While some lucky teams are preparing to play in their League Championship Series, most are beginning their offseason planning with an eye toward next year. The Toronto Blue Jays are one of those teams after crashing out of the playoffs in the Wild Card round for the second year in a row. The Jays are going to have lots of questions to answer in what will be a fascinating winter north of the border, here is the best Blue Jays offseason plan.
The Perfect Offseason Plan for the Blue Jays
Keep The Pitching Staff Intact
Let’s be honest, the pitching staff was the only reason the Jays were able to sneak into the postseason to begin with. They had one of the best pitching staffs in the league last year, with the rotation ranking seventh in MLB in FIP and fifth in innings pitched. The bullpen was extremely effective as well, ranking third in the league in WPA (win probability added) so obviously keeping that staff intact is very important to the team’s success next season.
Keeping the staff intact is not the same as keeping every player that they will lose in free agency. Yes, re-signing Chad Green or especially Jordan Hicks would be nice they are not irreplaceable. There are always several free-agent relievers who are good enough to be solid high-leverage arms. Guys like Reynaldo Lopez, Keynan Middleton, or Alex Reyes are affordable options if re-signing players becomes too expensive.
Try To Get Younger
In 2021, the Blue Jays were the sixth-ranked team in the American League with 91 wins, they were the fourth youngest position player group and one of the youngest teams in the league. In 2023, the Blue Jays were the sixth-ranked team in the American League with 89 wins and were the fifth-oldest team in baseball, led by veterans on both sides of the ball. What happened? The Jays made several offseason moves to get older, that’s what happened. Replacing Lourdes Gurriel Jr and Teoscar Hernandez with Kevin Kiermaier, Whit Merrifield and Brandon Belt certainly didn’t help.
The Jays aren’t necessarily too old, but they no longer look like a team at the beginning of their competitive window. If they can get younger or at the very least stay the same they can build a contender to win over multiple seasons. There are a couple of ways to do that, the first is to sign some of the younger free agents like Amed Rosario, Franmil Reyes, or even Adalberto Mondesi. The second is to trade from the big league roster but that is less likely to happen.
Find Some Speed
This seemed like the one hole in an otherwise fairly well-rounded roster, the Jays had an excellent pitching staff and the lineup should be good if they can get the most out of their players but what the Jays lacked all season was any speed threat around the bases. With the new rules stolen bases and speed have become more important than ever and the Jays finished 27th in MLB in baserunning runs.
The problem is good speed and baserunning are in scarce supply in the open market. The aforementioned Mondesi is a good option in the event he is ever healthy again and Rosario is fast but doesn’t make good decisions on the bases. Both would be solid depth pieces and both would be risks, but those are the best speed options available barring some sort of trade.
Don’t Go Big In Free Agency
Part of the overarching goal of this offseason should be to develop a consistent winner. Not signing the upper echelon of free agents is part of that goal, just like keeping the staff intact and getting younger. This season’s free agent class is thin, and this is going to lead to the top and middle-level players being overpaid and more importantly, given too many years. Shohei Ohtani, Cody Bellinger, and Matt Chapman among others are going to get massive long-term contracts.
Signing players like that entering their 30s to long-term contracts and watching as they rapidly decline and clog up payroll and roster space is not a way to win unless the owner is willing to be in the top five in payroll year after year. The Jays can still make significant improvements to the roster without spending big by making depth additions to the team and signing mid-tier free agents to shorter-term deals, similar to the Chris Bassitt deal of last offseason.
Find a Way to Get the Most Out of the Current Players
This could mean several different things and is the most important thing any organization can do to make them better. Firstly, look at the coaching staff and front office to determine if they are doing the best they can to get the most out of their current roster. This is especially important this year since it seems that no position player on the Jays had a career year last season.
This also means making sure last year’s rookies and top prospects get an opportunity to become key parts of the roster next season. Giving Davis Schneider, Ernie Clement, Orelvis Martinez, Ricky Tiedemann, Spencer Horwitz, and Addison Barger the best chance to be good major league players and even having half of them pan out would be huge for extending the Jays competitive window.
Overall, the Blue Jays are set to have one of the most interesting off-seasons of any team this season. If executed well, the Jays can position themselves to be a perennial contender in the AL East and hopefully turn the tide in their quest for postseason success.