Blue Jays: Three red flags heading into the 2023 season

Andy Moore
Wild Card Series - Seattle Mariners v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Two
Wild Card Series - Seattle Mariners v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Two / Mark Blinch/GettyImages
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An offensive drop off?

Until the addition of Belt in recent weeks, the narrative around the Jays was that they’d sacrificed a little bit of their offensive explosiveness for sound outfield defense.

The departure of Teoscar Hernández, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and, to a lesser extent, Gabriel Moreno will obviously have an impact on Toronto’s offense in 2023. Hernández in particular had established himself as a momentum changer, with an offensive WAR of 15 and a .807 OPS in 2022. 

Whilst Belt does possess a power bat, highlighted by a career hard hit percentage of 36.5%, his addition alone doesn’t feel like enough to shift the narrative. The aforementioned recent injury history and -2.3 WAR last year perhaps emphasize that those rushing to anoint him as the new cleanup hitter may need to pump the brakes a little.

Instead it is still up for debate who will arrive at the plate behind Springer, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Can Alejandro Kirk get past his excessive GIDP stats? Could Varsho bat in the four-hole for the first time in his career? Maybe Danny Jansen is the best option?

In reality consistency will be needed from all parts of the lineup if the Jays are to maintain the fear factor that they possessed in 2022. The departure of Hernández and Gurriel does mean that the bigger hitters will need to shoulder the load more, with the emphasis particularly falling on Bichette and Guerrero.

Despite being maligned by some sections of the Toronto fanbase, Bichette is clearly one of the better hitters in the American League. He finished the season on a hot streak that helped power the Jays into the playoffs, going .406 with seven home runs and 27 RBI in September/October. Once his arbitration ruling is in, expect the former second round pick to enter the season with a chip on his shoulder and a point to prove.

Everyone knows what Guerrero brings to the table, but there was some concern when it emerged that the Jays had yet to engage in long-term contract talks this week. Could the reality be that Vladdy is counting on a repeat of his monster 2021 season in order to ramp his price up even further?

Either way, there’s no denying that the Blue Jays are going to be reliant on two of their youngest stars to be at their best if they’re going to make that push for a deep playoff run.