Blue Jays: Big decisions this winter will define Ross Atkins' tenure

Nov 8, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA;  Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins answers questions to
Nov 8, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins answers questions to / Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

While Blue Jays fans will debate on many different topics, I think we can all agree that this will be a crucial offseason for the team. After winning 92 games and finishing as the top Wild Card seed in the American League, the pressure will be on to take the next step toward being a true World Series contender.

That pressure will be felt by many people throughout the organization, but perhaps none more than the man in the general manager's seat in Ross Atkins. This current roster is one that has been built by this front office, and with one of the most talented and expensive groups of players in baseball, the expectation is that they will be legitimate contenders.

While there was a lot to build on in 2022, most baseball pundits would agree that the Blue Jays needed to make some tweaks to their roster ahead of next season. That's where some of the debate comes in among writers and fans, with varying opinions about how to address the rotation, the bullpen, and even how to tweak one of the most dangerous offences from last season.

Speaking of which, Atkins and company have made one significant decision already this winter, shipping a 2x Silver Slugger award winner in Teoscar Hernandez to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Erik Swanson and Adam Macko. The former performed as an elite reliever in Seattle last season, and should raise the floor and the ceiling of the Blue Jays' bullpen, and Macko is an intriguing prospect as well and a nice addition to the deal. Still, many fans will tell you that they were underwhelmed with the return, and only time will tell if it was the right decision to move on from Hernandez.

To be fair, part of the motivation for that decision was the ability to reallocate his projected 14-15 million dollar salary, and ideally the Jays will be able to invest in another area of the roster in need. That could be spent on signing a rotation arm to join Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, and Jose Berrios, or maybe they use it on an outfielder to replace Hernandez, and hopefully one that fits their needs a little more. For example, Brandon Nimmo has been a much discussed option, and there are a lot of reasons for that including his elite on-base percentage, left-handed bat, and his ability to play centre field, which would allow the team to move George Springer to right. That said, signing Nimmo would be a significant financial commitment, and one that could come with risks as well.

On top of the Hernandez decision, and whether the Blue Jays end up being the winning bidder for a player like Nimmo, they could also find themselves trading a very valuable catcher at some point as well. All three of Alejandro Kirk, Danny Jansen, and Gabriel Moreno have drawn interest around the league, and it would be somewhat surprising if they didn't make some sort of trade from a position of strength. It won't be an easy decision, and it could be one that defines the success or failure of the 2023 season and beyond when you're talking about trading a piece that could be a part of the core going forward.

At the end of the day, Atkins and the front office have some very difficult decisions to make, and they've also reached a crossroads where this offseason could be a defining time in this group's tenure in Toronto. The right decisions could truly push this team into the top tier of baseball, and the wrong ones could be the start of potentially wasted window of opportunity for the franchise.

No pressure or anything.