The Toronto Blue Jays’ recent run of poor play has fans wondering if the team, as currently constructed, is good enough to contend for a World Series.
Attempts have been made to improve the club, but, in the eyes of most, those attempts won’t be sufficient for a legitimate run in October. There are holes in the roster and areas of need that have become more pronounced as the season plays out.
Starting pitching, more left-handed hitters, and a more consistent and reliable bullpen are the main parts of the group that could be improved upon. With that in mind, here is what the upcoming offseason could look like.
Blue Jays: Offseason Preview, retain young stars
Some Jays fans believe the team’s window to win is a short one that is closing quickly. I’m not a part of that group and here’s why. The organization still features so many young players who are under team control for the foreseeable future, so the priority should be extending some of those assets while surrounding them with quality, complementary pieces.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will be entering his second year of arbitration eligibility so making a push to sign him to a long-term extension would seem to be a natural decision. It could limit moves to be made in the winter or may require a lateral transaction to compensate for the huge financial commitment but it’s a deal the front office absolutely has to try to get done. Bo Bichette is on a similar timeline to get paid and, although he’s regressed some this year, his value is undeniable. If the team could find a way to put off his extension until after next season, it would allow for more financial flexibility. Alternatively, they could also opt to sign Bo to a shorter, bridge-type of contract.
Fortunately, Alek Manoah and Alejandro Kirk are still in the pre-arbitration stages of their careers.
Blue Jays: Shake up the lineup
Santiago Espinal will likely be signed to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration, as could, Cavan Biggio. Matt Chapman and Whit Merrifield will be entering their final seasons before hitting free agency (Merrifield does have an $18 million mutual option for the 2024 season though).
Danny Jansen could be a legitimate trade chip. We saw during his one-month cameo that Gabriel Moreno belongs in the majors. He’s a likely candidate to be a September call-up and projects as a highly athletic catcher with above-average speed and developing power. He could combine with breakout star Kirk to form MLB’s best catching duo.
Meanwhile, in the outfield, the Jays could move on from either Lourdes Gurriel Jr. or Teoscar Hernández and should be able to get a good return. If they trade one of those players for a pitcher they could replace them via free agency. Joc Pederson, David Peralta, or maybe even Michael Conforto would be sensible options.
Blue Jays: At least one more starter
Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah form one of the best one-two punches in the American League. The team has invested heavily in Jose Berrios and he’s had a tough first full season in blue. Both sides have to work towards better results in 2023.
They’re still on the hook for one more year of Hyun-Jin Ryu and two more seasons of Yusei Kikuchi. While it’s possible one or both of them could come back to form (if Ryu returns at all), that can’t be the strategy. Why not bring in someone like Tyler Anderson or Wade Miley? Coming off the game of his life, Ross Stripling could cash in on the open market but would solidify the rotation if he decides to “run it back”.
Blue Jays: Upgrade the bullpen
There is a club option to retain Anthony Bass for $3M, which would seem to be a wise opt-in. The recent injury to Tim Mayza demonstrated the lack of left-handed relievers on the Jays. They might be able to get Zack Britton on the cheap. He has yet to pitch this season and is on a minor-league rehab assignment with the Yankees.
How ironic would it be for the Blue Jays to sign Britton after he was famously left in the bullpen when Ubaldo Jímenez gave up one of the more memorable home runs in team history, Edwin Encarnacion’s walk-off in the 2016 AL wild-card game?
He could be a big part of a retooled team that could go all the way. They wouldn’t have to make sweeping changes, just a few key improvements.