Blue Jays hammer Orioles, underlining divergent paths of their post-2016 rebuilds

TORONTO — To understand how quickly the Toronto Blue Jays emerged from their rebuild, the Baltimore Orioles’ trajectory provides a useful reference point.

Remember, the clubs ended 2016 with identical 89-73 records before meeting in an epic wild-card game won by Edwin Encarnacion’s 11th-inning walk-off homer. It was the final hurray for both clubs as decline set in immediately after, star-studded squads were cut and the wait for new cores ensued.

By 2019, the Blue Jays had already laid the cornerstones of the next contender, led by dynamic duo Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette. They made the playoffs in an expanded field during the 2020 pandemic season, missed last year’s postseason by a game, and now have bigger ambitions.

The Orioles, meanwhile, remain at the forefront of integrating talent accumulated during their extended bottom, with outfielder Kyle Stowers debuting as the third top-10 prospect in the past month and a half, alongside catcher Adleyrutschman and right-hander Kyle Bradish.

Even so, there is still a lot of tunnel before they approach a halo of light.

To that end, the Blue Jays’ 11-1 win over the Orioles on Monday night was fueled by players won since that wildcard fight, underscoring why the trend lines have taken such different paths for both teams.

Start with Alek Manoah — he was ranked 11th overall in 2019, 10 spots after TRUCKMAN went 1st. The right-hander, a force of nature since rising last year, conceded one hit over six shutout innings and became only the seventh modern-era pitcher to have 17 wins in his first 20 decisions as a starter, according to Stats Perform.

Not only did he not get himself into trouble, Manoah even saved his teammates when they screwed things up for him with two penalties in third, with the help of a clever Alejandro Kirk pick against Cedric Mullins at third base that led to a rundown day by Jorge Mateo.

Cavan Biggio opened a fifth run in seven runs with a walk and capped the rally with a run scoring triple, while Bo Bichette scored twice and set a run. Both were drafted in 2016, the Blue Jays in their first year under GM Ross Atkins. Kirk ripped an RBI single to open scoring and hit a run in the sixth while Lourdes Gurriel Jr., another 2016 international free agent signer, added three hits and hit one run.

Teoscar Hernandez, acquired from Houston for Francisco Liriano at the 2017 close, had three hits and one RBI, while Santiago Espinal, picked up from Boston for Steve Pearce in 2018, had two hits and three RBIs.

Guerrero, signed in 2015 by former GM Alex Anthopoulos as an international free agent to lead the next wave, delivered RBI singles in third and fifth against Bradish, who was acquired by the Orioles in the 2019 deal that Dylan Bundy sent to the Angels. and homered in the eighth.

It was their successful acclimatization in the major leagues in recent years that led Atkins to aggressively expand the club through free agencies, beginning with the pre-2020 season signing of Hyun Jin Ryu, followed by free-agent newcomers George Springer and Kevin Gausmann among others

The basis for this is the 21.6 WAR as calculated by Baseball-Reference that the Blue Jays already produced from the 2016-2020 drafts compared to 6.1 for the Orioles. rutschman, Stowers and highly-touted right winger Grayson Rodriguez (who could miss the rest of the season with a lat injury) could eventually eat up that deficit, but that gap is just the beginning of the split.

The Blue Jays also intelligently created value with their draft capital, fielding 16-pick Kirby Snead and 17-picks Kevin Smith and Zach Logue to help take Matt Chapman on. Austin Martin, the 2020 first-rounder, was the key piece of a package to acquire Jose Berrios from the Twins last summer, a deal that led to the ace-right-hander’s long-term extension.

Ross Stripling was acquired by the Dodgers in the summer of 2020 for first baseman Ryan Noda, a 17-pick, and right-hand Kendall Williams, a 2018 pick. Reliever Josh Winckowski, another 16er pick, was part of the package sent to the Mets for Steven Matz. JB Woodman was sent to the Cardinals for Aledmys Diaz, which eventually led to Trent Thornton. Jeff Conine, an 18-pick, was released on time-limited loan to Jonathan Villar in 2020.

The collective gains, big and small, placed on the developed talent helped make Rebuild a promising window of opportunity while the Orioles were stuck in talent acquisition mode and have a long way to go before they can say the same.

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