Toronto Blue Jays: Is 2023 a ‘World Series or bust’ year?

Houston Astros World Series Parade
Houston Astros World Series Parade / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages

As the Toronto Blue Jays enter the third year of their current competitive window, expectation setting time is upon us. The club has a top five MLB payroll, made some major roster altering moves this offseason, moved in the outfield fences as part of a $300M multi-year facelift at Rogers Centre, and is an odds on favorite to have a deep postseason run in 2023. Should fans view this as a ‘World Series or bust’ year?

Certainly clubhouse leaders like ace Alek Manoah and MVP-candidate Vladimir Guerrero Jr., see it that way. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet notes that one club official says Manoah has been the guy turning the lights on at camp at 5:30 a.m., “working so tenaciously that it seems like he’s on a mission to win true AL Cy Young this year”. Manoah calls it “a mission to win a World Series,” although “if a Cy Young comes, cool.”

As The Athletic (subscription required) says, “There are questions about the Blue Jays, but if it all clicks, they could be the most dangerous team in the league.” Can José Berríos revert to his mean? Can Yusei Kikuchi provide valuable innings as the fifth starter? Can players coming off surgeries, including George Springer, Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Belt stay healthy? Can the Blue Jays find a fourth outfielder who can hit left-handed pitching and cover the 128 games and 433 plate appearances Raimel Tapia had last year?

World Series or Bust?

After a busy offseason that saw the front office revamp the roster, adding three left-handing hitting batters in Daulton Varsho, Kiermaier and Belt to take the places of Teoscar Hernández, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., top prospect Gabriel Moreno and Tapia, as well as starter Chris Bassitt to replace the departed Ross Stripling, and reliever Erik Swanson to bolster the bullpen, the expectation is that this team is now built for a World Series run.

Better balance in the lineup that was overwhelmingly right-handed last year? Check. More ‘swing and miss’ stuff in the bullpen? Check (especially if Nate Pearson and Yosver Zulueta can find their way into the mix). Better outfield defense? Check. New bench coach in nine-time Gold Glove winner Don Mattingly? Check. Former MLB All-Star Victor Martinez hired as a special assistant? Check. Hire Ashley Stephenson, former women’s national team star, as a minor league coach? Check.

Ownership has also committed to a top five MLB payroll, taking the competitive balance tax (CBT) payroll into the penalty tax zone as an apparent first time offender. According to RosterResource, the current luxury tax payroll sits at $250.5M, which would trigger a 20% tax on all overages above the $233M CBT threshold for 2023. If they were to take that payroll above $253M but below $273M, they would trigger an additional 12.5% surcharge on the overages.

While payroll doesn’t necessarily equate to a World Series Championship, it is fair to say that, apart from the NY Yankees and LA Angels over the past 12 seasons since 2010, having an above league average payroll did equate to more World Series appearances. And in fact, eight of the top ten payroll teams in 2022 played postseason baseball last fall. As we all know, you’ve got to be in it to win it.

The current homegrown core of Manoah, Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Jordan Romano, Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk and enters their third MLB season together, and fifth season when you exclude Manoah and Kirk. Many of them won minor league championships with current Blue Jays manager John Schneider. Role players like Cavan Biggio, Tim Mayza and Santiago Espinal have also been on the roster for multiple years, and are complemented by returning players like Springer, Kevin Gausman, Matt Chapman and Berríos. Newcomers like Bassitt, Varsho, Kiermaier, Belt and Swanson all only add to the expectations for postseason success.

Expectations are high for a deep postseason run in 2023. Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., will potentially both reach free agency after the 2025 season, and the competitive window is wide open this year. Can the Blue Jays live up to those high expectations and bring a World Series championship back to Toronto on the 30th anniversary of their last title? The time to shine is now.

Next. 3 reasons Ricky Tiedemann won't make Opening Day roster. dark