The Blue Jays have an opportunity ahead of them over the last 52 regular season games, and if they can’t grab it then a lot of change could be coming in 2023.
We’ve already seen the dismissal of the Blue Jays’ skipper in Charlie Montoyo, who was replaced on an interim basis by the current bench boss in John Schneider. That’s one area that the Blue Jays have already made a move, and if the 2022 campaign ends in disappointment we could see some bigger changes ahead in the coaching department.
I don’t want to go too far down that road at this point in the season, especially because I personally still believe that the Blue Jays will be a playoff team, and could be a dangerous opponent if the stars align the right way for them as far as health and performing up to their potential. However, I can’t help but think about how many Blue Jays on the current roster that are in the same position as far as their contracts go, and how that could really change things over the winter.
What I’m specifically referring to is how many key players will be free agents after the 2023 season. That list includes both corner outfielders in Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., third baseman Matt Chapman, a surprisingly important contributor in Raimel Tapia, and even their new acquisition in Whit Merrifield. Hyun Jin Ryu also joins that list, although it’s possible we may not see him pitch in Toronto again while he recovers from Tommy John surgery into next year. The Jays are fortunate enough to have some pieces of their core locked up for much longer, such as Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Alejandro Kirk, Alek Manoah, and veterans like George Springer, Kevin Gausman, and Jose Berrios, but there’s a lot of turnover that could take place a little more than a year from now.
I’m not bringing any of this up because I want to talk about how they could re-shape the roster, but instead because of the urgency that this team could start to feel as the postseason draws near. This is a tightly knit group from almost all accounts, and I’m sure they want to accomplish their goals together. Assuming that’s the case, the Blue Jays have to know that 2022 might be their last real chance to do it with the whole band still in tact.
I’m not suggesting that the Blue Jays’ window of contention is limited to 2022-23 either, and it definitely shouldn’t be with the core that they do have locked up for the foreseeable future. However, there will be questions for Ross Atkins and the front office about which players to keep after 2023, or even after this season. As most Blue Jays fans are acutely aware, the expectations have changed around this team, and now that they’re expected to win the patience they’re afforded is significantly smaller.
In my mind, I don’t think the Blue Jays would return this same roster for another kick at the can in 2023 unless they really make some noise over the last 52 games of this season, and more importantly into the playoffs. If this current roster wants to keep the majority of the group together going forward, now is the time to prove that this is a team that can truly contend for a championship.