The Blue Jays still need some finishing touches to their roster, but it’s pretty incredible what Ross Atkins and co. have been able to do with a chance to start over and rebuild.
After the Blue Jays half-committed to moving toward a rebuild in 2017, they were all in by the summer of 2018 when they traded Josh Donaldson to Cleveland and finished 73-89 that year. By the 2019 campaign they had bottomed out to 67-95, but that was also the time that we saw the debuts of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, among others. It was a long season to endure for Blue Jays fans, but it was the beginning of a new era for this franchise, and a low point that was very short-lived. I mean, they qualified for the expanded postseason during the 60-game 2020 season, and their 91-win effort just missed the playoffs in 2021 by one game. This is a team that has put the league on notice, and will be in the playoff mix for several years to come.
I think that’s what excites me the most about what Ross Atkins and his staff have put together here, because the Blue Jays really do have a talented core locked in place for at least the next four seasons. In the rotation they now have Jose Berrios under contract for the next seven seasons, five years with Kevin Gausman after he signed his new contract, and Alek Manoah just pitched in his rookie campaign, so he’ll be in the picture for a while regardless of how the next CBA works out. The same goes for Nate Pearson, who if he can somehow stay healthy and reach his potential, could contribute to the rotation into the middle of the decade as well.
As far as position players go, we know that Vlad Jr. and Bichette will be Blue Jays for at least four more seasons, at least under the current CBA. It’s hard to imagine the owners agreeing to a system that would see them lose control over their current young stars, but you never know what it will ultimately take to get a deal done. Beyond that they still have five seasons left on George Springer’s contract, and unfortunately just two more for Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. unless either player is extended. Jordan Romano won’t be arbitration eligible until the 2023 season either, so he should be around for at least four more seasons.
There are obviously other players I could talk about, such as the plethora of talented catchers that could make up the present and future behind the plate for the Blue Jays in Alejandro Kirk, Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire, and eventually Gabriel Moreno, all of whom could be around for the foreseeable future depending on how things shake out. What happens with Hernandez and even Gurriel Jr. could be significant as well, but even in a worst case the Blue Jays have a very solid foundation to work with over the next few seasons.
This is the kind of place that organizations want to build to, especially with more talent on the way in the minor league pipeline. The Jays have started to expand and tighten their payroll future a bit with aggressive moves to acquire Gausman this offseason, and Springer last winter. You could even say the same for signing Hyun Jin Ryu to a 4-year, 80 million dollar contract ahead of the 2020 season.
In some ways the Blue Jays are locked into the core players on their roster for the next few years, but that’s not a bad thing at all when you have budding young stars like Guerrero Jr., Bichette, Manoah and more, and established veterans with enough prime years left to make a significant impact. There should be a nice balance in place, and enough flexibility to add complimentary pieces as they’re needed.
From here Atkins and his front office team will look to put the finishing touches on what they hope will be a legitimate World Series contender. They may look for one more foundational piece of the puzzle before they finish their offseason checklist, but either way the Blue Jays are well set up for the 2022 season, and for several years after that. When you consider that it was just two seasons ago that the Blue Jays won just 67 games, that’s a pretty remarkable turnaround, and the future should be even brighter.