Toronto Blue Jays Offseason Outlook
The Blue Jays have some internal questions that will need to be answered this offseason, as well as some areas needing to be bolstered.
The Toronto Blue Jays had a disappointing end to their season, getting knocked out in the AL Wild Card round at home by the Seattle Mariners. What makes this even more frustrating is the way they lost the second game, holding an 8-1 lead before the bullpen imploded and the Jays ended up losing 10-9.
For a team with World Series aspirations, getting swept at home is not the way many saw the season going. That being said, the 2022-2023 offseason is going to be interesting, mostly because the Blue Jays have some internal situations that will need to be sorted, as numerous roster players head to free agency in Matt Chapman, Hyun Jin Ryu, Teoscar Hernández, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at what the Blue Jays need to do this offseason and what the outlook might be for Canada’s only MLB team.
Figure Out the Blue Jays Manager Situation
After firing manager Charlie Montoyo, the Blue Jays promoted bench coach John Schneider to the manager position but only in the interim, revisiting the topic once the season was over. After posting a 46-28 record (the same amount of wins as Montoyo in fewer games), Schneider heads into the offseason looking for a contract, and while other teams are already locking up their managers, the Blue Jays front office is dragging their feet.
Schneider has the players’ vote of confidence and his aggressive nature on the base paths and ability to hold players accountable was a nice change of pace. Considering his rapport with the Jays core, given his MiLB experience, extending Schneider is honestly a no-brainer. When GM Ross Atkins was asked about Schneider at the end-of-year presser, he had this to say, “I think it will be very difficult for us to find better than John Schneider.”
Overall, Schneider is the top choice right now and deserves a shot with a full season at the helm.
What to Do With Ross Stripling
The Blue Jays don’t have a large free agent class this offseason but one important player is potentially heading to the open market in right-hander Ross Stripling.
Acquired at the 2020 trade deadline, the Pennsylvania product split his time between the rotation and bullpen since joining the Jays but had a fantastic walk year, authoring a 3.01 ERA through 31 appearances (24 starts) and became one of the Jays dependable rotation arms as the season wore on. Had the Jays forced a Game 3 in the AL Wild Card, Stripling was likely getting the start over Jose Berrios.
Stripling could potentially receive a qualifying offer, with the term set at $19.65 million this year. It would likely be more advantageous for both parties if they could find a multi-year deal that guarantees security for Stripling, but at a lower average annual salary, saving the Jays some salary space which is in a crunch this year if ownership is unwilling to go past the luxury tax limit (more on this later).
The right-hander has expressed interest in returning, it is just whether he has potentially priced himself out of the Jays equation given the other internal questions they need to figure out in the near future.
Extend Vladimir Guerrero Jr and Bo Bichette
With MLB teams across the league extending their young stars, the Toronto Blue Jays are one of the only clubs yet to jump on the bandwagon. The club boasts two young superstars, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, and the longer the front office is unable to lock down the pair, the more difficult and more expensive it will be to do so before they head to free agency following the 2025 season.
Guerrero Jr. and the Jays are likely to approach the topic this offseason as the two sides weren’t going to discuss matters during the season but were apparently talking long-term, with the slugger open to signing an extension with the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays and Bichette have also discussed a long-term deal but the club apparently did not offer him a contract, which was confirmed by Bichette himself earlier this year.
Factor in that right-hander Alek Manoah is starting to enter the extension talk area, given his terrific play these past two seasons, and it’s time to lock down the Jays’ young core for the long-term.
Are the Blue Jays Keeping Three Catchers?
Unless they move one this offseason. Blue Jays will likely enter Spring Training next year with three catchers as Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk, and Gabriel Moreno are all able to take on a full season’s workload.
Kirk and Moreno likely provide the most value in return given their controllable years, while moving the more experienced Jansen will have a greater impact on the salary situation, as the backstop is heading into his second year of arbitration this winter. The Blue Jays did explore moving Kirk earlier this year when the Cleveland Guardians appeared willing to trade Jose Ramirez before he signed an extension. Considering the All-Star season he just had, Kirk’s value is even higher now.
The club could move Moreno from behind the plate and put him in the field but with the Jays needing some starting pitching and a left-handed bat, there is value in the Jays’ catching corps that the front office could explore this offseason.
Explore the Pending Free agents’ Trade Market
As I mentioned earlier, this offseason does not see many Blue Jays heading to free agency but next year is a different story, with numerous players not only heading to the open market but also looking to cash in.
It is unlikely the Jays will be able to re-sign all of them (should they choose to do so) so it might be worth exploring the trade market for someone like Hernández or Gurriel Jr. this winter before they are free agents. The Blue Jays did talk shop with the Marlins last winter regarding Brian Anderson, but the lockout got in the way, with the Jays eventually dealing a package of prospects to Oakland for Matt Chapman.
Not only does moving one of these players help with the looming salary cap crunch, but it could also help the Blue Jays in other areas of the roster that need some upgrading. The move(s) would hurt the fanbase, which has grown to like both players since they became regulars, but World Series championships tend to outshine these trades in the long run.
Get Ownership to Go Past the Luxury Tax
Owned by Rogers Communications, the Blue Jays front office is likely having budget discussions with the ownership group in the near future and is entering this offseason in an interesting predicament.
The young core is needing extensions, Stripling is heading to free agency, and when all is said and done given the current contracts and pending arbitration numbers, the Blue Jays will be over $200 million in salary, regardless of whether the club brings back Stripling or not.
For a club that got bested in the Wild Card, this is likely something Rogers is not thrilled with, but in today’s day and age, they’re a lot more teams making the playoffs with salaries like the Mets, Dodgers, Phillies, Padres, and Yankees compared to the Rays and Guardians. In fact, when the Blue Jays won the World Series in 1992 and 1993, the Jays payroll was in the top-10 and led the league in 1993, only backing the narrative that money talks when it comes to championships.
The one downside to being owned by a corporation such as Rogers is that baseball really is a business, and the corporation has to deal with real-world problems. A recession is predicted for Canada in early 2023, and a company like Rogers could be forced to look at expenditures and realize they cannot afford to go past the luxury tax line this upcoming season, something that would really bolster the Jays’ chances of improving the roster and signing young players to extensions.