The addition of Bassitt at an average annual contract value (AAV) of $21M, plus the Kiermaier signing (contract terms not disclosed yet) are likely to push the Blue Jays competitive balance tax (CBT) payroll close to the $233M threshold for 2023. Roster Resource, which doesn’t include the Kiermaier signing yet, puts the luxury tax payroll at $225M with the Bassitt signing. Team president Mark Shapiro has said that the CBT number wouldn’t dictate payroll, so we’ll see if they are willing to trigger the luxury tax to further improve this team ahead of the 2023 season. Note, Bassitt had rejected a qualifying offer (QO) from the New York Mets, so the Jays will also have to forfeit their 2nd-highest pick in the 2023 amateur draft, as well as $500,000 in international bonus pool budget.
The Blue Jays are rounding in to a more competitive team than they were at the end of the ALWC series against the Seattle Mariners in October, but General Manager Ross Atkins still has work to do to have this roster ready for 2023 Opening Day. Three of the left-handed bench bats are gone, including outfielders Ramiel Tapia, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Bradley Zimmer. Teoscar Hernandez’s bat (25 home runs, OPS+127 and bWAR 2.8) is a big hole to fill, but Kevin Kiermaier is a start. More must done.
The rotation looks solid, but MLB-level starting pitching depth remains a concern after the top four. Remember the Jays were blessed with extraordinarily good health outside of Hyun Jin Ryu in their 2022 rotation: Manoah, Gausman, Berríos and Stripling started 118 of the Jays 162 regular season games, while Kikuchi, White and Ryu combined for another 34 starts. Ross Stripling also made a huge contribution replacing Ryu, posting a bWAR of 2.7 over 24 starts and 134.1 innings. Bassitt (3.2 bWAR in 2022) is a much more consistent upgrade over Strip, but that still leaves someone like Mitch White or Yusei Kikuchi taking a regular turn in a five-man rotation.
Atkins understands very clearly that the Blue Jays need to have one of the best bullpens in baseball to go deep in the postseason. Whether that’s the case today remains debatable, but if the front office follows the same pattern of the past few seasons in the team’s competitive window, they may see how the bullpen develops through July 1st, and then add relievers at the trade deadline with an eye towards postseason baseball.
The team is now only a few players away from being ready for the start of the 2023 season, so Jays fans can rest easier knowing that there are still 62 days or so until pitchers and catchers report to Dunedin in February! What do you think Jays fans, are you satisfied with the roster as currently constructed after the Hernández trade, and Kiermaier and Bassitt free agent signings?