With 92 wins and a playoff birth, the Blue Jays’ offseason needs for 2022 were addressed well, but what about the Blue Jays’ offseason needs for 2023?
After all, Toronto suffered a frustrating playoff defeat to the Mariners and continues to come up a little short in the AL East, not winning a division crown since 2015. That should lead to a busy offseason for the Blue Jays, as they try to reload for another postseason run in 2023.
Blue Jays offseason needs 2022
The list of Blue Jays’ offseason needs for 2022 wasn’t particularly short. The Jays added several key pieces to complement their young core. They aren’t exactly starting from scratch, but there is still much to be done to get Toronto to a championship level.
But who are the Blue Jays’ upcoming free agents who might need to be re-signed and who might the Blue Jays’ free agency targets be as they try to improve their roster from outside of the organization?
Let’s take a look at the most pressing Blue Jays’ offseason needs for 2023.
Another frontline starter
Even if the Blue Jays hadn’t blown a huge lead in Game 2 of the Wild Card Round against the Mariners, Toronto’s hopes for the rest of the playoffs were rather dim. The biggest reason for that is a lack of starting pitching depth.
Beyond Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman, the Blue Jays were lacking reliable options in their rotation. With Ross Stripling hitting the free-agent market this winter, the need to improve the rotation will grow even bigger for the Blue Jays.
The good news is that Manoah and Gausman will return to headline Toronto’s rotation in 2023. However, Jose Berrios struggled throughout most of the season, going 12-7 with a 5.23 ERA in 32 starts.
Yusei Kikuchi wasn’t much better, going 6-7 with a 5.19 ERA in 2022. The Blue Jays obviously expect better out of Berrios, who could have a bounce-back year in 2023. But Toronto cannot enter the offseason expecting that to happen.
The Blue Jays also can’t assume that Hyun Jin Ryu will return from Tommy John surgery during the second half of 2023 and provide an immediate boost to their rotation. If the Blue Jays want to be a bonafide championship contender next year, they need to add a quality starter to pitch behind Manoah and Gausman while hoping to get more out of Berrios, Kikuchi, and Ryu.
Rebuild the bullpen
Among the Blue Jays’ offseason needs for 2022 was to build a competent bullpen. With Toronto only having the 13th-best bullpen ERA in the majors, that clearly didn’t happen. The Blue Jays were able to save face a little by trading for Zach Pop and Anthony Bass at the trade deadline. But Toronto’s bullpen failed to deliver in the playoffs, becoming the scapegoat in that Game 2 loss to the Mariners.
That means the Blue Jays need to spend the winter trying again to build a bullpen that can be consistent over 162 games and also come up big in October.
It’s not all bad news with Jordan Romano, David Phelps, and Adam Cimber all posting an ERA under 3.00 this past season. Tim Mayza and Yimi Garcia also had solid seasons in 2022 and could be building blocks for the Toronto bullpen next year.
However, Phelps is getting older and Bass is a free agent, hurting some of Toronto’s bullpen depth. More importantly, the Blue Jays could use one or two more relievers who have proven themselves in high-leverage situations.
Despite Romano putting together his second straight impressive campaign as a closer, investing in a more experienced closer or top-notch setup man could make the Blue Jays a more formidable team once they reach the postseason.
Lock up young stars
Clearly, most of Toronto’s needs this winter will revolve around pitching, as the Blue Jays have a strong core of young position players. But the time has come for the Blue Jays to start signing those players to long-term deals that go beyond their arbitration years.
This has become a growing trend in baseball and the Blue Jays need to jump on the bandwagon.
Young stars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Teoscar Hernandez will be free agents sooner rather than later. Third baseman Matt Chapman will also be a free agent following the 2023 season.
Obviously, Toronto can’t sign every young player to a long-term deal, so the Blue Jays will have to prioritize and make some hard decisions. The good news is that players like Guerrero and Bichette got to the big leagues at such a young age that there is less risk in giving them a lucrative, long-term contract. Yet, the time has come to start showing them the money and making sure their future is in Toronto.
If there’s one thing Toronto’s potent lineup is missing, it’s a big bat from the left side. Outside of Cavan Biggio, who is coming off a poor season, and part-time outfielders Raimel Tapia and Bradley Zimmer, the Blue Jays don’t offer much from the left side of the plate.
While it’s not the biggest problem in the world or a huge priority, the Blue Jays could use a little more balance.
For instance, a left-hand-hitting first baseman could platoon with Guerrero, allowing Toronto’s best slugger to spend more time at the DH spot. It could also benefit the Blue Jays to find a left-hand hitter with some pop who could spend time serving as a DH.
The Blue Jays could also look for a left-hand-hitting corner outfielder who can be more productive than Tapia and Zimmer were this past season, giving them more options from the left side when facing quality right-handed pitching.