If one were to project the team with the worst record in baseball just a few weeks into the season, most likely the clubs would have been the Minnesota Twins, San Diego Padres or Cincinnati Reds. However, the worst team by far is the Toronto Blue Jays, who had World Series aspirations following two straight trips to the ALCS.
The Jays’ odds to win the World Series were set at +1200 before opening day, but have dropped all the way to +2800 less than three weeks into the season. Is the season already lost for the Jays? Let’s examine.
Toronto Blue Jays MLB Odds
Following Tuesday’s series-opening loss vs. Boston, the Blue Jays were 2-11 for a winning percentage of .154 – they tied the 1998 Florida Marlins for the worst start to a season by a playoff team from the previous year. Every other team in 2017 has at least five wins. No team that started 1-9, as Toronto also did, has ever made the postseason.
As of this writing, the Reds, who were 68-94 last year, were in first place in the NL Central. The Twins, a major-league worst 59-103 in 2016, were close to the lead in the AL Central. So one doesn’t want to read too much into this year yet.
That said, the worst 25-game start in Blue Jays history is 7-18, and just reaching that will take some doing. The mark was by the 1979 club managed by Roy Hartsfield and which played at Exhibition Stadium. A certain future Boston Celtics point guard and general manager named Danny Ainge was the primary second baseman on that team. Toronto finished a franchise-worst 53-109 and Hartsfield was fired.
Toronto Blue Jays Injuries
Injuries have crippled the 2017 Jays. The team’s best offensive player, third baseman Josh Donaldson, and its two best starting pitchers, Aaron Sanchez, a 2016 All-Star, and J.A. Happ, sixth in last year’s Cy Young voting, are all on the 10-day disabled list. Donaldson, the former AL MVP, could miss up to a month with a right calf injury suffered during spring training. He was one of the few Blue Jays hitting at .310 (only regular above .280 other than Kevin Pillar) with two homers and four RBI in nine games.
Sanchez (0-1, 4.38 in two starts) underwent a minor procedure to remove part of one of his fingernails Tuesday and could be back next week. Happ (0-3, 4.50 in three starts) left Sunday’s start with elbow inflammation. That’s always an ominous injury, but the team doesn’t think it’s serious.
Toronto led the American League with a 3.78 team ERA last year. As of Wednesday, that number was 4.76 and 13th in the AL. Yet the pitching has been a moderate bright spot compared to the lineup as Toronto is 14th in the league in runs after finishing fifth a year ago. The free-agent loss of Edwin Encarnacion has hurt the offense, but Russell Martin, Devon Travis, Jose Bautista and Steve Pearce are all well below the Mendoza Line. Bautista might be the most overpaid slugger in baseball at the moment with his one RBI and 16 strikeouts.
American League MLB Betting Odds
Currently, Toronto is +1000 on MLB odds to win the AL East. The Red Sox remain -180 betting favourites to do so, while the Baltimore Orioles (+400) and New York Yankees (+400) have both been better than expected in the early going.
Already some national writers are speculating that the Jays could become the first major trade sellers of the season. Bautista and starting pitchers Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano are set to become free agents next winter and could be moved. Dealing them would help the majors’ oldest team add young prospects while also cutting payroll.
Also consider that Donaldson and Happ will be free agents after 2018. Troy Tulowitzki has three years and $54 million U.S. left after this year, so Toronto would have to eat some salary to trade Tulo. Martin is likely untradeable with two years and $40 million left on his deal after this year. The Yankees were an aged struggling bunch last year but now have one of the best farm systems in baseball after selling off guys like Carlos Beltran, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman last summer.
If the Jays do waive the white flag, however, that would likely hurt attendance at the Rogers Centre. In 2016, Toronto led the AL in averaging 41,880 fans in the regular season. TV ratings also skyrocketed.
Things could get worse before they get better this year. Starting Friday at the LA Angels, the Blue Jays play 13 of their next 16 on the road. They are 1-5 away from home and have been outscored 28-20. FanGraphs now projects Toronto to finish with an 80-82 record and last in the AL East. Entering the season, the site had the Jays at 86-76 and second in the division.