Blue Jays: Four moves made in 2022 that exceeded expectations

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Trading for two relievers at the deadline

Though maybe not a big splash at the deadline, the additions of relief pitchers Anthony Bass and Zach Pop from the Marlins were both incredible in their brief time in the Blue Jays’ bullpen, posting 1.75 and 1.89 ERA's respectively. While it cost the Jays Jordan Groshans, who was the team's third overall ranked prospect in 2021, he was ranked ahead of both Alek Manoah and Alejandro Kirk, demonstrating that prospects are only valuable due to their supposed potential and are far from guaranteed major league contributors.

On the season as a whole, Bass finished with a 1.54 ERA across 70.1 innings while contributing 24 holds, showing his capability to pitch late in games and in high leverage situations. Pop only threw 39 innings (19 with the Jays) in the majors last season, posting a strong 2.77 ERA while showcasing his 97 MPH sinker predominantly. It was a fairly low-risk, high-reward deal in that Bass immediately takes on a setup role and Pop is 26-years-old with good stuff. Groshans would’ve had a steep hill ahead of him in order to crack the Jays lineup with the middle infield depth of Bichette, Espinal, and Biggio and the emergence of SS/3B prospect Orelvis Martinez. Both pitchers greatly exceeded expectations last season, giving the Jays bullpen optimism for the future.

Acquiring Whit Merrifield

Lastly, the trade acquiring Whit Merrifield from the Royals made a strong impact on the team, as he exceeded what was expected out of a part-time player. The Jays sent their 16th-ranked prospect at the time, Samad Taylor, and Max Castillo to Kansas City in exchange for a proven major league level asset in Whit Merrifield. The versatile Merrifield played 1B, 2B, LF, and CF last season and even pitched an inning.

Throughout Merrifield’s seven seasons in the big leagues, he has built up a reputation of batting for a high average and stealing a ton of bases, and though he only stole a single base for the Jays in 44 games, he proved himself useful everywhere else. His speed, even if not stealing bases, makes him especially valuable as it allows him to play above-average defense almost anywhere on the diamond. Batting. 306 in the month of September and finishing the regular season's last two series’ with a .500 average, Merrifield showed he is still one of the very best contact hitters in the league and given his versatility, he should remain a key piece offensively and defensively for the Jays this season.

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