Hype around the Blue Jays is down this year — but expectations shouldn’t be

Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Tate Kispech
22 days ago
What an off-season that was. In the span of three-and-a-half months, we went from believing that Shohei Ohtani was destined to sign north of the border, to signing Isiah Kiner-Falefa, to seeing Joey Votto finally come home… to seeing the same Shohei Ohtani… have his interpreter be fired for illegal gambling. Strange doesn’t even begin to describe it. With that being said, where does that leave the team on the field, and where does that leave the fans in the stands heading into 2024?
To state the obvious, this is a team that has to make the playoffs. I don’t care that the division’s probably gotten even more difficult, as notable stars like Corbin Burnes and Juan Soto have come over in trades, and young prospects like Jackson Holliday are coming up on the horizon. They’ve made the playoffs two years in a row, and haven’t won a game in them. That has to get better. Missing the playoffs entirely in Vlad and Bo’s 5th full year would be an utter failure. That being said, I do think they’ll get there.
FanGraphs, though, isn’t so confident. Their model currently thinks that the Blue Jays are more likely to miss than to make, sitting at 48.4% to make the playoffs. That’s 4th in the division, only clear of Boston. That difference is DRAMATIC from last pre-season when the model gave the Jays a 72% chance to make it. To me, that difference illustrates a serious decline in terms of actual on-field performance. That’s no secret. Guerrero, Springer, and Varsho were only a few of the players who failed to live up to expectations in 2023. But what’s truly illustrated in these odds is an incredibly disappointing effort from the front office to make meaningful changes to a roster that wasn’t good enough last year. As much as we’ve seen that anything can happen in the playoffs, and the Jays were perhaps only a change of fortune away from being able to win a playoff game or even a series, they were not one of the better teams in Major League Baseball last season. They did not deserve to win a World Series.

The hopes sure don’t seem to be high for the Jays’ chance to win the World Series this year either. Ever since Ohtani and Soto took their talents to Los Angeles and New York respectively, the off-season has been marred by doom and gloom on social media, and while fans aren’t expecting any less, they’re much less optimistic that those expectations will actually be met. You’ll never want to temper your expectations, but if the fanbase is to be believed, you’ll end up disappointed if you don’t.
It’s not all negatives though. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. looked great throughout the off-season and has absolutely lit up Spring Training to the tune of an OPS over 1.200. John Schneider recently said that top prospect Ricky Tiedemann is a candidate to break camp and start the season with the Jays. Even Daulton Varsho, one of the most maligned Blue Jays last season, has reignited hopes in Spring Training, striking out only seven times in 45 at-bats. With all the progress it seems the players have made internally, it appears as if they’re very well aware that this year needs to end differently than 2023. If only Ross Atkins could show his understanding of that concept.
Sadly, the front office didn’t decide to do much more than make lateral moves this offseason. I find it incredibly difficult to believe that a 39-year-old Justin Turner is going to revitalize an offence that looked anemic in 2023. I find it even harder to believe that Isiah Kiner-Falefa will move the needle at all in comparison to what Whit Merrifield did last year. Whilst the team on the field is still a good one, still a playoff contender, it’s very frustrating that the front office has shown absolutely zero desire to see the Jays take that all-important step from a good team to a great one. It’s not as if the roster on the field has shown some untapped potential that leads them to believe that they’ll get to a World Series on their own.
In 2024, the Blue Jays have to win. This is no longer a young team. This is no longer a talented roster that will soon be supplemented by a breadth of young studs waiting in the wings. This is no longer a team that can get by with making the playoffs and calling it a season. Not only do the Jays have to win, they need to do it now. The window is shutting, and hopes are lower than ever. A failure this year would almost certainly become a rather infamous symbol for rather infamous era of Blue Jays baseball. For the 2024 Toronto Blue Jays, it’s now or never.


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