TORONTO — The Blue Jays are clearly in a period of transition following the departure of Edwin Encarnacion and the continued uncertainty surrounding Jose Bautista. It’s not a rebuild in the traditional sense, but it is a total makeover.
Bautista and Encarnacion have been the faces of the Blue Jays’ franchise for the past seven years. Their consistent power production helped Toronto transition from an afterthought in the American League East to a team that made back-to-back appearances in the AL Championship Series, but change is on the way.
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Encarnacion left town prior to the holidays when he agreed to a three-year deal worth $65 million guaranteed with Cleveland. Bautista’s market didn’t develop as expected, and after spending weeks looking for a multiyear deal, recent reports have indicated that he might settle for one. Toronto needs another outfielder, so a reunion cannot be entirely ruled out. But the club’s priorities are believed to be focused elsewhere.
Even with Encarnacion gone and Bautista possibly on his way out as well, the Blue Jays believe they have the pieces to contend in the New Year, with more additions to be made in the coming weeks. In the meantime, Josh Donaldson takes over as the franchise icon, and Toronto will look to base its chances around a strong starting rotation.
Moving forward without two players who rank among the franchise’s all-time leaders in almost every major offensive category won’t be easy, but the transition has to start somewhere. Here are five pressing questions that will likely determine Toronto’s fate in 2017:
Will the starting rotation be able to match, or even improve upon, its performance from 2016?
The Blue Jays were …