The Toronto Maple Leafs have yet to exorcise their demons by hoisting a Stanley Cup, but that doesn’t seem to have deterred the city’s Major League Baseball team from following their blueprint for building a contender.
The Toronto Blue Jays rumored pursuit of sensational 2-time MVP and dual-threat Shohei Ohtani, demonstrates their willingness to follow the roster-building path of the Leafs.
There is already an abundance of similarities between the two franchises, but should the Blue Jays convince this year’s biggest prize of MLB’s free agency to join them, add another resemblance to the list.
The Leafs landed a huge free agent during the summer of 2018. Five-plus years later, the Blue Jays are hoping to do the same.
Blue Jays Ohtani Pursuit Mimics Toronto Maple Leafs Blueprint
When former Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas landed John Tavares, it was a signal that the Leafs were serious about building a contender around their young core of players.
Having already drafted stars William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and Auston Matthews the Leafs added the proven veteran Tavares to help them take the next step.
Fellow homegrown product Morgan Rielly was the foundational piece for the Leafs defense.
The Blue Jays salivated for years as prospects Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. worked their way up the minor league chain and then arrived together with the big club.
A couple of years later, the Blue Jays landed their big free-agent fish in former World Series MVP George Springer.
Should the Jays land Ohtani, they will have their own “Core 4” that would be the envy of most teams around Major League Baseball.
The boost from the left-handed bat of Ohtani would propel the Jays offense to the upper echelons of the American League. The top four of their batting order would be something to behold.
Does this sound familiar? The Leafs core of Matthews, Marner, Nylander, and Tavares have led the team’s offense to the top of the league in many categories for years.
Another likeness of the clubs is their disappointing postseason results. The promise of the talented rosters has not translated to success when it matters.
Despite the parallels between the franchises, a couple of key differences favor the Blue Jays in their quest to ultimately end the city’s anguish of these teams’ playoff failures.
More Obstacles For Toronto Maple Leafs In Building Their Team
Thanks to the NHL’s hard salary cap, the Leafs face more obstacles in trying to build a championship team.
The signing of Tavares at his salary was the lone, needle-moving move the Leafs have been able to make during the Core 4 era. It was the team’s choice, but there are a finite number of significant moves teams can make when faced with a hard cap.
The Blue Jays, on the other hand, face a luxury tax from MLB, but only after millions can be spent supplementing the roster.
Case in point, the Jays have signed Hyun Jin-Ryu, Kevin Gausman, Chris Bassitt, and Jose Berrios to multi-million long-term deals in recent years.
For the Leafs, gone are the days from the late 1990s or early 2000s when they could outbid other NHL teams for a player’s services.
The Jays have more flexibility in signing free agents, whereas the Leafs are left to deal draft picks or prospects. Trading a roster player from the Leafs is not likely to make a major improvement, and salaries would have to match.
The Leafs have committed to their Core 4 plus Rielly for many years, with the periphery of the roster changing every year or two.
The other significant difference between the Leafs and the Jays is defense. The Jays have heavily invested in their defense and pitching.
The Leafs have not. Partly by choice, and to some extent, they can’t just throw money around to fix it.
For the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tavares, the clock is ticking on their window to win a title.
The Toronto Blue Jays hope to have a championship countdown begin with their superstar, free-agent addition, just like their hockey counterparts.
Hopefully, with better results.