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SWING AND A MISS: The Blue Jays' disappointing 2023 season and what lies forward

Breaking down what lies forward for the Blue Jays after a disappointing 2023

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Blue Jays beat author Rob Longley breaks down what lies forward for the Blue Jays after a disappointing 2023

PART 1: Blue Jays entrance workplace faces important low season of fence-mending and extra

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A season that slams to an finish in clear underachievement is at all times going to be punctuated with disappointment, disillusion and frustration.

It’s the character {of professional} sports activities, an everlasting value of fandom and the problem dealing with each championship-minded entrance workplace..

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However, to parrot the staff’s personal lofty advertising slogan, the aspirational 2023 Toronto Blue Jays took these sentiments subsequent degree over a tumultuous season that crash-landed as soon as once more in spectacular playoff defeat.

Regardless of projections and betting odds touting them as World Sequence contenders, because the Fall Traditional is about to start this weekend, the Jays have been carried out for 3 weeks now.

The early and meek exit left a lot to ponder from a staff that gained three fewer video games than it did in 2022 and two fewer than 2021, have been much less dynamic offensively and punctuated the failures with a collection of self-made public-relations disasters.

And it set the stage for a important low season for an embattled entrance workplace, a course of that can ramp up rapidly following the conclusion of the World Sequence.

The fallout after getting swept away by the Minnesota Twins in a best-of-three AL wild-card debacle was as bombastic as we’ve seen round this staff within the eight-year reign of president Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins.

And the whodunit ingredient of the how and why of starter Jose Berrios’ early elimination from the Recreation 2 clincher outlined a lot of what infuriated followers about this staff.

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The ache of defeat degenerated right into a blame recreation with supervisor John Schneider suggesting post-game that his arms have been tied, Atkins throwing him underneath the bus three days later and Shapiro suggesting it is perhaps time to hug all of it out.

Which will take a while for a staff that turned much less likeable the deeper the season slipped into the morass, a frustration sharper than it has been since 2019.

In no explicit order, the Jays’ hyper-engaged fan base turned fed up with the staff’s offensive struggles, the maddening incapacity to get on a sizzling streak and a entrance workplace that, at minimal, appeared elusive with the reality, avoiding transparency at each flip.

So staff turmoil it has been — and never simply externally.

Gamers have been brazenly important of the Berrios boondoggle within the Twin Cities, each on and off the report. Many, in truth, have been incensed at the way it performed out.

“There was positively some confusion from the gamers as to what was happening,” Whit Merrifield advised the Foul Territory podcast. “I don’t know what occurs behind these doorways, behind the coach’s doorways. I simply know what was communicated to us. I do know the analytics division is fairly concerned.”

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I do not know what occurs behind these doorways, behind the coach’s doorways. I simply know what was communicated to us. I do know the analytics division is fairly concerned.

Whit Merrifield

In equity, the Jays are removed from distinctive in such technique, as we’ve seen at varied factors this post-season. However the communications breakdown that shrouded the occasions in Minny didn’t sit properly.

And now, with quite a lot of free brokers doubtlessly on the way in which out, the baseball operations braintrust faces a mammoth problem of avoiding an extra regression from a staff that had such promise.

Alongside the way in which, they’ll must regain belief of an aggravated fanbase and mend the disconnect between entrance workplace and clubhouse.

Hardly ever is the scenario ever fairly as unhealthy because it appears within the rapid glare of a defeat, however the way in which the turbulent season performed out and in the end ended has left a mark.

“This season was a grind,” Shapiro stated in his season-ending information convention, a presidential tackle that was half state of the union, half injury management after Atkins’ combative stab on the identical just a few days earlier.

“It was not simple. It was extraordinarily irritating and it was difficult. We nonetheless gained 89 video games … however I’ve been within the recreation 32 years and I can’t keep in mind a season that felt prefer it was extra of an effort.”

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Inform that to the fan base, who flooded to the Rogers Centre three-million sturdy in 2023 and who anticipated greater than the boozy buzz from the brand new outfield ingesting dens.

The outdated baseball rallying level of enjoying “significant September baseball” rings hole for a staff that has been swept away in wild-card appearances in 2020, 2022 and 2023. Even worse, a staff that had vowed improved defence and a focus to element could be the ticket to do injury within the playoffs, was ill-equipped to take action.

Constructed to maintain the grind of a 162-game season and qualify for the saturated MLB post-season? Certain. Constructed for championship baseball the place energy performs and clutch scoring is at a premium? Not but, it might appear.

“The purpose is to play deeper into October,” Shapiro stated. “I believe at one level, enjoying significant video games in September was in all probability sufficient. That’s not sufficient anymore.”

No, it most actually shouldn’t be. And, with the important thing gamers all protected of their jobs, what comes subsequent might go a good distance in evaluating the Shapiro-Atkins legacy and the way for much longer it performs.

Photo illustration of Jays GM Ross Atkins sliding in safe at home plate.
GM Ross Atkins’ job is protected despite the fact that the Blue Jays failed in controversial style in opposition to the Twins within the playoffs. Photograph by TORONTO SUN PHOTO ILLUSTRATION

PART 2: Protected throughout, however it’s time for braintrust to show promise into productiveness

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Protected within the dugout, protected within the baseball operations division and protected within the presidential suite. Protected throughout.

Is anybody within the Blue Jays group on the clock?

For now — and at the least yet one more season — the reply isn’t any because the Rogers Communications overlords have opted for establishment heading into 2024. And, regardless of the response to the notable underachievement in 2023, there may be some sense to letting the present administration group end what they began.

That isn’t to say there aren’t some adjustments to be made within the staff’s messaging and communication of its decision-making course of — each from the baseball operations division to recreation workers and from coaches to gamers.

Till spring coaching arrives — pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report someplace round Feb. 12 — the questions and second-guessing will linger.

High of the checklist is the query of how a staff keen on amplifying its dedication to course of, accountability and collaboration combined its messages so dramatically.

In per week of excessive drama, the fallout to the Jose Berrios post-season catastrophe received ugly. It was miniseries materials as supervisor John Schneider gently shifted the onus to the baseball operations division, GM Ross Atkins shifted it again to Schneider (earlier than saying that his supervisor would return) whereas staff president Mark Shapiro labored at smoothing the waters by deeming everybody else was accountable.

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You couldn’t make any of it up.

However when the in-house dysfunction goes public, it’s clear there may be work to do. Gamers discover and get pissed off and the fallout takes time to dissipate and dominates the chatter regardless of an low season with a lot on the work order.

The primary voice within the blame recreation was Schneider — usually the one left to articulate the entrance workplace’s messes. Clearly crushed within the aftermath of the 2-0 loss to the Twins to finish the season, Schneider was refined and wise in describing the Berrios affair.

“You’ll be able to sit right here and second-guess me, second-guess the group, second-second-guess anyone,” Schneider stated in Minneapolis inside an hour off his staff’s elimination. “I get that.”

You’ll be able to sit right here and second-guess me, second-guess the group, second-second-guess anyone.

John Schneider

Warmth of the second, certain, but eyebrow-raising stuff nonetheless. The mayhem, it seems, was simply getting began.

Quite than fly house following the sport, the Jays remained in Minnesota and those who returned to Toronto didn’t accomplish that till Thursday, Oct. 6. After a day to soak up the wrath being rained down on the entrance workplace, a still-hot Atkins was trotted out to face the media on the Saturday morning of Thanksgiving weekend.

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After which all hell broke free.

Combative and defensive, the GM didn’t maintain again in deflecting the blame away from the tall foreheads in his division to the uniformed commandos within the clubhouse and dugout.

Among the many gems delivered from the Jays press convention room within the bowels of the Rogers Centre:

“I’ve 100% confidence that it’s not front-office stress,” Atkins stated, when requested if Schneider felt warmth to make the in-game name on Berrios.

On wiping his arms of the implementation and execution of recreation plans:

“These conferences are John Schneider’s conferences,” Atkins stated of the method that led to the early Berrios hook. “The group is the workers that’s on the sphere. It’s not the entrance workplace. I don’t attend these conferences and I actually don’t make these choices.”

Out of the blue, a communications technique designed to have the gloomy season obituary buried beneath the turkey and stuffing of the Canadian lengthy weekend, as an alternative turned a tawdry present destined to drive the low season narrative.

As Thanksgiving feasts go, it was a mouthful for an agitated fan base and a still-unnerved group of gamers to digest.

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Crew personnel we spoke with have been incredulous at Atkins’ public stance. Response ranged from the assumption that such ideas must be handled internally relatively than from a podium watched eagerly by a fan base ready for blood to incredulity from some gamers that the GM would so overtly hold his supervisor out to dry.

Do not forget that on the night time it occurred, gamers reportedly had their supervisor’s again, making it identified that the choice to take away Berrios wasn’t fully pushed by the skipper’s instincts.

In the meantime, in his public debrief, Atkins had a possibility to appease the angst surrounding his staff relatively than inflame it.

And the loopy factor? His clear dodging of blame for the Berrios affair all however muted his purely salient level {that a} staff was by no means going to win a playoff collection scoring simply two runs.

Associated Tales

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There at all times can be a disconnect between a entrance workplace and a clubhouse/locker room in any sport, however when the hole widens to a chasm, it will possibly change into a difficulty. That stated, how the staff responds within the months between the conclusion of the World Sequence and the beginning of spring coaching can be telling.

Whereas there’ll little doubt be some minor adjustments on the teaching workers — seemingly on the hitting aspect, plus the alternative of retiring third base coach Luis Rivera — the primary decision-makers stay in place.

That is the way it must be for a staff that also has a robust core in place and a supervisor with upside who continues to be taught on the job.

However on the identical time, there may be work to carried out as outlined by Shapiro in his mop-up press convention 5 days after the Atkins debacle.

“We should be extra open,” Shapiro stated. “We should be extra clear about who the persons are which are within the room and the data that’s offered to our workers and John earlier than every recreation.

“We have to get higher.”

Injury management by the president and CEO? In fact. However maybe foreboding for a regime — one staked with a franchise-record payroll, keep in mind — overdue on delivering significant outcomes past the primary week of October.

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Gabriel Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. of the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrate in the clubhouse.
Gabriel Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. of the Arizona Diamondbacks rejoice within the clubhouse. Getty Photographs

PART 3: It was Bye-Bye Blue Jays, whats up World Sequence for 2 Diamondbacks

The 2023 World Sequence will start 383 days after Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Gabriel Moreno have been successfully completed as Blue Jays, their time in Toronto ending quietly with the one Main League Baseball staff they’d identified.

Moreno was the third catcher on the Jays staff that suffered an epic collapse in opposition to the Seattle Mariners, Gurriel left off the doomed playoff roster because of harm.

The next expulsion of these two, plus Teoscar Hernandez being dealt to Seattle, have been the triggers of a thematic change to the Jays roster that didn’t precisely money in.

However life couldn’t be extra totally different now for Gurriel and Moreno, two vital items for the Nationwide League-champion Arizona Diamondbacks, who will start play within the World Sequence on Friday in Texas.

Nor for the Jays, fairly clearly.

“You’ll be able to’t consider a commerce within the quick time period,” staff president Mark Shapiro stated earlier this month, referring to the transfer that introduced outfielder Daulton Varsho to the Jays. “You’ve received to present it 4 or 5 years to grasp whether or not a commerce was efficient or not.

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“Over the season I nonetheless really feel like that was a great commerce.”

It’s, nevertheless, a deal that will hang-out the Jays for the higher a part of a decade.

Shapiro’s rationale apart, ought to the Diamondbacks knock off the Rangers within the best-of-seven championship collection, it’s an on the spot loss for the Jays — and a relatively important one.

Over the season, I nonetheless really feel like that was a great commerce.

Mark Shapiro on the Daulton Varsho deal

Put it merely: A commerce designed to assist carry the Jays to a Fall Traditional as early as this 12 months, as an alternative did the identical to the opposite get together within the transaction.

However this isn’t one other hot-take swing on the low-hanging fruit submission that the Ross Atkins-orchestrated deal was the worst in membership historical past as a result of it seemingly isn’t.

It does, nevertheless, additional sting within the aftermath of a Jays playoff “run” that lasted all of two video games (once more) with two runs scored. The truth that Moreno and Gurriel, hitting excessive within the D-backs order, actually gives some painful piling on.

The actual fact is the Jays felt the results of the commerce lengthy earlier than Arizona launched its unlikely cruise by the Brewers, Dodgers and Phillies.

It began in spring coaching, when catcher Alejandro Kirk reported late after awaiting the start of his first little one and clearly not in bodily situation to start such an vital season in his profession. Kirk by no means really recovered and, though he was nice defensively, regressed considerably on the plate.

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Danny Jansen, the secure determine on the catcher place, as soon as once more battled harm in 2023 and continued a irritating profession development of unhealthy luck regardless of some renewed energy and manufacturing on the plate.

The truth that the Jays felt that they have been stable sufficient on the catcher place to swap a high prospect for a nook outfielder looks as if a gross miscalculation — and never simply in hindsight.

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Circling again to Moreno, his efficiency this post-season is exactly what was feared by his supporters each in and outdoors of the Toronto group.

His elite defensive expertise have earned rave evaluations on the Snakes’ magical October run and the blossoming efficiency has included some slugging on the plate, a characteristic not usually on show throughout his days growing within the minors.

Moreno has been comfy and productive in key conditions whereas hitting third within the D-backs lineup. Varsho, in the meantime, began his Jays profession hitting cleanup, however plunged all the way in which to ninth, the place he was a non-factor 0-for-5 within the abbreviated playoff loss to the Twins.

(We interrupt the Moreno love-in to notice that we consider appreciable upside stays in Varsho, an elite defender with game-changing ability within the outfield. He’s younger, has room to enhance and may hit for energy, albeit far too erratically.)

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Moreno, nevertheless, is the kind of participant who could possibly be a difference-maker and an all-star for years. There’s a purpose there would have been heated debate amongst Jays executives about dealing the 23-year-old Venezuelan. Those who noticed the upside would definitely have feared parting with the membership’s top-ranked prospect, a home-grown expertise touted for distinctive issues.

He will be the reward that retains on giving for his new staff, a actuality that has the potential to hang-out Atkins and Shapiro lengthy after they go away Toronto.

It actually didn’t assist that Gurriel was included as a throw-in, although let’s not lapse into revisionist historical past about his star energy with the Jays.

Whereas fashionable within the dugout, Gurriel was usually a legal responsibility within the outfield place now aced by Varsho and was wildly inconsistent on the plate. His 2022 numbers have been modest due to a nagging wrist harm that was surgically repaired within the low season.

The 24 house runs in Arizona have been a profession excessive for the Cuban, who can be a free agent subsequent month. He was actually a fan favorite in Toronto and the 2021 model of Gurriel, anyway, was one which match properly in a extra electrical Toronto offence.

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And now he’ll be part of Moreno in dealing with the Rangers and former teammate Marcus Semien, within the showcase occasion of the game and, with it, the potential for a nightly revisit of the most important transfer of a 2022 Jays low season that proved fruitless.

Grade the commerce in 4 years all you need, but when the Diamondbacks stroll away with a World Sequence title in Yr 1, it’s going to really feel like a swapping swindle for the ages.

Manoah and Schneider
Blue Jays supervisor John Schneider sheepishly takes the ball from starter Alek Manoah within the sixth inning on the Rogers Centre on Might 20, 2023. Photograph by Mark Blinch /Getty Photographs

PART 4: Communication breakdowns a nuisance and distraction in irritating season

Lengthy earlier than the blame for the spectacular exit to the playoffs was scattered to numerous touchdown spots across the Blue Jays, it was a season pockmarked with combined messages from the staff.

In contrast to so many in-game conditions after they had runners in scoring place, the off-field hits simply stored on coming.

The place to begin with a company that at occasions gave the impression to be so protecting of the reality that it bordered on paranoia?

Working backwards from how the choice was dealt with to take away Jose Berrios from the ill-fated Recreation 2 of the wildcard collection in opposition to the Twins, to the enduring thriller of the Alek Manoah struggles, to the elusive and distasteful bungling of the Anthony Bass affair, the examples of miscommunication piled up.

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To various levels, every of these conditions created emotions of frustration within the clubhouse, particularly when escalated to the purpose of distraction to the on-field duties at hand.

The staff’s ongoing grapple with transparency reached a head at Ross Atkins’ spectacular post-season press availability, when the final supervisor was defensive in describing what went down within the Twin Cities. Quite than contrition, a heated Atkins opted for re-distributing the blame throughout his Thanksgiving weekend summit on the Rogers Centre, an act that didn’t play properly.

Clearly nonetheless wounded from the important response to his staff’s abbreviated stab at post-season baseball, Atkins was antagonistic at ideas the staff was over-managed by the entrance workplace and dismissed the notion that meddling from his workers led to Berrios getting yanked after three-plus innings of excellent beginning pitching.

It could have been the final such disruptive act of the 2023 season, however it was removed from the one incident the place the messaging from the entrance workplace ranged from elusive to convoluted.

Within the open wound of the rapid publish recreation defeat, gamers weren’t shy about questioning the decision in the end made by supervisor John Schneider, however clearly urged they believed its genesis was within the baseball operations division.

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The combined indicators that emerged within the days that adopted was in line with a collection of public relations commotions to come up throughout a 2023 season that at occasions was extra irritating than fruitful.

The membership’s dealing with of the Manoah mess was confounding at greatest, and, at worst disruptive to his teammates grinding by a season. A Cy Younger Award finalist and all star the earlier season, one thing was clearly off with Manoah from his opening day begin in St. Louis, a startlingly poor  effort.

Manoah’s first demotion was comparatively straight ahead, an project to the Florida Complicated League in June that the pitcher could not have appreciated, however was a transfer designed to find out the basis of his struggles and get him again on observe.

To assist spell an arm-weary four-man rotation (which uncovered the Jays lack of beginning depth) Manoah was recalled simply previous to the all-star break. However after six extra appearances with no clear proof of a return to his high type, the large proper hander was despatched to Buffalo for a second demotion.

Or so we have been advised. Bother was, Manoah didn’t report instantly and in reality by no means threw a pitch for the triple-A Bisons earlier than his season was shut down.

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Honest sufficient, however the messaging put Schneider in an uncomfortable place when he was routinely requested about Manoah throughout his each day classes with the media. At occasions, it felt like Schneider was sheepishly left to take the warmth for the entrance workplace because the light-on-details drama performed out.

It’s instructive to notice right here that as a rule Schneider is up entrance and insightful in his dealings with the media, a twice-daily a part of his job description that needed to be tedious some days. It will probably’t at all times be a straightforward process provided that he serves and protects each the entrance workplace and the gamers, however Schneider handles it with appreciable aplomb.

The Bass debacle, in the meantime, was weird from the outset and made worse when the staff bungled the dealing with of the mess. The reliever was a colossal distraction following his ill-conceived endorsement of anti-LGBTQ sentiment on social media.

After two weeks of drama, the staff lastly parted methods with Bass – calling it a “baseball determination”, thoughts you – a day earlier than their conventional Pleasure week celebration. Although many on the staff didn’t respect Bass’s attention-seeking exercise on social media, they weren’t impressed in how the scenario was dealt with by the entrance workplace.

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“Can we simply get on with baseball?” was the response of 1 staff member. “All we wish to do is deal with baseball and the flexibility to do this has been compromised. It’s a serious distraction.”

There was greater than a kind of annoyances in 2023 for a Jays staff that struggled to achieve potential and didn’t want the nuisance of uncomfortable conditions being mishandled to the purpose of diversion.

George Springer of the Blue Jays reacts to a wild pitch against the Twins during the seventh inning in Game 2 of the wild-card series at Target Field on Oct. 4, 2023 in Minneapolis.
George Springer of the Blue Jays reacts to a wild pitch in opposition to the Twins. Photograph by Adam Bettcher /GETTY IMAGES

PART 5: How the Blue Jays offence was compromised by bats in regression

In his season-ending information convention, Blue Jays president and CEO president Mark Shapiro didn’t title the responsible events — in all probability as a result of there was no want.

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“There have been gamers that fell quick and that led to one of many largest challenges watching night time in and night time out,” Shapiro stated in evaluating his staff’s offensive shortcomings. “We had three or 4 gamers that fell wanting what we projected.”

Those that watched the staff all through the 162-game season and transient playoff cameo have been properly conscious of the villains.

From Vlad Guerrero Jr., who has now had back-to-back seasons of regression, to Alejandro Kirk, who dropped off noticeably, to new man Daulton Varsho and veteran George Springer, the large hits didn’t carry on coming.

Every of these within the flailing foursome had their very own points in 2023, as we look at beneath.

VLAD GUERRERO JR.

The 12 months really appeared to start with promise for the 24-year-old slugging first baseman as he reported to spring coaching in fine condition, his preparations accelerated in anticipation of main the Dominican Republic within the World Baseball Traditional.

A few of that momentum was stunted when Guerrero suffered a minor harm to his proper knee that stored him out of motion for 2 weeks.

From then on, it was an uneven season for Guerrero, whose manufacturing fell properly wanting his profession breakout in 2021, type that now looks as if a distant reminiscence.

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Was it a nagging knee harm that restricted the gifted first baseman to 26 homers, six fewer than the earlier season, and a whopping 22 in arrears of that sensational 2021 marketing campaign?

Have been there too many teaching voices in his head, muddling his strategy?

Was it lack of plate self-discipline to adapt as pitchers attacked him aggressively?

All of those questions will want solutions this winter. When the spotlight of your season is profitable the House Run Derby, there may be work to be carried out.

ALEJANDRO KIRK

Underneath the glare of Gabriel Moreno’s emergence as a key part of the NL champion Arizona Diamondbacks and Danny Jansen’s harm woes, Kirk’s struggles in 2023 really feel even worse.

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However for an excessive amount of of the season it wasn’t fairly for Kirk, whose emergence as an vital bat within the Jays’ lineup the earlier season by no means returned.

It began when Kirk arrived in camp late whereas awaiting the start of his little one again. When he did present up, he was in less-than-desirable situation.

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Kirk’s numbers have been down throughout the board as he usually appeared misplaced on the plate. The native of Tijuana, Mexico, managed simply eight house runs (six fewer than in 2022), drove in 43 runs (in comparison with 63) and hit .250 (vs. 285.) At age 24, Kirk continues to be younger sufficient to show it round and suffered from the affliction of many younger hitters: An incapacity to adapt to how opposing pitchers assault him.

However the surprising downturn was an surprising blow to a entrance workplace that had misplaced curiosity in holding Moreno because the staff’s catcher of the long run.

DAULTON VARSHO

As if residing within the midst of the Jays’ docile exit from the playoffs wasn’t sufficient, seeing his former staff, the Diamondbacks, surge by October needed to really feel like a kick within the groin to Varsho.

When the Jays dealt Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to the D-backs for Varsho, they weren’t doing it for his bat. As a substitute, they felt they’d revolutionize their outfield with the elite defence that Varsho lived as much as — after which some.

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However they didn’t count on the 27-year-old to be a legal responsibility on the plate. Do not forget that this can be a participant that batted cleanup on opening day, however had labored his technique to the underside of the order by season’s finish.

Varsho did that by seeing his common dip to .220 from .235 in his closing season within the desert. He did handle 20 house runs, however that was a dip in energy from the earlier season and, given the decline from others round him, it felt much more pricey.

The Jays actually don’t want Varsho to guide their offence, however they’ll’t afford for him to be a legal responsibility, both.

GEORGE SPRINGER

When the Jays signed Springer to a six-year, $150-million US deal in 2021, there was at all times the expectation the again finish wouldn’t be as fruitful because the entrance.

However what if there was a regression in Yr 3?

To his credit score, Springer was the healthiest he’s been in years, enjoying in 154 video games and appeared to thrive defensively out in proper subject.

On the plate he wasn’t so sturdy, nevertheless, as Springer was inconsistent at occasions and appeared misplaced at others, most notably throughout an 0-for-35 stretch in late July. It received so unhealthy that the 2017 World Sequence MVP was dropped from the leadoff place by supervisor John Schneider, a demotion that didn’t sit properly with Springer.

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His energy was usually lacking as properly, as Springer managed simply 21 homers, his lowest complete as a Jay. The ability outage resulted in a single fewer lengthy ball than in 2021, his first season with Toronto, when the previous Astros star appeared in solely 78 video games.

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins speaks to reporters during an end-of-season media availability at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ont. on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022.
Blue Jays common supervisor Ross Atkins speaks to reporters throughout an end-of-season media availability on the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ont. on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022. Photograph by Ernest Doroszuk /TORONTO SUN

PART 6: Physique of labor of Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins can be put to check this winter

Within the closing a part of a six-part collection, Rob Longley breaks down what lies forward for the Blue Jays after a disappointing 2023

“The physique of labor,” Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro says, “is simple.”

Shapiro was talking about his longtime sidekick and common supervisor for the previous eight seasons, Ross Atkins. He additionally was utilizing the platform of his season-ending information convention to place out fires lit giant somewhat greater than per week after his staff went up in flames in one of many extra dramatic and irritating season endings in franchise historical past.

Whereas the boss’ phrases served as an endorsement for Atkins to proceed his work in Toronto, what is also simple is that every one indicators level to what awaits being the GM’s most vital and maybe difficult winter but.

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And whereas we’re on the “simple” thread, the tough actuality is {that a} staff that has made the playoffs three of the previous 4 seasons has been swept away in every of these. It’s a group but to win a post-season contest with a roster constructed by the Atkins-led entrance workplace.

So after this previous season’s blueprint for betterment resulted as an alternative in regression — regardless of the very fact the Jays had among the finest pitching teams in baseball — Atkins faces a stout problem to remake an offence able to complementing that defensive excellence.

And it most actually gained’t be simple.

With a fist stuffed with gamers about to change into free brokers, there are important holes to fillfrom the seemingly departure of Matt Chapman at third base, to the anticipated exits of Brandon Belt, Whit Merrifield, Kevin Kiermaier and extra, Atkins will should be each inventive and productive.

He’ll additionally should discover a manner to enhance his staff at a number of positions and, with restricted inner choices on the prepared, accomplish that from a free-agent class that gained’t precisely have a lot of his fellow common managers salivating over the menu.

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On high of the apparent need checklist, the Jays entrance workplace might want to get its home so as after the noisy exit to the playoffs, one through which gamers brazenly questioned the choice to take away Jose Berrios from Recreation 2 of the ill-fated collection in opposition to the Minnesota Twins. The communication breakdown that surrounded it made issues worse, a failing that surfaced all too usually in 2023.

And hanging over all of it is the query of whether or not the present regime can survive yet one more 12 months of regression and playoff disappointment.

To his credit score — and to the purpose of Shapiro’s ongoing advocacy — Atkins did assemble a staff that averaged 91 wins over the previous three seasons, elevating a gifted younger core to contender standing. Throughout his eight-year tenure, Atkins meticulously (and at occasions ruthlessly) oversaw the transition from the John Gibbons-Jose Bautista-Josh Donaldson playoff seasons of 2015-2016 to a younger staff constructed for sustainable success. He has cycled by two managers and revamped many corners of the operation.

Now, nevertheless, the Jays run the chance of being lapped by different younger groups, all of the whereas watching a pair of golf equipment — the Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks — who had 100-plus losses simply two seasons in the past battle for the World Sequence.

Signed to a five-year extension in 2021, Atkins and his baseball operations workers nonetheless have the means to salvage this. The core continues to be in place, the pitching workers has the makings of being elite, particularly if Alek Manoah returns to type, and there seems to be loads of Rogers Communications cash to spend.

How lengthy the vault stays open stays to be seen after the staff already squandered a report payroll in 2023. Though, within the short-term, there seems to be extra the place that got here from.

“I don’t count on a dramatical philosophical shift in payroll subsequent 12 months,” stated Shapiro, understandably mild on the monetary particulars from the communications mothership. “I count on it to say in the identical space for now.”

With that, all indicators level to there being one other critical Atkins-led stab at this. Piling on to the problem is the looming process of re-signing home-grown stars Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, who all of the sudden are down to simply two years of membership management.

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The plain rapid precedence, in the meantime, is to find a lift to re-ignite on offence that was such a legal responsibility all through the 2023 season and right into a short-lived playoff season that yielded only one run over two video games.

Moreover diminishing the leisure worth of the Jays, the drop in manufacturing has been precipitous: From 846 runs in 2021, which was third greatest within the majors, to 775 in 2022 (fourth) to 746 (14th.)

“We didn’t rating sufficient and we didn’t attain our targets,” Atkins stated in succinct acknowledgement of his staff shortcomings. “It was extraordinarily painful for me. This has been one of the crucial irritating occasions in my profession.”

And now the duty is to keep away from extra such angst. One of the vital difficult of off-seasons he has confronted in his profession.

That physique of labor Shapiro lauded is in truth a piece in progress at a important stage.

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