Blue Jays: New veterans bringing a fresh identity to the Jays

Mar 13, 2023; Dunedin, Florida, USA;  Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) smiles
Mar 13, 2023; Dunedin, Florida, USA; Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) smiles / Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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When the Toronto Blue Jays front office set out to reshape the roster this offseason, they had a definite plan in mind. Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro must have seen that their young superstars had taken the team, as constructed, as far as they could.

With a finite window of World Series contention, they wanted to give the young core the supporting cast to realize the championship potential. Along with improving the outfield defense and balancing the lineup with left-handed bats, both glaring needs, Atkins and company gave the team's identity a makeover.

After adding Whit Merrifield at the trade deadline, the team went on an offseason shopping spree for veteran pieces that would drastically alter the demeanor of the club. Almost overnight, the front office transformed the team's identity with the additions of Kevin Kiermaier, Brandon Belt and Chris Bassitt now providing veteran experience to complement the young talent.

Whit Merrifield is embracing his veteran role

In a move that foreshadowed the offseason roster shakeup, the first step of the makeover came with the deadline acquisition of Whit Merrifield from the Royals. While he played a vital role in the late-season push to clinch the top Wild Card spot, he was the newcomer to a tightly-knit group.

At 34, Merrifield enters 2023 as one of the oldest players on the roster and a veteran voice of leadership.

In his first camp with the Blue Jays, he is embracing the role of the wise veteran who can mentor younger teammates and still contribute on the field, as's J. Scott Butherus reports.

The seven-year veteran's acceptance of his position on this young team hasn't gone unnoticed by manager John Schneider.

"Whit's awesome in the clubhouse, a veteran leadership presence," Schneider told Butherus. "He's a guy that has been through the grind and understands that he is gonna be a little different this year."

Despite his age, Merrifield still has the tools to contribute to a contending team, not just cheerlead from the dugout. This spring, he is hitting .333 with a .980 OPS, a home run, four doubles and seven RBI.

He has also shown a willingness to run again. While he has been caught in three of his five steal attempts, he still has base stealing speed; he ranked in the 84th percentile in Sprint Speed last season.

As he enters the second act of his career, Merrifield's defensive versatility and offensive skillset, combined with his new veteran mindset, will help him make an impact both on the field and in the clubhouse this season.

Next: What can a healthy Kevin Kiermaier contribute to the Blue Jays?