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How The Indians And Blue Jays Got Here



The ALCS begins tonight as the Indians play host to the Blue Jays in a battle of teams aiming for their first World Series appearances since the 1990s. The Indians haven't made it to the World Series since 1997, while the Blue Jays' haven't made it since winning it all in 1992 and '93.

The process for both franchises' 2016 success was years in the making, beginning with strong drafts in the early part of the decade followed by crucial, franchise-altering moves along the way.

Here is a look at how the Indians and Blue Jays built to get to this point, as well as an analysis of how their final products match up.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

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Record: 94-67

*How they’re built: 10 homegrown (9 draft, 1 international signing); 15 acquired (9 traded, 3 free agents, 2 purchased, 1 waivers)

Foundation laid: June 2009-June 2011. In this two-year stretch, the Indians drafted Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor and Cody Allen, signed Jose Ramirez as an international free agent, and acquired Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Zach McAllister as minor leaguers in trades.

Turning point: September 2013. The Indians had four straight losing seasons from 2009-12 and on the morning of Sept. 1, 2013 were 71-64 with four teams ahead of them in the AL wild-card race. Bolstered by September callups Ramirez and Carrasco and rookie righthander Danny Salazar moving permanently into the rotation, the Indians went 21-6 in their final 27 games to snag the AL’s top wild-card spot. They have posted a winning record every season since. For good measure, the Indians also signed 22-year-old Cuban infielder Yandy Diaz on Sept. 20, now one of the franchises top prospects.

Pushed over the top: 2015-16 offseason. With their core in place the Indians added the final touches last offseason, namely adding outfielder Tyler Naquin to the 40-man roster, signing free agents Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis to one-year contracts and purchasing reliever Dan Otero from the Phillies. The additions helped supplement an already-talented roster and propelled the Indians to first place in the AL Central by June 4 and the American League’s best record by July 20, before they made their big move to acquire Andrew Miller at the trade deadline.

*ALCS roster

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

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Record: 89-73

*How they’re built: 9 homegrown (8 draft, 1 international signing); 16 acquired (11 trades, 3 free agents, 1 waivers, 1 Rule 5 draft)

Foundation laid: June 2010-July 2012. In this two-year stretch, the Blue Jays drafted Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, Kevin Pillar, Marcus Stroman, Justin Nicolino, Joe Musgrove, Daniel Norris, Anthony DeSclafani and Sean Nolin and signed Roberto Osuna, Franklin Barreto, Jairo Labourt and Miguel Castro as international free agents. In addition to the key players still with Toronto, many of the others would later be used to swing key trades. For good measure, the Blue Jays also drafted but failed to sign Kris Bryant, Aaron Nola, Luke Weaver and Tyler Beede during this time.

Turning point: November-December 2014. Despite the presence of sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion and a rising young core of starting pitching, the Blue Jays never won more than 83 games in any year from 2011-2014 and their playoff drought sat at 21 seasons. Three days after the conclusion of the 2014 World Series they went to work, acquiring Marco Estrada, Devon Travis, Josh Donaldson and Michael Saunders in trades and signing Russell Martin as a free agent all in a 33-day span.

Pushed over the top: 2015 trade deadline. The Blue Jays were 50-51 and in fourth place in the AL East on the morning of July 28, 2015 but made two big trades that propelled the franchise forward. They acquired shortstop Troy Tulowitzki on July 28 and lefthander David Price two days later, using many of the prospects they acquired during their foundation-laying period, including Labourt, Norris, and Castro. They also used Jose Reyes, who was previously acquired in part for Nicolino and DeSclafani, to land Tulowitzki. The Blue Jays went 43-18 from the day the made the first deal to acquire Tulowitzki to win the division title and end their playoff drought, which they carried over into 2016 as well.

*ALCS roster

BREAKING DOWN THE FINAL PRODUCT

Infield: Blue Jays 18.6 WAR. Indians 18.3 WAR. Edge: BLUE JAYS

Outfield: Blue Jays 5.6 WAR. Indians 3.4 WAR. Edge: BLUE JAYS

Starting Pitching: Blue Jays 14.0 WAR. Indians 11.3 WAR. EDGE: BLUE JAYS

Relief Pitching: Blue Jays 5.9 WAR, team record 69-9 when leading after seven innings. Indians 9.5 WAR, team record 74-3 when leading after seven innings. EDGE: INDIANS

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Prediction: Blue Jays in 6

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