Almost Ready for Opening Day
However, despite the $233M CBT payroll, some obvious holes still remain. Three left-handed hitting bench bats are gone from last year, leaving utilityman Cavan Biggio as the lone lefty bench bat. Potential solutions there like Michael Brantley are off the board, although the Jays could look at recently released left-handed batters like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer as potential experienced (and cheap!) bench bats given the Reds (two years, $22M left on the Moustakas contract) and Padres (three years, $39M left on their Hosmer contract) will still be paying most of their salaries in 2023 and beyond.
And apart from Jordan Romano and potential in-house solutions like Yosver Zuleta and Nate Pearson, none of the other relievers on the current roster throw 100mph, which seemed to be a key ingredient to lock down opponents in the 2022 postseason.
There may also be an apparent payroll constraint, despite assurances from the front office that the $233M CBT threshold for 2023 would not dictate payroll. The Jays have now missed out on a number of free agents that they were targeting, including starters Justin Verlander, Jameson Taillon, Andrew Heaney and Kyle Gibson, reliever Kenley Jansen, as well as outfielders Cody Bellinger, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Brantley and Michael Conforto. They dumped Gurriel's $5.8M salary when they added Varsho’s projected $2.8M arbitration award.
Yankees and Astros remain the class of the American League
The Blue Jays improved their 26-man roster by adding Daulton Varsho to the mix. Not only does he help to improve the outfield defense dramatically, but by also subtracting the right-handed hitting Gurriel, it also helps to balance out the lineup with his power-hitting left-handed bat. The cost was indeed steep as Gabriel Moreno has franchise catcher potential, but the Jays are much closer to challenging the Yankees for the AL East pennant today than they were yesterday.
They still have some work to do to be ready for Opening Day and to catch New York and Houston, as well as to separate themselves from Tampa, Seattle and others in the American League. However, at this stage it will be minor additions like higher ceiling starting pitching depth (which could be solved internally assuming they don’t trade Ricky Tiedemann), bench depth (Jurickson Profar? Hosmer? Moustakas?), and a few flame-throwing, high-leverage relievers (Zulueta and Pearson?). This is a much more competitive roster than the one that lost the 2022 ALWC series in such heartbreaking fashion to Seattle this past October. Let’s go Jays!