As we approach the heart of the MLB offseason, lots of emphasis will obviously be placed on big-name acquisitions. Particularly with the Teoscar Hernandez trade and talks of the Blue Jays' interest in players like Brandon Nimmo, it can be exciting to speculate about which stars could come to Toronto, but for this offseason, depth may be key.
I don't think anyone really questions the quality of the Blue Jays' offense, they had the highest OPS+ in MLB and scored the fourth most runs, but I think it had one issue that may need fixing prior to the 2022 season. When the cards were down and they needed guys to step up, it never felt like the Jays had reliable depth pieces. The mid-season addition of Whit Merrifield helped, but overall, it felt like the team relied too much on players like Raimel Tapia. This same issue existed within the rotation and the bullpen, with it feeling like a prayer anytime they needed someone who wasn't one of their top pitchers to get an out. This ability to get quality play from depth pieces is almost always a defining quality of good teams, particularly in the postseason, so Ross Atkins and co. should be looking to do everything they can to make this as deep of a team as possible, whether that be on the free agent market or via trade.
One area that the Jays have clearly made an attempt to invest in depth is the bullpen over the past year. They've now traded Teoscar Hernandez and top 100 prospect, Jordan Groshans for Erik Swanson, Anthony Bass, and Zach Pop, who should hopefully help the pen in 2023 and beyond. Obviously, you would rather this sort of depth could be developed in-house, but this strategy of acquiring depth can be effective and could be a good framework for this offseason. Take the Los Angeles Dodgers as an example. I don't think it's a stretch to say that the Dodgers have done one of if not the best team-building jobs in baseball, and while moves like acquiring Mookie Betts or consistently generating Cy Young-caliber pitching probably isn't replicable, the way they've consistently found their depth had been very impressive. Every season, they get guys like Evan Phillips, Tyler Anderson, and Trayce Thompson for minimal assets, and they play key roles in them routinely winning 100+ games. They've also always done a good job of making sure they have quality players at positions like their fourth outfielder or fifth starter, which not only gives them good bench play, but makes it much easier when an everyday player goes down.
That's all very anecdotal though, so how does this apply to the Blue Jays? As I said, the moves to trade talent for relief depth is a good start, and something they should continue doing. At this point, it seems inevitable that one of the team's three catchers gets moved, and I think that if Danny Jansen in particular was traded, they could potentially use him in a package to get a fifth starter or a depth outfielder. The Marlins feel like an obvious fit here since they have a wealth of starting pitchers, but given how short the league is on quality starting catchers, I imagine there would be many teams willing to give up a solid hitter for Jansen.
Last offseason the Blue Jays were able to package a group of prospects to acquire Matt Chapman, without having to give up any top-tier talent, and I think this could also be a road to getting depth players. Players like Ian Happ with the Cubs could be an interesting target and with the retirement of Yadier Molina, the Cardinals may be in the catching market. Since they're a team that routinely develops young talent, it's impossible to say who could or couldn't be acquirable, so it's definitely worth calling. The Blue Jays have plenty of prospects that should be expendable, so why not try and use them to help the team right now?
The easiest and most obvious way to get some depth pieces is through free agency and this year's class has some pretty good options. Former Blue Jays, Taijuan Walker, or Jameson Taillon could be interesting pieces to add as the fourth or fifth starter depending on what the market for them looks like. The reliever market has far too many names to really zone in on any one player, but the Jays should be disappointed if they don't come away with at least one new arm. The outfield market might be the most interesting, with guys like Robbie Grossman, Michael Brantley, and David Peralta all being proven bats that probably shouldn't demand too much on the market, and could slot right into the lineup, whether that be as the fourth outfielder or in a rotational DH role. Cody Bellinger feels like a completely different conversation at this point, but as a whole, this free agent class is ripe with quality depth talent, and the Blue Jays should be looking to add as many good players as they can.
It would be ridiculous to point to depth as the Blue Jays' only issue in 2022, but it certainly played a role in the struggles they experienced over the course of the year. This offseason, there should be plenty of avenues for them to combat this, so expect to see them very active over the coming months.