Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Looking ahead to a critical winter for the Blue Jays in 2026-27
3 months ago
The Toronto Blue Jays boasted one of the top rotations in the big leagues last year, with a collective 3.85 ERA (third best), 922 strikeouts (second), and four starters making over 31 starts each on the season.
Led by Kevin Gausman as the “ace,” the Blue Jays featured Chris Bassitt, José Berríos, Yusei Kikuchi, and a combination of Alek Manoah and Hyun Jin Ryu for a majority of the starts in 2023. Trevor Richards made a few spot starts on bullpen days, while Wes Parsons started game #162 to help push Gausman to the first Wild Card game. Using only eight pitchers to start games all year long was a plus, highlighting the core group’s ability to stay healthy and perform consistently.
Even with Manoah’s struggles, the rest of the starters picked up the slack, and Ryu was dominant on the mound once healthy, finishing the year in the rotation as he looked to prove that he still had something left in the tank.
The Toronto Blue Jays enter contract conundrums in 2026/2027
As the 2023/2024 offseason starts at a slow pace, it’s interesting to delve into the big contracts on the Blue Jays roster. Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are slated for free agency after the 2025 season, while Yusei Kikuchi and Danny Jansen are free agent eligible next winter. Chris Bassitt heads to the open market the year after alongside Jordan Romano, Chad Green, Tim Mayza, Erik Swanson, and Cavan Biggio, creating a rather large impact on the bullpen.
The 2026 season will be crucial for the Blue Jays as well, with several key players scheduled to hit free agency. Gausman, the “ace,” is set to be a free agent as his five-year deal concludes after the 2026 season. He signed for $110 million in the first week of December 2021, almost a bargain compared to today’s market rates. Gausman has been outstanding since joining Toronto, pitching to a 3.25 ERA through 359 2/3 innings and leading the American League in strikeouts last season (237), earning a Cy Young finalist nomination.
Berríos, potentially joining Gausman in free agency, has a player option after the 2026 season. He can choose free agency or honour the two years and $48 million left on his deal. Berríos bounced back strong in his second season with the Jays, finishing with a 3.65 ERA through 189 2/3 innings, despite a controversial decision in the AL Wild Card game. The rotation faces challenges after the 2026 season with Gausman and potentially Berríos hitting free agency. If the Jays are non-competitive, trades might be on the horizon and Berríos will likely be on the way out of town with his player option.
Position player-wise, George Springer’s six-year deal concludes after the 2026 season. He will join Gausman in free agency. Springer, with a .262/.338/.460 slash line, has been a key leadoff hitter for the club since joining, with 68 home runs and 198 RBIs.
Joining Springer in free agency will be Daulton Varsho and Alejandro Kirk, who are currently in the early stages of arbitration. If neither player extends past their free agency window, the Blue Jays could lose two of their three primary outfielders and one of their main catchers alongside Gausman and potentially Berríos.
While a lot can happen between now and the end of the 2026 season, it will be interesting to see how the Blue Jays handle these contract end dates and Berríos’ option. The performance of prospects like Orelvis Martinez, Ricky Tiedemann, Brandon Barriera, Arjun Nimmala, Tucker Toman, Josh Kasevich, Cade Doughty, and others will also be crucial to whether extensions for the current group will be necessary or if the club will rely on some rookie talent to help fill the stopgap (or fill out a rebuilding roster).
If the Blue Jays don’t secure Bichette or Guerrero Jr. past arbitration and are out of playoff contention this season or next, another rebuild in 2026/2027 is likely — a potential downfall for an organization relying on the previous rebuild’s core for postseason success. The next two to three seasons will be crucial for the Blue Jays in adding another championship trophy to their mantle, especially since they haven’t extended their young stars past arbitration or signed a superstar like Shohei Ohtani yet (which keeps floating into the realm of possibility).
Recent articles from Tyson Shushkewich