The off-season started shortly after the playoffs began for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2022. Now it’s up to general manager Ross Atkins to make the necessary changes to ensure the team has a post-season run in 2023 that lasts longer than the minimum two games.
A look at five talking points as the Blue Jays prepare for next season:
The Jays’ first big move of the off-season shored up the bullpen but left a significant hole in the heart of the batting order.
Outfielder Teoscar Hernandez, a two-time Silver Slugger winner, was dealt to the Seattle Mariners for reliever Erik Swanson and prospect Adam Macko.
Hernandez’s production will be missed as he was a reliable offensive threat. Swanson, meanwhile, boasts the treasured swing-and-miss stuff that should play well in a setup role.
The Blue Jays later signed veteran outfielder Kevin Kiermaier to a one-year deal. He’s an upgrade on Hernandez defensively but his bat will likely slot into the bottom third of the order.
The Blue Jays have a dependable one-two punch at the front of the starting rotation in Cy Young Award finalist Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman.
The No. 3 spot will likely go to former New York Mets starter Chris Bassitt, who signed a three-year contract with Toronto.
Chris Bassitt of the New York Mets reacts during the sixth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citi Field in the Queens borough of New York City. (Adam Hunger/Getty Images))
Adding another starter could still be a possibility for a rotation that includes right-hander Jose Berrios, who’s looking to bounce back from an off year.
Yusei Kikuchi and Mitch White could get the nod in the fifth spot despite struggling last season. Ross Stripling left as a free agent and veteran Hyun Jin Ryu is a question mark after undergoing elbow surgery.
Making strides on the run prevention front was an early off-season goal for Atkins. He hopes to shift focus now to offensive improvements.
Kiermaier gives the Blue Jays a needed left-handed bat in a righty-heavy batting order, but his career average is only .248 and he has reached the 50-RBI mark just once in his 10-year big-league career.
The Blue Jays have the financial resources to continue pursuing free agents and they could still make additions via trade.
Toronto is particularly deep at the catcher position with all-star Alejandro Kirk, Danny Jansen and prospect Gabriel Moreno.
Massive nine-figure contracts have been the norm in a free agency season headlined by Aaron Judge’s nine-year, $360-million US deal with the New York Yankees.
The Blue Jays did not shop among the top tier of free agents this off-season but at some point they’ll have to open the wallet to retain star infielders Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Both players are under team control through 2025.
Contract extensions would require a significant financial outlay but may be considered bargains compared to what those players may get on the open market as free agents.
A new-look Rogers Centre awaits when the Blue Jays kick off their home schedule on April 11 against the Detroit Tigers.
Renovations throughout the 49,000-seat venue started in October. The bullpens will be raised, social spaces will be added, all 500-level seats will be replaced and 100-level outfield seats will be closer to the fence.
Rogers Centre opened in June 1989.
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