It’s a bit disheartening to know that as far as the Orioles came in 2022, it wasn’t enough to sniff the division title. The team we’re talking about today, the Toronto Blue Jays, won nine more games than the Orioles and still lost the division by seven games!
For a long time, the Blue Jays floundered in mediocrity, their ineptitude overlooked only because they played in the same division as the hapless Orioles. But starting with the 2015 season, they’ve had modest success with four postseason appearances in eight years. Those are good numbers for a non-Yankees team in the AL East, on par with the Rays and Red Sox. Unfortunately for them, they’ve never been able to make a deep playoff run.
Will 2023 finally be their year?
About Last Year
The 2022 Blue Jays went 92-70 and lost their wild card series to the Mariners despite playing better than most of the AL over the full season. To make it even more bitter, they were the high seed and lost both games at home in front of their fans. Not being much of a fan of their fans, that was fine by me.
The Blue Jays most valuable player, based on fWAR, was former Oriole Kevin Gausman. If you prefer bWAR, it was Alek Manoah. Either way, they made a heck of a one-two punch. They both made 31 starts. Manoah finished the season with a 2.24 ERA, better than Gausman, although Gausman held onto his sub-3.00 ERA as late as August 19th.
Notable Additions and Subtractions
The Blue Jays made moves in both the trade and free markets this offseason, bringing in quite a bit of new blood. Before they did any of that though, they lost Ross Stripling, Jackie Bradley, Jr., and David Phelps to free agency. Stripling was the caliber of pitcher some expect the Orioles to go after, but he instead signed a two-year deal with the Giants.
A notable non-tender is Raimel Tapia, who played 128 games for the team. The Jays found themselves with an extra utility guy after trading for Whit Merrifield last year.
They traded away outfielder Teoscar Hernández to the Mariners in exchange for bullpen arm Eric Swanson and A-ball pitcher Adam Macko, who now slots in as their number nine prospect.
They sent Lourdes Gurriel and rookie catcher Gabriel Moreno to the Diamondbacks for outfielder Daulton Varsho. I imagine the Blue Jays didn’t like the idea of another team having a former MLBer’s son on their team. Varsho is the son of Gary Varsho, who played in the late 80s/early 90s. Stay away from Jackson Holliday, Blue Jays!
Via free agency, the Blue Jays very annoyingly signed defensive wizard Kevin Keirmaier. Can that guy please leave the division already? They also signed veteran Brandon Belt to a one-year deal.
Their big signing, however, was Chris Bassitt. Bassitt got a three-year deal, another mid-tier starter the Orioles seemingly did not show interest in.
For all the Paul Fry fans in the house, the Jays grabbed him on a minor-league deal. Good luck, Paul Fry!
- Alek Manoah
- Kevin Gausman
- José Berríos
- Chris Bassitt
- Yusei Kikuchi
Manoah and Gausman at the top of this rotation could be a real killer, though it’s worth keeping an eye on how Gausman handles his new delivery this year. Gausman’s toe-tap delivery is now a balk per MLB, so he had to mix things up.
Berríos is coming off his worst year in the big leagues, putting up an ERA of 5.23 in 32 starts. He’s a better pitcher than that, and if he can bounce back it will be huge for the Jays.
Before the 2022 season, the Blue Jays for some reason signed Kikuchi to a three-year deal. He wasn’t very good before they signed him and he wasn’t very good for them in 2022. But if the other four can live up to their potential it won’t matter much.
- Closer: Jordan Romano
- Late innings: Erik Swanson, Yimi Garcia
- Middle relief: Anthony Bass, Tim Mayza, Adam Cimber, Zach Pop
Canadian closer Jordan Romano is back for his fifth season with the Jays. He has appeared in 125 games for them in the past two seasons. The newbie Swanson will join Garcia as the setup/high-leverage guys. Swanson was lights out for the Mariners last year.
Former Orioles’ prospect Zach Pop should make the team after an impressive showing with the Jays in 2022. He was traded to the Jays by the Marlins, who had taken Pop from the Orioles in the Rule 5 draft.
C - Alejandro Kirk
1B - Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.
2B - Whit Merrifield
SS - Bo Bichette
3B - Matt Chapman
LF - Daulton Varsho
CF - Kevin Kiermaier
RF - George Springer
DH - Brandon Belt
You guys, I hate looking at this lineup. It’s too good! Springer, Chapman, Bichette, and Varsho each put up 4+ fWAR last year, with Kirk coming close at 3.8. Guerrero lost points for his defense, but still hit 31 home runs with an .818 OPS. Kiermaier can’t really hit but he’ll catch anything hit to the outfield.
They averaged 4.78 runs per game and FanGraphs projects them to score 4.66 per game this year. That’s not bad. Except for the Orioles.
USA Today: 92-70
All three publications project the Blue Jays to finish second in the division to the Yankees.
For a long time, the Blue Jays have been a team I love to hate. Their fanbase is rabid on the internet and beer throwing in the stands, They employed and loved José Bautista. And don’t forget Cito freaking Gaston. Sadly for me, I find many of their current players quite likable and honestly would prefer if they were jerks instead of just good young ballplayers.
Despite that, I will continue to hate the Blue Jays this season. And it feels good that for now at least, I have the hope that the Orioles can be better than them this year. Or at least hold their own a bit.
Note: Roster projections come from RosterResource depth charts at FanGraphs.