2023 has an air of change surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays. A change in personnel, a change in expectations, and a change in attitude. No longer will a playoff berth suffice, this team wants and expects to go deep into the postseason this year.
This season’s Blue Jays roster boasts one of the best starting lineups and starting pitching rotations in baseball. They upgraded their bullpen in the offseason and they overhauled the team to place an emphasis on defence and run prevention.
Most of the same cast of characters returns for another shot at World Series glory. All-Star centre fielder George Springer underwent offseason elbow surgery and figures to be good as new, now moving over to right field. Franchise figureheads Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. look to take the next step into superstardom.
Opening Day starter Alek Manoah continues his meteoric rise as one of the brightest starting pitchers in the American League. Getting the ball for the opener is just another milestone in the 25-year-old’s quick ascent up the ranks since being drafted by the Blue Jays in 2019.
There are a few fresh faces around the organization this season, too.
Fan favourites Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez were traded in the offseason to address the team’s need for firepower in the bullpen and a left-handed power bat for the outfield. Daulton Varsho takes over for Gurriel in left field and pitcher Erik Swanson adds to the Blue Jays’ relief pitcher depth.
The Blue Jays brought aboard Chris Bassitt to fill out the starting rotation and give this team one of their most robust rotations in years. Long-time Tampa Bay Ray and division rival Kevin Kiermaier signed with the Blue Jays and will patrol centre field this year. Instead of robbing the Blue Jays of home runs, now he figures to steal some outs for Toronto instead.
The club also added some veteran savvy by inking two-time World Series champion Brandon Belt to their lineup. Suddenly, a very right-handed batting order now has three additional left-handed hitters and gives some much-needed balance in their lineup.
The Blue Jays sacrificed some power by trading away Gurriel and Hernandez, but on paper this team is a much more balanced ball club. Having a domineering lineup over the last two seasons wasn’t enough to carry Toronto far into the playoffs, so they rebuilt their roster to address their glaring weaknesses.
It’s another small move, but gone is the Blue Jays’ beloved “home run jacket”. After a two-year run, the celebratory keepsake has been scrapped, which shows this team is ready to apply more of an “act like you’ve been there” mentality. Cherishing minor milestones like home runs feels inconsequential compared to celebrating wins, division tiles, playoff series, and a World Series.
The Blue Jays didn’t make the biggest of splashes this offseason with a mammoth free agent signing or a blockbuster trade, but they addressed their needs to make this team a well-rounded roster instead of a one-trick power-hitting pony.
It’s no surprise why some are forecasting the Blue Jays to win the American League East this year. Toronto has the talent to usurp the New York Yankees for the top spot in the division, but the ghosts of last year’s shocking postseason exit still linger. However, this team appears to be using that previous playoff heartache as fuel to take the next step towards a World Series in 2023.