Looking back … and ahead

Looking back … and ahead

It should have been a helluva season -- maybe not winning the World Series, but at least getting there.

What happened?

While the starting pitchers were performing much better than expected, the relief corps was awful as it posted a 10-14 record in the first half and then went 13-18 in the second.

Roberto Osuna was great, no bones about it. And when Joaquin Benoit and Jason Grilli were added to set the table, they became a very good trio for the last three innings when the Blue Jays were ahead. Joe Biagini was better than expected in the middle innings.

Defensively, the Blue Jays were on par with 2015 as they committed the same number of errors, 88.

The big letdown was on offense as it posted a .248 average, with 221 home runs and 728 RBIs while piling on 1,362 strikeouts. In 2015, the Blue Jays had a team average of .269, with 232 homers, 852 RBIs and 1,151 strikeouts.

Jose Bautista spent time on the disabled list, but he did not hit as expected and Russell Martin had a very disappointing season at the plate. Martin had some good spurts, especially in the second half of the season, but he faltered badly in the playoffs.

The best offensive surprise was Ezequiel Carrera. He hit well, showed some power, good speed and could drop a bunt whether for a base hit or a sacrifice. But, on account of his injuries, Devon Travis, once again, did not show what he is capable of during a full season.

Josh Donaldson did not have an MVP season, but he became the real leader of the Blue Jays. And Troy Toluwitzki, when healthy, is the anchor of the infield.

Atkins on leaders in infield

At first base, the Parrot Man Edwin Encarnacion was outstanding both ways. But Justin Smoak, although very good on defense, strikes out too much.

Michael Saunders was steady in the outfield and he should do better with the bat when he'll go more often to the opposite field and cuts down on his strikeouts. Superman Kevin Pillar can't do no wrong in center field, but he should steal more bases at the bottom of the lineup.

What are the priorities for the coming offseason?

The front office had to decide rapidly if John Gibbons was coming back as the skipper or not. And he is.

Then, it must decide if they need to keep Bautista or Encarnacion -- or both. My feeling is that they will try to convince Encarnacion to stay, but that Bautista priced himself out of the picture.

Encarnacion prefers Blue Jays

On top of that, Baustista was too outspoken about the umpires and also about opposing pitchers like the rookie Merritt in the playoffs. He should have let his bat do the talking.

The starting pitching staff -- Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ and Francisco Liriano -- looks pretty good; I doubt that R.A. Dickey will be back.

On the other hand, the Blue Jays have to find out in a hurry if Benoit and Grilli are coming back and what they will do about Brett Cecil. Also, is Biagini best suited as a reliever or a starter? Could Liriano become the top left-hander in the bullpen?

And, last but not least, should Bautista and Encarnacion both leave on the free-agent market, the Blue Jays should take a serious look at Joey Votto of the Reds. It would be nice, also, to add some speed in the name of Dalton Pompey, who should be ready to make the jump next year.

After all, Votto is from Toronto, a Canadian and a four-time All-Star, a former MVP and a career .300 hitter.

And with Votto, Pompey, Saunders and Martin, the Blue Jays could have four Canadians in their lineup.

Jacques Doucet is the French-language play-by-play announcer for the Toronto Blue Jays. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.