The Toronto Blue Jays have made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons but they have folded tamely in each series without winning a single game. It is a scenario that has become all too common in the city in recent years with the Maple Leafs struggling in their postseason appearances as well.
It is clear that the current Blue Jays core has the natural ability to contend but if success in 2024 is going to come, there are some canny moves that are going to have to be made by the front office as well as some poor 2023 efforts to put firmly in the rear view mirror.
While it is still a little early to be searching the betting sites for prices for the 2024 World Series, it is not too soon to be looking forward to the 2024 season and how the Blue Jays are shaping up for the next campaign.
The Blue Jays finished with a 89-73 record in 2023, a small step backwards on both their 2021 and 2022 wins totals. It was a year that saw a regression on the offensive output with Vladimir Guerrero leading the team with 26 home runs and 94 RBI. 21 HRs and 73 RBI was second on the team. Below league average in homers summed things up.
Compare that to 2022 when they had five players with 24HRs+ and five with 76+ RBI, sitting third in the league with 200 dingers and leading the AL in batting average and it was a big fall off.
The lack of runs scored was at least saved slightly by the fact that the defensive work was exceptional. The Jays were the AL Team Gold Glove winners with 85 defensive runs saved. They also won three individual awards with Matt Chapman, Kevin Kiermaier and Jose Berrios all winning Gold Gloves. Both Chapman and Kiermaier are out of contract which could leave a couple of big holes to fill in 2024.
From a pitching point of view, they had further success, a 3.78 ERA good enough for second in the AL. It was a slight improvement on 2022 when they were just better than the league average.
The lack of offensive production was the big issue this year and with Brandon Belt considering hanging up the cleats plus the Jays far from certain to give him an extension of the one year deal in any case, a new DH is going to be required in 2024. This could be a key position given the disappointing offensive production this year from some of the key players.
The good news for the Jays is that the current pool of DH’s is a sizeable one. Every team would love to be the one to land Shohei Otani for that spot in 2024 but that is an unrealistic looking assignment for Toronto. They seem keen to throw their hat in the ring at least.
With the Cincinnati Reds moving on from Joey Votto, there has been talk of the Toronto native joining. While that would be a lovely story, and there is no doubt that there is something still left in the tank, would the 40yo really be reliable enough to take on an everyday role? That seems unlikely.
Could Teoscar Hernandez come back to Toronto just a year after he left? There were rumours that he could have moved back at the trade deadline in the summer so it would not be a big surprise given he could also add some cover to the outfield if Kiermaier doesn’t return.
Others who could be in the mix are Cody Bellinger who took a big step back in the right direction in 2022 with the Chicago Cubs and Joc Pederson. The latter has won the World Series twice, once with the Dodgers and once with the Braves. His presence in the clubhouse with experience of winning it all would be a massive plus.
Just a single new player has been traded for so far in the early days of the off season, Brandon Little from the Cubs. Little has only appeared in a single game in the majors so far and that was a long way from a success, giving up two runs in 2/3 of an inning and taking the loss. There was promise in 2019 and 2021 in the minors but he is not the kind of player who will make much of an impact.
Aside from the rumours above surrounding the potential new DH the Jays have also been linked with the St Louis Cardinals Dylan Carlson. The outfielder was third in the rookie of the year voting in the National League back in 2021. A switch hitter, he had a poor 2023 before his season ended through injury but at the age of 25, there is enough upside to think that he would be a solid addition.
With Matt Chapman being out of contract there could be interest in Eugenio Suarez. He certainly has plenty of pop in the bat but strikeout numbers have regularly made for ugly reading. That might not matter so much if he can stick 25-30 balls over the wall in the season. His .980 fielding percentage at the hot corner in 2023 was well above his career average.
Starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto looks set to make the move to the MLB from Japan. The Blue Jays have been talked up as a potential landing spot for the ace whose ERA’s are miniscule the last few years but they will have to fight off competition from both New York clubs for a pitcher who will be in demand for those looking to push for a World Series title.
This has been the marquee division of the entire MLB for a long time. While that has tended to be the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox in the past, the times have moved on with the Sox not taking the East since their World Series winning 2018 team. Although the Yankees won the division in 2019 and 2022, they are their only two wins in the last 11 years.
Blue Jays fans have seen a single East win (2015) since winning it all in 1993 with that year their 4th East title in a five year span. The Tampa Bay Rays picked up the mantle in 2020 and 2021 before the Baltimore Orioles came of age this year.
There is little doubt that the division will continue to be just as competitive in 2024 as it always is, which means there is no margin for error when it comes to the Blue Jays making their way into the postseason. The Orioles have a young core who could dominate over the next few years so the front office needs to find a way to allow the Jays to compete with them.
There was one decent prospect who made his major league debut for the Blue Jays in 2023 with the potential for more to come in 2024. The farm system generally ranks in the bottom half of all the MLB teams but there is still some promise to be found amongst those who have either just made their debut or should be doing so next season.
2023 saw the debut of Davis Schneider who made an immediate impact at Fenway against the Red Sox in early August. In three games he went 9-14, hit two home runs and drove in five. He cooled off a little as the league got to know him better, six of his eight dingers coming in August along with 14 of his 20 RBI. There is plenty of power in the bat which will be a big help in 2024.
The number one prospect in the current Blue Jays system is Ricky Tiedemann. He produced a meteoric rise through the ranks in 2023, starting in rookie level, he made his way through A and AA before reaching AAA where he hurled four scoreless innings in a single start for Buffalo. Giving up just three earned runs in his final 13.2 innings of the year, he is very likely to make it into the big leagues at some point during 2024.
Orelvis Martinez is the number two prospect, the infielder has hit 28, 30 and 28 home runs the last three seasons in the minors. He was striking out far too much in 2022 but his figures this year were far better which makes him a prime candidate for promotion to the main roster at some point in 24. He will be 22 next season so there is still plenty of time for him to form into a major leaguer.
Two players who were in AA in 2023 but could make the jump up two steps later in the 2024 season are Alan Roden and Leo Jimenez. In time combined between A+ and AA last season Roden hit for a .317 average with a .430 on base percentage. In a team with plenty of power, a player who can find a way to get on base and do the small things right will be of interest.
Jimenez found things tougher in AAA at Buffalo than he had at the level lower, his slash line reading .287/.372/.436 in his time at AA in 2023. Now that he has had a taste of AAA he should be better equipped to cope in 2024 and it would be no surprise to see him make some impact with the big club next year.
Hope springs eternal as they say and on March 28, all teams will start again with a 0-0 record. As things stand, the Blue Jays are a few pieces short of making up into a genuine World Series contender but there is plenty to look forward to in 2024.
If the Jays can get back to the big bopping hitters that they were in 2022 and keep the pitching and defense at the 2023 level, they would have all the tools together for a run. This might be a little on the wishful thinking side but there is plenty to like about the current team.
The big question that is going to have to be answered over the winter will come if there is no agreement made with the players who are now free agents. The likes of Chapman and Kiermaier will be a big loss to the club who will find it hard to replace the fielding work of a pair of gold glove winners.
A big bat in the lineup looks the biggest concern that has to be addressed. Brandon Belt was impressive in his sole year in Toronto but in a team where Guerrero leads the way, Belt should not have made quite such the impression he did. The fact he was one of the most prominent offensive talents in 2023 says a lot about the lack of batting in the team.
There is without a doubt a lot of pressure on Vlad to lead the team and return to his 2021 form that saw him hit 48 home runs and drive in 111. Runner-up in the MVP voting that season, he has that talent in there, he just needs to find it again.
Can the Toronto Blue Jays win the 2024 World Series? Of course they can, but it seems a little unlikely at this stage unless there are some holes filled. In a deep and supremely competitive division, standing still is actually going backwards as the Yankees found last season. Too much dependance on a single star there cost them dearly.
That could be seen as an issue in Toronto as well, with Vlad goes the team. A full year of Danny Jansen in 2024 would be a big plus, he was having a superb season before his campaign was cut short.
It feels like a World Series team is bubbling just under the surface in Toronto, it just needs to find a path. That will only come with smart additions from the front office. March 28 seems a long way off a present but it will come around fast, it should be a very interesting off season.