Checking in on Ross Atkins’ off-season additions
Photo credit:Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
By Nick Prasad4 months ago
After the implosion in last fall’s Wild Card series with the Seattle Mariners, general manager Ross Atkins made a pretty significant shake-up to the Toronto Blue Jays roster.
Atkins made big trades that saw Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel head out the door and Daulton Varsho and Erik Swanson join the team. He was also active on the open market, as the Blue Jays inked Chris Bassitt, Kevin Kiermaier, Brandon Belt, and Chad Green in free agency.
Now that we’re over one month into the season, let’s check in on Atkins’ additions and how they’re contributing to the team’s early success…
The Blue Jays were vigorously active in the offseason, patching holes, building muscle, and mending the vulnerable areas of the roster. It is clear that some acquisitions were phenomenal for the team while a few are still settling in and finding their role. Daulton Varsho by far was Toronto’s most valuable pickup while spending top-shelf collateral. The Blue Jays emphasized all tools of the game with Varsho joining the bluebirds. So far, Varsho has a .231 batting average with 28 hits, 13 RBIs, four home runs, and a .317 on-base percentage. He’s shown his ability to lead the running game with aggressiveness on gap-hit balls along with six stolen bases. His speed and trackability in the outfield have been exceptional. Toronto has won with this deal so far.
Right-hander Chris Bassitt has been a work in progress after a wobbly start and inconsistent outings. In his first three starts, Bassitt allowed 13 earned runs, five home runs, and 17 hits over 15.1 innings. He’s currently 4-2 with a 4.28 ERA and 33 strikeouts over 40 innings. Bassitt showed more stability and self-character in his start on May 5th, going seven innings of shutout baseball, striking out five and only allowing four hits. His performance reflects the dominant Chris Bassitt we know from last year.
Toronto’s third slice of the outfield pie came over in the offseason from the Tampa Bay Rays and Blue Jays fans love him. Kevin Kiermaier has gelled with the team and has shown reliability defensively with spurts of offensive production. His work in the outfield does not go unnoticed and his athleticism is very visible each game he is out there. At the plate, Kiermaier bats a .278 with 10 RBIs on 25 hits along with two dingers, seven walks, and two swiped bags. His ability to find his way onto the pads is what’s valuable about him while he holds a .337 on-base percentage. Kiermaier seems to be a veteran clubhouse guy that sheds light on experience and character, creating a vibe and culture within the team. His postseason experience and AL East experience is unique and transferrable to the Toronto side. This was an iffy addition at first, however, the on-field product has turned out to be better tasting than the idea on paper.
The unfortunate part of the acquisitions so far is Brandon Belt. The Giants veteran came over to the Blue Jays after a colourful 12 seasons in San Francisco. Belt offers great leadership, experience, and structure to the Blue Jays roster, however, the productivity is not there. Belt currently bats a .194 average with a .280 on-base percentage, 13 hits, and seven RBIs, striking out 32 times while walking only eight times. That being said, Belt went 5-for-7 with three extra-base hits during Toronto’s recent series with the Pirates, so there’s some optimism he’s found his groove at the plate.
Looking forward to the future, the Blue Jays bullpen will have Christmas come early as long as health and recuperation is satisfied. Toronto did a bold thing by signing right-hander Chad Green to a two-year contract while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Green may not see the field until around August. If back at full health with status quo performance, the Blue Jays bullpen will flourish as his arsenal and experience is seasoned to assist mid-game for multiple innings as well as the back end of the bullpen. Green can easily be a 6th-7th inning insert for two and has the capabilities of setting it up or closing it out. If all the bells and whistles operate, Green will be a valuable addition to the Jays as they move into September baseball.
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