4 changes the Blue Jays must make immediately to avoid tumbling down the standings

The time to make some major strategic changes is now.
Toronto Blue Jays v Philadelphia Phillies
Toronto Blue Jays v Philadelphia Phillies / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages
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Extend some of the homegrown talent, plus Kikuchi

The Blue Jays need some continuity on the roster, and an extension for catcher Danny Jansen and starter Yusei Kikuchi, who is thriving in Toronto, both make a lot of sense. Jansen was moved up to 5th in the order Wednesday for only the fourth time this season, and the team is now 1-0 with him hitting higher in the lineup since their team meeting.

Sure, Jansen has a long list of nagging injuries over his 7 MLB seasons and only averaged 76 games played per season from 2021-2023. He’s already missed significant time again this year, playing only 15 games so far after suffering a right wrist fracture in spring training.

However, after Atkins traded Moreno — at one point the top prospect overall on the Baseball America prospect rankings — to the Diamondbacks, the organization effectively bet on the catching tandem of Jansen and Kirk. It’s time they committed to that with a contract extension for pending free agent Jansen.

Kikuchi is also another player worth extending. After signing a three-year, $36M contract with Toronto ahead of the 2022 season, he’s compiled a 19-15 record with a 4.15 ERA over 308 innings with Toronto, including 348 strikeouts. Since a tough 2022 when he had a 5.19 ERA, he’s been worth every penny, and is in his prime at 32-years old. The team is 37-34 in his 71 appearances, and given the dearth of starting pitching depth across the Blue Jays farm system, he could help to stabilize the rotation depth for the next few seasons.

The revamped front office under James Click will also have to figure out what to do with Bichette and Guerrero, in addition to Bassitt and closer Jordan Romano before they can all just walk as free agents after the 2025 season. If ownership wants to extend the current competitive window, they should all be extended. However, payroll constraints might limit them to a big, long term deal with only one of their two core hitters, plus shorter term deals for Jansen, Kikuchi and Bassitt.

This organisation is at a crossroads: over 60% of the current 26-man roster is eligible for free agency in the next two years. None of the homegrown core has been extended beyond their arbitration years, unlike the industry trend to extend talent even in their pre-arb windows. Respected third-party, outside evaluations of the Blue Jays' farm system don’t suggest there’s much in the pipeline to replace those players should they walk, with no waves of talent like we’re now seeing in Baltimore and Detroit, as well as Tampa, Milwaukee, Los Angeles and New York; and, the team is in last place in their division with an old roster and bloated payroll. This is not what fans were promised when Shapiro and Atkins were hired following the 2015 ALCS run.