Toronto Blue Jays followers anticipated a busy offseason this winter they usually weren’t let down.
After including the likes of Kevin Gausman and Yusei Kikuchi forward of the 2022 season, the Jays went in a special course in 2023. Toronto swapped out a number of key items of its core by way of the commerce market and injected some veteran expertise by free company.
All instructed, the 2023 Blue Jays squad seems fairly completely different than it did a yr in the past. Let’s stroll by all of the strikes and assign a letter grade to every acquisition.
Simply over a month after Seattle booted Toronto from the playoffs, the Jays did a take care of the enemy, sending Hernández, a long-tenured fan favorite, to the M’s for prospect Macko and late-inning reliever Swanson.
In a nutshell, this commerce doesn’t look nice. Hernández is a longtime clean-up hitter who clubbed 57 homers during the last two seasons with a 130 OPS+, whereas Swanson – a reliever, so inherently much less invaluable – has been good the final two years (2.33 ERA, 167 ERA+) however much less impactful.
This commerce was a flop for the Jays in the event that they didn’t change Hernández’s manufacturing within the outfield. Since Toronto added extra offence later within the winter, I bumped my grade up a tick.
Just like the Hernández commerce, the place a personality shakeup was an element, Kiermaier’s signing comes with intangible advantages. He’s famend as a clubhouse chief, and he’s performed within the AL East his total profession. The 32-year-old’s defence is the actual moneymaker (he has three Gold Gloves), as he’ll assume duties in centre subject, shifting George Springer to proper.
However can glove and management instruments make up for below-average hitting? That’s the quandary when evaluating this signing. Because the begin of 2018, Kiermaier owns a slash line of .232/.296/.382, plus he’s missed 150 video games over the previous three seasons as a consequence of accidents.
The contract itself entails little dedication from Toronto, however the membership is relying on Kiermaier for a full season in centre subject – that half may be very dangerous. For that motive, I’m not as excessive on the Kiermaier signing.
With Ross Stripling’s departure and Kikuchi’s inconsistency, the Blue Jays desperately wanted one other beginning pitcher. Bassitt was an ideal match.
The 33-year-old inked a three-year deal (not too hefty of a dedication) with the Jays, bringing boatloads of expertise to Toronto’s rotation. Bassitt is wickedly constant, pitching to a 3.31 ERA (123 ERA+) over his final 4 seasons. He’s additionally a strong-willed veteran who is aware of tips on how to get hitters out and gained’t require a full operational rebuild (like Kikuchi) or fixed mechanical tweaking (like José Berríos).
The Bassitt signing was simply one of the best transfer Toronto made this offseason.
This Christmas Eve bombshell was the commerce Blue Jays followers had been anticipating for 2 years. In the end, Toronto dealt Moreno, considered one of its three major-league prepared catchers, for a left-handed hitter — one other longstanding want.
The return was honest for each groups. Gurriel is barely higher than Varsho offensively by wRC+, however Varsho is youthful, below contract by 2026, and was one of the best outfielder in baseball final season, per Outs Above Common. Varsho, 26, is constructed like Mike Trout and performs with game-changing depth. He’ll slot into left subject (although he’ll get reps in centre, too) and bat close to the center of Toronto’s order.
Moreno’s improvement will determine the winner of this commerce. If he can stick behind the plate and uncover a major-league energy stroke, the Jays would possibly remorse dishing him away. Within the meantime, although, Varsho gives a number of instruments the membership didn’t possess earlier than.
If he’s wholesome (an enormous if), Belt is arguably one of the best platoon hitter in all of baseball. The 34-year-old owns a profession .814 OPS and would be the designated hitter for the Jays this yr, particularly in opposition to right-handed pitching. He’ll additionally combine in at first base to spell Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
The addition of Belt deepens Toronto’s lineup tremendously. With Belt batting in opposition to righties, the Blue Jays can matchmake their catchers (Alejandro Kirk and Danny Jansen) relying on pitching and battery matchups. Belt’s pull energy (.458 profession slugging) can also be very intriguing, particularly with the shortened right-centre field wall at Rogers Centre.
This was a stellar signing by the Jays.
The Blue Jays entered this winter with a plan and executed it. Defence and pitching, each within the bullpen and the rotation, are dramatically higher than they had been a season in the past. Due to these enhancements, Toronto is significantly better ready for playoff baseball. Regardless of having one of many extra under-the-radar offseasons within the league, the Blue Jays checked each field they wanted to.
There are new skillsets on the roster and a rejuvenated dynamic within the clubhouse, which makes this membership higher outfitted to win in 2023.
Last Grade: B+
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