In an interview with Sportsnet 590 The FAN’s ‘Blair and Barker’ on Wednesday, Bo Bichette dished on the state of the Toronto Blue Jays ahead of the upcoming season. In a wide-ranging and insightful discussion, there were some positive take aways for fans after what has, so far, been an unsatisfying offseason.
After attending UFC 297 in Toronto last Saturday, the two-time All-Star shortstop has obviously been in town for a few days ahead of spring training. Jeff Blair and Kevin Barker asked him some of the most pressing questions weighing on the minds of Blue Jays fans, and Bichette’s answers won’t leave you disappointed.
After a 4.9 bWAR season and another All-Star selection in 2023, Bichette enters his sixth MLB season, with two years left on his three-year, $33.6M contract that takes him through his arbitration years. This will be his age-26 year, and he’s emerged as a key leader on this team.
Pulling more baseballs
Barker noted that Bichette has never hit the 30 home run mark (his high was 29 in 2021 when he was protected in the batting order by two MVP finalists that year), and wanted to know if Bo felt he was capable of a .330, 30 home run, 100 RBI season, while “evolving from being that guy who can get a hit anytime, to now being a guy who can get a hit and can ambush you [by pulling baseballs] and change the game that way, too.”
Bo’s proud of the hitter that he is, but said “there’s tons more in there” as he works to get his swing off earlier a little bit more. He said that in the past year or so, “I’ve tried to be too good of a hitter at times; I want to do damage, and I know I’m capable of more than even the [.330/30/100] numbers you’ve put out there.”
Barker pressed on whether that means he wants to do more damage to the pull side, with more of that “party out front kind of thing in certain kinds of counts?” Bichette said that he’s trying to open himself up more on his swing and not force the ball over to right field, and “allowing myself to catch the ball out front, allowing myself to do damage, take chances in early in the count, and then rely on my two-strike [approach] when I can.”
He added, “I want to be the best in the world, so power comes along with that… that’s something that I want to add.” No doubt that’s music to the ears of Jays fans hoping for an internal improvement in the Jays’ run scoring.
Shohei Ohtani pursuit
Blair asked Bo what the team needs to get better after missing out on a generational talent like Ohtani? Bichette said, “I was definitely invested; I felt the pain that I saw the fan base was feeling. To be able to play with a player like [Ohtani] was something obviously that excited everybody… but there’s no doubt in my mind that we have everything we need to win. It comes down to everybody living up to their potential… there’s another level of professionalism and discipline and consistentcy that we need to get to, and I believe that if we do that, we have everything we need now.”
Bichette did mention former World Series champions Justin Turner and J.D. Martinez as two players that come to his mind who he feels could come to help the Blue Jays as “veteran bats that can really help out, not just on the field but off the field as well.”
Note that Turner and Bichette are both currently represented by the same agent, Vayner Sports, so either Bo knows something we don’t, or there could be some salesmanship with that comment; but the point still stands, as does his echoing of the “internal improvement” comments from Ross Atkins.
Communication from the “smart people” and coaches and Bichette’s leadership role
Regarding the communication between players and staff, Bichette simply stated, “the team needs to be together, the players in the clubhouse. For me as a leader, I’m taking that responsibility of making sure that what I think is important, what some other guys think is important is done on a day-to-day basis. We lead by example in those areas.”
He went on to say, “I don’t think I’ve led to what I’m capable of leading… that’s on me, on a few players. We just need to take a step forward in the clubhouse.”
He added that he’s “more than willing to take those [leadership] responsibilities on,“ and that he’s at a point in his career where he’s “more equipped to handle [being a leader] and do it correctly.”
Game two decisions in the ALWC series last October
While confirming that they’ve had conversations about those decisions, Bo was pretty succinct here: “It’s so far in the past that it’s kind of irrelevant to keep on discussing,… we’re moving on with what with we have, and we’re going to look to continue to make progress in making this team a winner.”
Is the Jays’ competitive window closing?
With a number of players approaching free agency in the next two years, including homegrown core players like Bichette, Vlad Guerrero Jr., Danny Jansen, Jordan Romano and Tim Mayza, Bo was asked if he thought the window of opportunity for this team to win a World Series was closing?
To paraphrase his answer, he said, “It’s up to us whether that window is closing or not. At the end of the day, we’re not a young team anymore. The whole excuses of growing and learning, that’s out the window. It’s time to be grown… saying we’re learning, I think that’s over. It’s time to get it done.”
While those words may remind Blue Jays fans of a certain quote from Josh Donaldson, that’s exactly the kind of attitude a winning team needs from its clubhouse leadership.
Long term contract extension?
Given Bichette appears headed for free agency after the 2025 season, he was asked by Blair if there’s been any movement on a contract extension. Bichette said he understands that “fans get antsy about that stuff,” but that his focus for now is on getting things right. In terms of extension talks, he said, “That time will come, I’m sure it will… [but] I haven’t had that conversation yet this offseason.” His focus remains on trying to take that next step, both as a player and as a team.
Following a season where he made huge strides defensively, with a massive 21-run swing in total defensive runs saved above average (DRS) from -16 in 2022 to +5 in 2023, Bo admitted he was “pleased with the year last year,” and said, “My whole life, people have told me I’m not a shortstop.”
He noted a “come to Jesus” moment when he’d made three errors in the first nine games last season, when he he realized he makes every play when he’s taking ground balls, so “what is different?” He was able to slow the game down and “played really well from then on.”
This is Bo’s team
Blue Jays fans should be thrilled hear that Bo Bichette is embracing his leadership role in the clubhouse, and that he’s focused on making sure the team is together. He seems ready to improve upon his defensive game, his power numbers, and to be “the best in the world”.
If this is indeed Bichette’s team, the confidence he showed in this interview should be encouraging news for Blue Jays fans who’ve been patiently hoping for more since the game two AL Wild Card series loss last October. To hear him say that the time to win is now, and that they’ve grown to the stage where the team needs to get it done should please Blue Jay fans hungry for another World Series championship after a long, 30+ year wait.