Ask the average Blue Jays fan how this offseason has gone to date, and they will likely use words such as 'disappointing' and 'underwhelming' to describe it. In fairness, how could they not think like this, after missing out on arguably the biggest free agent signing in Major League history.
However, not helping the case is what moves the Blue Jays have made thus far, with spring training effectively now just a month away. More specifically, signing Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Kevin Kiermaier.
While Kiermaier is a positive, he's not actually an addition from the perspective that he played in Toronto last year. This leaves Kiner-Falefa as the only new face, which isn't exactly motivating for Blue Jays fans.
Despite this, there is still time for Ross Atkins and the rest of the front office to make some moves, which would boost the morale of a disillusioned fan base. The question is, will they actually do anything of note?
Uninspiring predictions for the Blue Jays
The answer would be 'no', at least if you base this on Bob Nightengale's prediction for the Blue Jays. In his latest USA Today column, the baseball insider writes:
'The Toronto Blue Jays will pass on third baseman Matt Chapman, will let the Cubs sign Cody Bellinger without putting up much of a fight, and will instead sign free-agent outfielder Joc Pederson to a one-year contract to be the left-handed bat they need. Certainly, they have plenty of money after Ohtani didn’t take their $700 million, spending only $25.5 million this winter on Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Kevin Kiermaier.'
Beginning with the Chapman prediction, this is the one Blue Jays fans should be least bothered by. He declined their qualifying offer of $20.325M in order to test free agency, and has still not signed a deal with anyone.
Yes the 2019 All-Star was fantastic during the first month of the 2023 season, when he was easily on course for a career year and was named AL Player of the Month. After then however, his offensive form dipped dramatically, as he had a .205 batting average and .659 OPS the rest of the way.
As a result, Chapman finished with an poor overall offensive output, highlighted by the second-lowest slugging percentage, OPS and OPS+ of his seven years in the Majors. In many ways, even allowing for still being a fine third baseman, the Blue Jays dodged a bullet by not having the four-time Gold Glove winner accept their qualifying offer.
No Bellinger on the horizon
Turning to Bellinger, this is the prediction which should most concern Blue Jays fans. Yes there is no substitute for Ohtani, or someone like Juan Soto, but the 2020 World Series champion would undoubtedly still make for an excellent consolation prize.
At one point, the Blue Jays were actually picked by some to be one of the most likely landing spots for the 2019 NL MVP. Now though, Nightengale is among those who believe Atkins won't even make a serious offer for him.
We appreciate that Bellinger mostly plays in centre field, which is the forte for Kiermaier, but this doesn't mean they shouldn't still pursue the former. The two-time Silver Slugger can also split time at first base with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., with the duo also being able to play as the DH.
Essentially, this all alludes to Bellinger helping strengthen the Blue Jays in a number of ways. Most of all though he can help the lineup become more potent, with him coming off a year where he had the best batting average, second-most RBI and third-highest OPS of his seven seasons in the Majors.
Short-term, expensive, unreliable option
Finally we come to Nightengale's prediction that the Blue Jays will sign Pederson to a one-year deal. As per Sportsnet's Shi Davidi, the team has apparently long been interested in the 31-year-old, so maybe it shouldn't be a surprise if a union finally comes to fruition.
However, it's fair to claim that signing Pederson now, would also do little to inspire faith in the Blue Jays fan base. Consider that he's coming off a year where his 15 home runs and 51 RBI are his lowest respective totals in a full season, since 2017.
Further, the two-time World Series champion is now at a stage in his career, where DH is likely to be his primary position. While he can still play some in the outfield and even at first base, he doesn't offer as much flexibility or assurances as previous years.
There is also the very real prospect of having to overpay for someone who, while the Blue Jays can certainly afford him, will likely only be a short term answer, and not a particularly reliable one at that. While we appreciate Pederson had 23 homers and 70 RBI the year before last, it just seems like there are better options out there for the Blue Jays to pursue.
In a bizarro world, alternate reality, it would actually be more positive, if the Blue Jays team signed all three of Chapman, Bellinger and Pederson. Regardless, all fans can do is to hope that Nightengale is off on his predictions for their team.