Blue Jays leaving no doubt about their intentions as a win-now team

Aug 18, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi (18) looks on against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 18, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi (18) looks on against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports /

By addressing the 5th spot in the rotation ahead of the 2022 campaign, the Blue Jays are showing that they won’t be messing around this season.

I don’t mean to mischaracterize Yusei Kikuchi’s three-year, 36 million dollar deal with the Blue Jays, one that was first reported by Jon Heyman on Saturday. However, I think it sends an important message to the current roster, and the rest of baseball. You don’t spend on a 5th starter unless you’re really serious about winning.

They could have went with some in-house options at the back of the rotation, and most of us wouldn’t have blamed Ross Atkins and the front office team if that’s the route they chose. They’re very strong in the top four with Jose Berrios, Kevin Gausman, Hyun Jin Ryu, and Alek Manoah, and they have other internal candidates like Nate Pearson, Ross Stripling, and Thomas Hatch who probably could have rounded things out. Instead they added what could be a nice high-upside arm in Kikuchi, who was good enough to make the American League All-Star team in 2021 before falling apart in the second half. It will now be one of Pete Walker’s main focuses to help Kikuchi maintain that kind of All-Star level performance, or at least something close to it.

Some years it might worry me if the Blue Jays spent this kind of money on the back of the rotation, thinking that perhaps it meant that they chose to use their allotted payroll there instead of elsewhere. These days I think it’s more than fair to expect that the Blue Jays have plenty of moves yet to make, and probably at least one impact addition coming. The rumours are flying around as usual, especially when it comes to the potential vacancy in the infield left by Marcus Semien’s departure to Texas. The popular names flying around are Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez, Arizona’s Ketel Marte, Oakland’s Matt Chapman, free agents like Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, and even higher-end options like Carlos Correa or Freddie Freeman.

It’s expected that the Blue Jays will continue to look to add to their bullpen depth as well, and they could be in the market for someone to fill their DH role on a regular basis. I’m sure they’ll plan to cycle some of their regulars through that spot as well, but don’t be surprised if they look to sign someone like a Corey Dickerson type (who is still available), who filled a nice role for the Blue Jays down the stretch last season, especially as a left-handed complement to their right-hand dominant core.

We won’t know for sure what the payroll will ultimately look like in Toronto in 2022 and beyond, but it doesn’t sound like that will hold back Atkins and his team from making the additions they’re aiming for. They still have to get players signed, or convince trade partners to come to an agreement, but for once it doesn’t sound like money will be the biggest obstacle. That’s a refreshing perspective for long-time Blue Jays fans, and it might be a new era of spending that we’re not really used to around these parts.

dark. Next. Nate Pearson suddenly feels expendable

At his best, Kikuchi could be an All-Star level starter, and at 30 years old, I wouldn’t put it past Walker and his team to unlock the best we’ve seen yet from the Japanese southpaw. When you add what he could bring to what the Blue Jays already have in their rotation, there’s an argument that they’re the best top five group of starters in baseball. It’s a luxury that Atkins didn’t have to pursue, but the fact that he did shows me that the Blue Jays won’t leave themselves short this season. It’s been a while since they’ve been this “all in”, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.