It’s looking more and more likely that longtime Blue Jays’ cornerstones Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista will be donning new team colours in 2017. Both these Dominican sluggers will leave behind a great legacy in Toronto, as well as a mass of fans with out-of-date jerseys. Losing these two will clearly have an impact on the Jays’ 2017 hopes, but what about the fans? Countless supporters (myself included) throughout BJ Nation will have to consider buying a new jersey, as their Eddy and Joey Bats gear becomes too painful to wear. And as Christmas and Chanukah draw ever closer many must be thinking who would they want on the back of their new Jays’ gear moving forward.
So here is a guide to picking new gear.
1. The best player
The easiest choice is always a club’s best player. My go-to jersey over the last few seasons has been Jose Bautista’s #19. Before Josh Donaldson showed up Joey Bats was the clear leader and the face of the franchise. The homers, the swagger, the bat flip, I never felt regret about wearing Bautista blue. With the current roster there seems to be little question that JD is the best all around, proven commodity on the team. But other intriguing options for “best player” could include Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada, Roberto Osuna or Russell Martin. The problem here is that, like with Bautista and Encarnacion, you may get burnt by Rogers’ scrimping when their contracts run out.
A friend of mine puts great thought into whom he commits to (jersey wise) and one of his biggest issues is having a player before “he was big.” For this friend, going and getting a Donaldson jersey is just not acceptable. Although my friend is not a self-identifying hipster, this obsession with finding something (or someone, in this case) that is hip before it is considered “hip” is essential.
This is not to get confused with novelty jerseys, like the dozens of Kawasaki ones you see throughout the season or the Matt Stairs one I have buried away. No, he wants to pick a long lasting superstar and have the satisfaction of saying “I’ve had this jersey for years.” The down side to this approach is you could easily bet on the wrong horse. Committing to a player that is on the brink of stardom can be exciting, but if they never get it together you could end up with a Ricky Romero jersey, a Colby Rasmus jersey, or as I did a Scott Richmond jersey (to be fair it was 50% off). Current stars on the brink could include Sanchez, Osuna, Marcus Stroman, Joe Biagini and Devon Travis and longer shots Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Dalton Pompey.
3. Contract/longevity of tenure
Now if you went out on August 1st, 2015 and bought a David Price jersey I get it but realistically it was a horrible short-term investment. And if you had waited till November, when he signed with Boston you could have got it for half off at the Jays Shop. When investing in a jersey one of the things you must consider is, how long will the player stay a Jay. When I bought my Stairs jersey I thought a solid Canadian hitter, who is going to retire in Toronto – why not? Well he wasn’t all that great in Toronto and he retired a National but that was part of my reasoning.
Josh Donaldson is a star – yes. But he has only two years left till free agency and one can only imagine whether Rogers will be willing to pay him after 2018. Estrada is an ace, but could be gone after 2017 and JA Happ may be gone after 2018. In this case young controllable stars like Sanchez, Osuna and Stroman seem the safest bet. On the other side, picking a player that could retire a Jay would also be a safe bet. Russell Martin will be 36 years old when his contract expires and he might just retire in Toronto. Troy Tulowitzki will be 37 when his contract expires as well. 40-year old Jason Grilli may also hang them up as a Jay and if he has another big year in 2016, this may be an option. The main benefit here is a jersey that you can wear with pride as long as possible (Mark Buehrle seems the best recent example).
Admittedly I have a huge bias for Canadian Blue Jays (I don’t know if anyone else in this world owns both a Scott Richmond and Matt Stairs Blue Jays jersey). But I don’t think I’m alone in rooting for the hometown (or home country) boys. Toronto sports fans seem to love rooting for Canucks playing at home - Corey Joseph for the Raptors, the obsession with bringing Steven Stamkos home to the Leafs, or Russell Martin with the Jays. Don Cherry seems to have infused in all of us a love of “good Canadian boys.”
Recently in BJ Nation we have seen many Canadians, the most notable Russell Martin, Michael Saunders, Dalton Pompey and Brett Lawrie. Although I wouldn’t endorse a Richmond, Shawn Hill, Scott Diamond or Simon Pond jersey, for the sake of them being Canadian, a solid canuck on your back never seems a bad idea.
5. Bang for your buck
Now an odd fact about buying a jersey is that you don’t pay per letter/number. If you really want a deal and don’t really care about the name on the back, there are a few decent options. On the current Blue Jays’ 40-man roster Troy Tulowitzki leads the pack with ten letters but only one number (for a total of eleven); Josh Donaldson and Mike Bolsinger both have nine letters and two numbers (for a total of eleven); and Darrell Ceciliani has nine letters, one number (for a total of ten).
I wouldn’t really endorse this method, but it’s a thought and if you need a tiebreaker.
So who should be your/my next jersey? Here’s my short-list:
1. Aaron Sanchez – he’s going to be a Blue Jay for a really long time and it appears (*knock on wood) that he will be a star for years to come. He could realistically check off the first three boxes, and although not at all Canadian, he is a homegrown star (which has got to be worth something). Sure he may leave once he’s a free agent super star but that’ll be after a four-year Trump presidency, so who’s to say any of us will still be alive to see it.
2. Russell Martin – Gold Gloves, All-Star games, Silver Sluggers, an insane playoff streak and a ginger beard to boot (yes, I’m sure I’m part of a small minority of fans who cares about that) – what’s not to like? Martin is the embodiment of the perfect Canadian, multicultural, bilingual and has a foot in both Canada’s major cities (both population and baseball wise). And he was the first MLB star to commit to wearing the red and white in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. On the field he may not be as flashy as he once was, but his superb defense and ability to call a game still have a huge impact on this team. Hopefully when he hangs his cleats up they will be Blue Jays’ blue.
3. Josh Donaldson – although my faith in Rogers spending money is at an all time low, JD may not get the hundreds of millions of dollar contract that some would expect. After arbitration Donaldson (a clear late bloomer) will be 33 years old, and if this off-season has taught us anything it is that the market doesn’t seem to look too kindly on 33 year olds, despite how productive they are. And like this off-season Donaldson will be, potentially, surrounded by stars that could drive his market value down. If JD becomes a lifer in Toronto he would the first of his kind, as Toronto tends to let its stars stray. If a physic told me he would stay, he’d probably be number one on this list.
As the number of chocolates in my advent calendar dwindles I’m starting to ponder about which Jay I want under the tree. The departure of Eddy and Bautista may still sting but it is time to move on. And if their departure has helped me realize anything, it’s the real meaning of Christmas…buying new things.