Blue Jays Rogers Centre- Credit: DaveMe Images

How long is Blue Jays Competitive Window?

The Blue Jays were expected to go deep in to the 2022 postseason. It remains to be seen how far they will go once baseball’s second season begins.


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Some expected them to be running away with the AL East division which hasn’t been the case. However they have been in a playoff spot every day this season. Starting strong saw them in first place early, only to be overtaken by a red hot New York Yankees squad. Still they have been up and down among the three wild card spots. At the time of writing, their record is 77-60, in the second wild card spot, 1.5 games behind the Rays and 0.5 games ahead of the Mariners.

 

There is no denying that the Jays have been “hot and cold” all season. When they are at their best, they look like a team that can beat all comers. When they aren’t, they are getting swept at home by the Angels. Some fans look at this inconsistent play and believe that this isn’t the year they will win their first championship since back to back in 1992/1993. Not to worry, some say, they are young and talented. They have plenty of chances at baseball’s holy grail.

 

Not so fast, I say.

 

The Jays seem fairly well positioned already for 2023. They only have three players eligible for free agency, pitchers Ross Stripling and David Phelps, and outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.

 

Both pitchers have been very valuable and hopefully the Jays can find a way to retain at least Stripling if not both, for the right deal. If not, they have the off-season to replace (or even upgrade) what they have gotten from them.

 

As for Bradley, it will be interesting to see if the Jays re-sign him. He is a superior outfield defender, and while he has managed a few key hits for the Jays, his overall offensive game is sub par at this point in his career (.534 OPS with the Jays, .572 over in 2022).

 

The end of the 2023 season will be another story. There are several players eligible for free agency after 2023 – pitchers Anthony Bass and Adam Cimber, outfielders Teoscar Hernandez and Raimel Tapia, and 3B Matt Chapman. Utility man Whit Merrifield has a club option for 2024 but at $18 million and considering his age (33 now) and current performance, it’s hard to see them retaining him for that amount.

 

Then there is Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Spotrac is usually the authority on pro athletes contracts and according to them, he isn’t FA eligible until after the 2024 season. However, it was reported by Sportsnet this past off season that something in Gurriel’s contract actually makes him FA eligible once his 7 year contract expires after 2023. I’m assuming they are correct.

 

Seven players that the Jays could potentially lose after the 2023 season. When you consider that, there might be more urgency to win a championship in 2022 or 2023 than some people seem to realize.

 

So what does this mean for their longer term future? The Jays could try to extend or re-sign all of those players but that might not be realistic or even their best option. As a group, their ages range from 28-34. Adding another year to them and it’s not hard to imagine that a number of these players could be on the down side of their MLB careers once they hit free agency.

 

There are their young star players to consider. I’m assuming they will want to sign Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Bo Bichette and Alek Manoah long term, and doing so won’t be cheap.  Even assuming that Rogers has the money to retain everyone there is also the luxury tax to consider. Exceeding the limit would mean significant penalties, something that president Mark Shapiro has stated that Rogers hasn’t been willing to do.

 

Other payroll considerations include the (almost) $66 million per season they have committed to three players in 2024 and beyond – George Springer, Kevin Gausman and Jose Berrios. Additionally the Jays will have a whopping 13 players who will be arbitration eligible in 2024 (including Guerrero and Bichette) and it’s clear the Jays will need to be creative in order to remain competitive.

 

Adam Cimber will be 33 and Anthony Bass 35 after the 2023 season. That considered, as well as the fact that relief pitchers’ performance tends to fluctuate a great deal from season to season and the Jays might be looking to get younger in the bullpen. Raimel Tapia got off to a slow start to his Jays career. He got hot for quite a while but has cooled off considerably. It remains to be seen how long he will stay with Toronto.

 

I consider Gurriel, Hernandez and Chapman to be key parts of the Jays core of players. My hope is that Jays’ management can retain at least 1-2 of them beyond 2023. Chapman was acquired via trade in the off season in large part to help stabilize the infield defence which he has definitely done. One internal candidate who might be able to replace him in 2024 is 20 year old infielder Orelvis Martinez; however he is a completely different type of player. Chapman has three gold gloves to his name and a career 120 OPS + (the same as his current 2022 OPS +). Martinez has 28 home runs with the AA Fisher Cats, it is the other parts of his game that are a work in progress, including defence.

 

In terms of outfielders, the Jays don’t have many high upside prospects in their system. Will 19 year old Gabriel Martinez be MLB ready by then (owner of an .825 OPS over three teams in 2022)? Could 24 old Spencer Horwitz be an option? He excelled in 70 games at AA in 2022 with an OPS of .930, unfortunately his performance dropped off in 42 games at AAA down to .754). If I am in the Jays front office, I would find ways to take a good look at utility man Otto Lopez, who is currently with the Jays filling in for Gurriel Jr who is on the IL.

 

If they don’t manage to extend most of their impending free agents, they could look to the free agent market, or they might look to trade with other organizations. That could be challenging – the Jays traded away seven of their higher ranked prospects in just over a year to acquire Jose Berrios, Matt Chapman, Anthony Bass and Zach Pop. Two other prospects, Alek Manoah and Alejandro Kirk have graduated and are now MLB all stars for the Jays. They might need to trade from an area of surplus such as catcher to fill other areas of need. At least one of Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk and Gabriel Moreno could find himself in a different organization by the end of 2023.

 

This is not to say that they will be rebuilding after 2023. They have a talented core of MLB players and overall I believe that Shapiro and Atkins have done a very good job positioning the Jays for the future. I am confident that they will successfully re-tool and continue to be competitive.

 

I still believe the current team has the talent to stay hot and go deep in to this season’s playoffs, possibly even winning it all. Beyond 2023, it will be interesting to see what the team looks like.

 

 

 


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