A season with high expectations has come to an end, and there's plenty of reason to be disappointed in how the Blue Jays performed. While this is a talented roster, there's no getting around the reality they under-performed in 2023.
Simply qualifying for the playoffs is not enough, and you have to imagine there will be some significant changes in Toronto. This team is capable of so much more.
Despite the overall feeling of not playing to their full potential, there are some individuals who went above and beyond. Along these lines, here's a look at four players who may well have peaked this season.
When the Blue Jays signed Yusei Kikuchi to a three-year, $36 million deal ahead of the 2022 campaign, you had to wonder if he had already peaked. Consider his previous season in Seattle, with the Mariners
During the first half of the 2021 season Kikuchi was excellent, leading to his first ever All-Star selection. Through 15 games, he'd produced a 6-3 record, 3.18 ERA and 1.029 WHIP.
However, the situation fell apart for the 32-year-old over the remainder of the season. In the final 14 games, he had a 1-6 record, 6.22 ERA and 1.743 WHIP.
Any hope for Blue Jays fans that they would get the first-half of 2021 edition soon disappeared. He struggled immensely during 2022, as evidenced by a 5.19 ERA, 5.62 FIP and 1.500 WHIP.
As a result, expectations were low for the Japan native entering this past season. So of course, he turned things around with the strongest campaign of his five years in the Majors.
Kikuchi set career bests with 11 wins, a 3.86 ERA and 1.270 WHIP in 32 starts. In a season when Alek Manoah imploded, he proved to be an invaluable fourth option in the rotation.
The southpaw even had the opportunity to see action in the playoffs (albeit only because of the baffling decision to pull José Berríos after just one batter in the fourth inning). Not that it turned out well, as he allowed three hits, a walk and one run in just 1.2 innings.
Ultimately though, it can't take away from what was the best season of Kikuchi's Major League career. However, Blue Jays fans should be prepared for the real possibility he won't be as good in the final year of his contract with the team.