The Toronto Blue Jays are in the midst of fighting for their playoff lives.
Entering the weekend, the Jays are tied with the New York Yankees, four games behind the Detroit Tigers and 3.5 games in the rear of the Seattle Mariners for the American League's second and final playoff spot.
As if that pressure wasn't enough, there are a few players on Toronto's roster that could very well be fighting for their spots with the club come 2015.
Here are three players that could see their time with the Jays come to an end if they don't improve in the final month of the 2014 regular season.
Juan Francisco, 3B
If there's one player who can attest as to just how long a baseball season is, it's Juan Francisco.
After coming to Toronto from Milwaukee in the offseason, Francisco wasted no time establishing himself as a fan favorite.
By the time the calendar turned from May to June, Francisco had amassed nine home runs in just 109 at-bats, while hitting .275 and posting an OPS of .961.
Times were good for the Dominican-born slugger.
Since then, however, Francisco has only managed another seven home runs and has seen his average drop to .218, his on-base percentage dip to below .300 and his OPS plummet by over 200 points to .750.
A few days ago, Guy Spurrier of the National Post even posted a graph charting Francisco's OPS—the spike and steady drop on the right-hand side represent the 2014 season—from the start of his career until August 15.
Fans and pundits alike have also expressed their frustrations with Francisco's play, as was evidenced by tweets from Blue Jays bloggers at a recent conference put on to promote the game in Toronto:
His inability to hit anything but a fastball and penchant for striking out—which he's done in an astounding 40.7 percent of his at-bats this year—also hurt his chances of returning and playing a prominent role in 2015.
Colby Rasmus, CF
Regarded as one of the better defensive center fielders in the game the last few years—he ranked sixth in dWAR in each of the last two seasons among qualified center fielders, per ESPN.com—Rasmus has always struggled to find any sort of consistency at the plate.
Still, his combination of stellar defense and power at the plate could be enough to earn him a significant raise when he hits free agency after the conclusion of the 2014 season.
With money already tied up elsewhere and more pressing needs—most notably re-signing fellow outfielder Melky Cabrera—the Jays may find it hard to justify handing a new contract to Rasmus.
Not only would it take a discount on Rasmus' part for him to be in Toronto next year, but it would also take an uptick in production.
Even though his power numbers have been impressive for a center fielder, the Jays do have Anthony Gose waiting in the wings and ready to assume full-time duties.
The 24-year-old Gose may not hit for power like Rasmus, but he's just as capable in the field, offers more speed than Rasmus, as well as a higher batting average and OBP.
Here's a look at the two center fielders head-to-head in 2014:
|Colby Rasmus vs. Anthony Gose Head-to-Head|
|Colby Rasmus||340||.224||.288||.734||36 (16)||3||-0.5||0.7|
|Anthony Gose||205||.234||.333||.625||7 (1)||14||0.2||0.4|
Sure, Rasmus has the advantage in some areas, but spending millions on a bottom-of-the-order bat when you have a capable replacement who isn't arbitration eligible until 2017 just doesn't make sense.
J.A. Happ, SP
Improving the starting rotation this offseason should be another high-priority issue on the agenda for Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
That means one of the team's current starters would have to make way.
With Mark Buehrle having a solid season, R.A. Dickey scheduled to make $12 million, Marcus Stroman emerging as a top-of-the-rotation type arm and Drew Hutchison still a developing youngster, Happ may be the odd man out.
His nasty bouts of inconsistency aren't likely to help his case either.
Israel Fehr of Yahoo Sports points out that Happ came back from the All-Star break in fine form:
In his first four starts after the all-star break, Happ did just that. He put up a 1.71 ERA and picked up 25 strikeouts over 26 1/3 innings of work. It was his best run of the season and while the Jays went 2-2 in those games, it gave the team hope that they could count on the 31-year-old left-hander to continue delivering quality outings down the stretch.
His last few starts, however haven't been nearly as impressive, as Sportsnet pointed out via twitter:
*Note: His start on August 7 against the Baltimore Orioles is counted in both Fehr's breakdown and Sportsnet's tweet.
From dominating his opposition to two starts where he was knocked around in no time flat.
For a team that is trying to be serious about making the postseason and contending for a championship, that type of inconsistency is deadly.
Others may be able to get away with it because of their status with the team and contract—most notably Dickey—but Happ is going to have to return to stringing together more starts like he was right out of the All-Star break.
All statistics obtained from baseball-reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Jon Reid is a correspondent for Bleacher Report. Follow him on twitter @JonReidCSM.
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