The Toronto Blue Jays still need to make some moves and fill out their starting lineup for 2024, but with a solid group of young players, there's a lot to like about the franchise.
Toronto was one of three AL East teams to make the postseason last year. However, with the moves that the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, and Boston Red Sox have made this offseason, plus the players coming through the Baltimore Orioles' farm system, the division is once again up for grabs.
Will the Blue Jays finally be able to capitalize in the AL East and take the division crown? Let’s take a look at five topics to follow in the 2024 season and how they will shape Toronto's outlook.
The biggest storyline of this offseason was the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes. The two-way phenom decided to leave the Los Angeles Angels in hope of reaching the postseason for the first time in his career.
Any team would have loved to bring in Ohtani, but by early December, there were only a few teams left in the bidding war for the player expected to smash the record for the sport's biggest contract.
The handful of teams willing to pay the hefty price for Ohtani were the Los Angeles Dodgers, Angels, and Blue Jays.
At one point, fans were convinced that Ohtani was going to the Blue Jays. A rumour began swirling around that Ohtani was on a plane headed to Toronto, but that turned out to be false.
Just a few days after the plane rumour, Ohtani made his decision to stay in Los Angeles and sign with the Dodgers. It was a gut-wrenching loss for Blue Jays fans, who were so close to a once-in-a-generation player.
Plus, Toronto still needs to find a designated hitter with Brandon Belt having entered free agency after the 2023 season. While whoever the Blue Jays get to fill that role will not be as good as Ohtani, there are options available including Rhys Hoskins, Joey Votto, Jorge Soler, and Joey Gallo among others.
Before the Ohtani sweepstakes, the baseball world was captivated by Juan Soto. It was clear that the San Diego Padres wanted to trim their payroll after a disappointing 2023 campaign, and Soto's contract - set to expire after the 2024 season - was the easiest for the team to move.
It didn’t take long for the Yankees to jump in on the mix for the slugger, but trade talks stalled shortly after they started. That’s when the Blue Jays tossed their name into the ring.
The Blue Jays have a plethora of young players who are ready to compete at MLB level, so a trade between Toronto and San Diego wasn’t out of the question.
However, the Yankees beat the Blue Jays to a deal and New York acquired Soto in exchange for several highly-regarded prospects.
Missing out on Soto was unfortunate for Toronto since they have been searching for more power to add to their lineup. Perhaps the worst part about the deal was that Soto is now in the AL East, which means the Blue Jays will see plenty of him this season.
The Yankees took Soto, so the Blue Jays signed former Yankee, Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
Kiner-Falefa is a utility man that can play anywhere on the field and last season for New York, he appeared in left field, center field, right field, second base, shortstop, third base, and he even pitched a little.
The only positions he didn’t play were first base and catcher.
His ability to play wherever gives the Blue Jays a lot of flexibility while Bo Bichette could get more days off since Kiner-Falefa is a solid backup, and it gives the Blue Jays a third baseman in case Matt Chapman signs elsewhere.
Kiner-Falefa's versatility could play a big role in Toronto’s success in 2024.
The core of the Toronto batting order consists of Bo Bichette, George Springer, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Bichette and Springer both had solid 2023 campaigns, but Guerrero’s was a disappointment.
After crushing 46 home runs as a 22-year-old in 2021, Guerrero was considered one of baseball’s rising stars and the next great slugger. However, that season appeared to be his peak - so far, at least - instead of the rise as Guerrero hit only 32 home runs in 2022 and then just 26 homers last season.
Guerrero’s power isn’t completely gone because he hit more doubles in 2022 and 2023 than in 2021, but the long ball has become a problem.
Toronto doesn’t need another doubles hitter - it needs a power bat. Guerrero was once the answer, but with his home-run struggles, it may be time to add another big bat to the Blue Jays lineup.
The Blue Jays don’t have many free agents that need to be re-signed but third-baseman Matt Chapman is still on the market.
Chapman has been the Blue Jays' third baseman for the last two seasons and has cemented himself as one of the best defensive players at his position.
At 30 years old, Chapman has already won four Gold Gloves and two Platinum Gloves but the problem for him last season was at the plate.
Chapman hit .259 with a .807 OPS in the first half of the season but quickly fizzled out after the all-star break. He hit just .205 with a .663 OPS in the second half of the season and his disappointing end to 2023 is the reason that many teams are hesitant about signing him to a long-term contract.
If the Blue Jays re-sign the All-Star third baseman, all eyes will be on his performances at the plate.