A Christmas Wish List for the Toronto Blue Jays

Photo credit:Getty Images
Tyson Shushkewich
3 months ago
The Toronto Blue Jays haven’t had the most exciting offseason yet, aside from being involved in the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, which ended with the Japanese star staying in California.
Besides recently signing Paolo Espino (likely to a MiLB deal) and trading for Brendon Little, the Jays’ front office has stood pat. However, that’s not for lack of trying, as the market hasn’t moved quickly this offseason, aside from Jeimer Candelario, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and Aaron Nola signing deals, among a handful of others, including former Blue Jays outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
There are still plenty of names out there that fit the Blue Jays’ needs. Considering most of them are Scott Boras’s clients, we are likely looking into next year before any of them put ink to paper. Now that the Ohtani and Yamamoto deals are in place, there will likely be a flurry of movements after the holiday season.
While signing or trading for some players to improve the squad is definitely on the Jays’ wish list, a few things that would help the 2024 squad can also be done internally. With Christmas right around the corner (and albeit a bit late, with the big guy ready to take flight soon), here is a last-minute Christmas wish list for the Toronto Blue Jays this holiday season.

Sign Cody Bellinger

On the free-agent market, there isn’t a player that checks off more boxes for what the Jays currently need than Cody Bellinger.
Left-handed hitter? Check. Outfielder who can play first base? Check. Plus power? Check.
Given the weak free-agent class, it’s not surprising that Bellinger is still on the board, especially since his camp is looking for a deal around or above the $200 million mark. Considering he boasted strong numbers in 2023 (.307/.356/.525 slash line with 26 home runs and a .881 OPS), there is some merit behind a deal of that nature, although his rocky past is likely making the decision a bit more difficult. His previous three seasons with the Dodgers saw the former NL MVP take a nosedive to the point where he was non-tendered by Los Angeles last winter, generating a crazy amount of swings and misses while struggling to put the ball in play.
Banking on the 2023 season being the norm for Bellinger moving forward, with the Blue Jays sitting idle so far and numerous gaps on the field with players heading to free agency, adding the Arizona product makes a lot of sense if the price is right. With a fanbase looking for a transaction of any sort and the disappointment of the Ohtani saga, adding the hard-hitting outfielder will hopefully put the organization back into good graces heading into next season.

Alek Manoah and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. have bounce-back seasons

The 2023 season was a disaster class for Alek Manoah, as the 2022 AL Cy Young finalist could not find a groove on the mound and struggled to a 5.87 ERA through 19 starts while walking batters at a 6.1 BB/9 clip. These struggles resulted in Manoah spending time at the Florida Complex League and eventually down in Buffalo to end the season, although he pretty much finished on the IL, considering he didn’t report and instead got injections in his throwing arm to round out the year.
These struggles and the perception of a rocky relationship between club and player have the 6-foot-6 right-hander looking to earn a rotation spot this Spring. Whether the pitch clock impacted his campaign or he simply ran out of gas, Manoah is looking to regain his form this season, and the Blue Jays will need all the help they can get in a stacked AL East division. If his offseason workouts are any indication, the West Virginia alum is trending in the right direction, which will hopefully see him regain his rotation spot and put behind the demons that were last season.
Another player looking to bounce back in 2024 is Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Like Manoah, Guerrero Jr. has been working hard this offseason, and considering he still put up respectable numbers in 2023 (.264 average with 26 home runs and a .788 OPS), fans are still looking for that next level from the first baseman, especially since everybody knows what Guerrero Jr. is capable of given his MVP-worthy campaign back in 2021.
If Guerrero Jr. can find that power and ability to get on base as he did a few seasons ago, the Blue Jays offense will surely benefit, considering the club is currently missing some power from the lineup compared to last season. That will also help his baseline, considering he is just two seasons away from potentially testing free-agent waters.

Danny Jansen staying healthy for an entire season

Danny Jansen could not catch a break last season. The Blue Jays catcher had two different stints on the IL, including a groin strain in May that saw him miss a couple of weeks before finishing the year on the IL due to a right middle finger fracture from getting hit by a pitch in the batter’s box (a theme that Jansen had to face all season long).
Jansen has struggled to stay healthy for most of his tenure with the Jays due to a variety of injuries, and hopefully, that can stay in the past, considering he is in a contract walk year. When healthy, Jansen provides that extra pop from the right side of the batter’s box and forms a strong tandem behind the plate with battery mate Alejandro Kirk. Considering the catching depth behind the two is not at its strongest, a healthy Jansen benefits both player and club this season in a year where postseason aspirations are at an all-time high.

A repeat of a healthy rotation

Last year, the Toronto Blue Jays had four starters go 30+ starts and log over 742.1 innings collectively while the club utilized just eight pitchers to start ballgames (and one of them was just to make sure Kevin Gausman didn’t pitch on the last day of the year). Gausman finished in the top three in AL Cy Young voting, Chris Bassitt broke the 200 innings pitched mark, and both Yusei Kikuchi and José Berríos had bounce-back campaigns this past year while the collective group ranked well on multiple pitching fronts with Manoah and Hyun Jin Ryu thrown in as well.
That being said, a repeat of this rotation staying on the mound would go a long way next season, especially since teams across the MLB have seen their fair share of rotation arms hitting the IL with a multitude of arm injuries over the past year. The Jays’ pitching corps was one of the bright points of the club this past year and will likely need to find a way to do it again, especially if the front office comes up short on improving the roster this winter.

An internal prospect/player takes control of third base

With Matt Chapman heading to free agency, the Blue Jays’ third base position is currently up for grabs. There is no guarantee that Chapman will return this winter, and from the different viewpoints on social media, some fans are even hoping he doesn’t come back as well (to each their own).
Assuming Chapman takes his talents elsewhere, the Blue Jays would surely benefit if somebody from within the organization could enter Spring Training and just take control of the hot corner versus the club having to find an external solution. That helps save some dollars for the club to utilize elsewhere (assuming they spend in comparison to the 2023 season) and also gives some competition aspect to the spring with multiple players looking to secure a roster spot.
At the big league level, the Jays have Santiago Espinal, Ernie Clement, and Davis Schneider who could slot in at third base, although there is a fair argument that using Espinal or Schneider at second base instead could be more beneficial. On the pipeline, the Jays have top prospect Orelvis Martinez close to the big league level while the likes of Addison Barger, Damiano Palmegiani, and Leo Jimenez will surely be looking to make an impact next year and shouldn’t be counted out for a big league spot.
There is associated risk with employing a rookie or internal option at a position like third base but with the options slim this winter (and a deal for José Ramírez likely not happening), an internal option grabbing the bull by the horns and locking down the role will go a long way for the Blue Jays.

Ricky Tiedemann’s breakout season

Ricky Tiedemann has been dominant on the mound within the Blue Jays farm system since being drafted in 2021, one of the main reasons he is the club’s top-ranked prospect. What was poised to be a big year for Tiedemann last season saw the southpaw miss considerable time on the IL with a biceps injury, limiting him to just 44 innings before taking his talents to the Arizona Fall League to get some more innings under his belt.
Tiedemann likely starts the year in triple-A Buffalo, but a strong start to the year could see him be moved to the big leagues in short order, especially if one of the rotation members falls on the IL or Manoah struggles to find his form again. The Jays don’t possess a ton of depth in the starter’s role (even with the Espino signing), so Tiedemann staying healthy and logging some innings this year will go a long way to what surely will be a big league debut sometime this year.

Extend a core player to a long-term contract

The Toronto Blue Jays have a core of exciting players that are within a stone’s throw away from free agency, including Jansen, Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Jordan Romano.
While each player will command different levels of extension and payroll, the Jays have yet to jump on the long-term extension train like the Mariners (Julio Rodriguez) or the Padres (Tatis Jr.) have done with their homegrown talent.
It’s time for the Blue Jays to jump aboard and lock down at least one of these players this year, which is easier said than done, but keeping Bichette or Guerrero Jr. in a Blue Jays jersey for life will go a long way for the fanbase as well as provide some stability past the 2025 season for what is currently the club’s contending window.
Bring in the Brinks trucks.

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