janssen, Brett Cecil started his career with much promise as a starting pitcher. A few years later, the Blue Jays soon realized that Cecil was much better served into the bullpen and he developed into one of the best setup men in the American League.

Every bullpen needs at least one left-handed reliever, and for the Blue Jays, that man was often Aaron Loup during the 2010s. He pitched in a staggering amount of games; 336 over the course of five seasons in Toronto.

Jason Frasor gets a nod here because he’s the ultimate iron man among Blue Jays relievers. He holds a franchise record that will never be broken; 505 appearances as a pitcher with the Blue Jays.

Remember what we said about lefties? Darren Oliver spent the final two years of his illustrious 20-year career with the Blue Jays, pitching at age 41 and 42 out of the bullpen.

And lastly, let’s not forget about Steve Delabar; the substitute teacher turned All-Star reliever. His career arc is that of a Disney movie, and Delabar flourished as a member of the Blue Jays bullpen from 2012 to 2015.