For those of you who follow my writings/articles about the Blue Jays, you will know that I am usually pretty easygoing and like to focus on prospects, historical pieces, and sometimes some trade chatter. Content that invokes conversation amongst the fans and gets you talking about the Blue Jays or looking at news involving the squad.
However, earlier today on Twitter, I saw some of the Blue Jays social circles focus on a comment found in Ken Rosenthal’s latest piece with The Athletic that got the attention of quite a few fans.
I will put this out there that Rosenthal is one of the best writers in the game, and this is by no means a comment on his writing/article (as it is of course a solid piece as one usually finds when Rosenthal is involved), but more on how rival executives (one in particular) are already underestimating the Jays roster this season.
Note, this article is a bit more rant-like, so the reader beware.
For those of you who do not have a subscription, the quote is, “One rival official is not convinced the Jays are much-improved over 2021, reasoning that it will be difficult for Matt Chapman to perform better than Marcus Semien, and for Kevin Gausman and Yusei Kikuchi to perform better than Robbie Ray and Steven Matz.”
Let’s start this off by saying the rival executive, whether they be from within the AL East or outside (no we don’t know who it is), is merely looking at the transactions side of the game rather than the bigger picture right off the hop.
Sure, the Blue Jays did in fact lose Semien, Ray, and Matz to free agency, with all three players signing elsewhere prior to the lockout. All three players also had great seasons, potentially the strongest of their careers so far, with Semien finishing third in AL MVP voting while Ray took home the Cy Young Award. Matz, in his own right, had a solid campaign that saw him finish with a 3.82 ERA and 144 strikeouts through 29 starts. All three of these players will be tough to replace, but the Blue Jays had a pretty solid offseason that includes Gausman, Kikuchi, and Chapman, who all bring different values to the table (not to mention they are not the only additions).
I could go through and compare them stat by stat but overall, what the rival executive absolutely whiffs on is that the Blue Jays are one of the most rounded teams that fans have seen since the 2015/2016 playoff run squads and that Ray, Matz, and Semien’s values on the field are not going to be just replaced by these three new players, nor should they be.
The signing of Kikuchi completes the rotation (who is already off to a great start under the Jays pitching staff), joining Gausman, Alek Manoah, Hyun Jin Ryu, and Jose Berrios in the starting five. Weird how the executive forgot to mention that Berrios is with the club for the entire season this year (only had 12 starts with the team after being a trade deadline acquisition) and the same goes for Manoah, who wasn’t promoted until late May in 2021. He only made 20 starts at the big league level and should gain 7-10 more this season, which makes a pretty big difference in the long run. Ryu also struggled last year but if he can find the same form during his debut season with the Jays back in 2020, this club easily boasts one of the top starting rotations in the American League.
This sounds a lot better than the starting rotation from Opening Day last year that started with Ryu, Matz, T.J. Zeuch, Tanner Roark, and Ross Stripling (Ray began the season on the IL and would join a few series later).
The Jays also enter this season with one of the hottest lineups in the league, similar to last season, boasting George Springer, Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Teoscar Hernandez at the top, followed by Chapman, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and a mix of Randal Grichuk, Cavan Biggio, Santiago Espinal, and Alejandro Kirk behind them (amongst others). Guerrero Jr. and Bichette are poised to get even better after their strong 2021 campaigns and if Springer can stay healthy, he can easily make back some of the value lost with Semien signing elsewhere. Factor in that after you face Guerrero you then have to take on Hernandez and Chapman, both of whom have home run power, opposing pitchers are in for a rough night. This club has the potential to rival their league-leading .796 OPS, .466 SLG, and 262 home runs they posted last season and boast one of the top lineups in the league alongside the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Chapman is also one of the premier defenders in the game and shores up an area of need on the Jays roster at third base, which should go a long way to helping Bichette’s range at shortstop as well as helping pitchers on the mound. This allows Espinal and Biggio to split time at second base, which is not a bad combination to have if both can stay healthy and manager Charlie Montoyo can play them how he chooses (go with the hot bat, the lefty/righty matchups, etc). Kirk also seems poised to mash this season and is off to a strong start this spring, so having him for a full campaign as well (he missed some time with a hip injury) only adds more firepower to the lineup. Sleep on Gurriel Jr. and he will make you pay for it as well, and let’s not forget he had a rough start to the campaign last season as well. Jansen is healthy and ready to go as well, and if he can find his bat, the Jays will walk into 2022 with one of the top catching duos in the AL.
It appears that rival executives are already sleeping on the Blue Jays, evident by one’s comment on the club compared to the 2021 roster.
“But, the lineup is so right-handed heavy in the batter’s box”.
Yup, it sure is, but it’s a great thing the season is 162 games long. There are also some left-handed free-agent hitters still on the board like Brett Gardner (who loves the Rogers Center but only as a Yankees player so far) and Michael Conforto (who may be limited due to personal choices) if Ross Atkins and co. are able to bring them North of the border before the season begins. On top of that, there is always room for improvement at the trade deadline when the Guardians are willing to move Jose Ramirez and Greg Bird, who is in Jays Spring Training on a MiLB deal, is impressing early this year and could find himself on the Jays roster to begin the season.
Lastly, the bullpen.
The most notable additions this offseason are Yimi Garcia and Andrew Vasquez, which compared to the likes of Kenley Jansen and other big-name free agents who signed elsewhere, is not high on the list as the most earth-shattering transactions.
Again, I compare to the 2021 Opening Day roster: Jordan Romano, Rafael Dolis, Tyler Chatwood, Ryan Borucki, David Phelps, Julian Merryweather, Trent Thornton, Tim Mayza and Joel Payamps.
Chatwood, Payamps, and Dolis were gone before the end of the season (Payamps was traded the other two DFA’d) and Borucki, Merryweather, and Phelps found themselves missing most if not all of the season due to injury. The signings of Garcia and Vasquez are already strong additions and Phelps returns to the club on a MiLB deal and I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes the club come to Opening Day.
With the Kikuchi and Gausman signings, Nate Pearson and Ross Stripling are now moved to the pen unless the club moves Pearson to AAA to continue starting. Both of these players, if in the bullpen, should be considered better options compared to Dolis and Chatwood. A healthy Merryweather can keep opposing AL East teams like the New York Yankees at bay (evident by the start of last season) and the club has Adam Cimber and Trevor Richards on the squad for the entire campaign as well (which was also not mentioned by the rival exec). Tim Mayza was a solid option in the bullpen last season and Jordan Romano enters this campaign as the club’s bonafide closer, which already has the Jays relief corps looking a lot better than the bullpen the club put forward to begin last year.
Have I mentioned the prospects? Gabriel Moreno? Name ring a bell? One of the top catching prospects in MLB and is slated to make his MLB debut this season? And he’s not the only one to keep an eye on.
Truth be told, I usually try not to let comments like this rival executive get under my skin but sometimes people just don’t look at the bigger picture. Maybe they said more and it wasn’t added to the publication but to think that three players are going to be replaced by three signings without looking at the entire roster and what actually happened in 2021 is just silly.
The Blue Jays 2022 roster is one of the more well-rounded rosters heading into a regular-season that fans have seen in quite some time and it appears that the organization is prioritizing a World Series win and nothing less.