Narratives from the first 50 games: What’s an overreaction and what isn’t?
Photo credit:Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
By Evan Stack3 months ago
After the Blue Jays dropped the final game of a four-game set in Tampa, some of the replies to the Blue Jays’ final score graphic on Twitter included some hot takes. Some of the takes are simply bot responses, some are legitimate gripes, and some are dramatic. Nonetheless, they’re out there for viewing, and I’m going to give my thoughts on if they’re an overreaction, a proper reaction, or an underreaction.
I’d like to note for the technical crowd out there that, yes, I know they’ve played 51 games and not 50. Also, why is overreaction one word, and underreaction two? Moving along…
The Blue Jays will miss the playoffs
The verdict: Overreaction
Come on, guys. There are 111 games left. There’s way too much time for a Blue Jays winning streak and/or someone else’s losing streak. There’s a trade deadline involved, too. Sometimes it takes a late-season surge like that of the 2020 Reds or 2021 Cardinals to break into the postseason, but Toronto is still not even halfway through the season yet. In parallel, the 2022 Phillies squeaked into the postseason, and they made a World Series.
Now there is some validity for those who think that the playoffs are out of the picture. It’s May 26, and the Jays are 10.5 games back of the AL East-leading Rays, as well as 3 games back of a Wild Card spot. While the Wild Card still seems attainable, it’s the division that Toronto plays in that is the problem. For perspective, all five AL East teams are above .500, and even the last-place Jays would only be 0.5 games back in the AL Central. The Red Sox and Orioles were widely considered the bottom half of the division, but Boston’s offence is legit and Baltimore’s young core is as good as advertised. We’re going to find out what Toronto’s made of with this kind of competition, but thank goodness the schedule changed up some this year.
While I’ll still remain a homer and believe that they can win the division, I certainly see the point of view that the Jays may be out of a division race. However, three games back of a Wild Card spot is too minuscule to cry over in late May. Come talk to me after the trade deadline.
Jose Berrios is back
The verdict: Underreaction
I’m a Berrios believer all the way, and I echoed those sentiments when I wrote an over/under reaction piece earlier this year. While the Blue Jays were seeing what Berrios’ floor looks like in 2022 and the first two starts of this year, the ceiling on this guy is incredibly high to give up on him just a year and some change into a contract. Furthermore, he has consistently proven successful at this level in the past, and he’s only 28 years old.
One of the biggest takes about Berrios was that he couldn’t pitch in the AL East because he’d spent the majority of his time pitching against inferior AL Central competition. Thus far in 2023, he’s started four games against AL East opponents, and he is 2-1 with a 3.75 ERA in those starts. He also had an excellent start in Houston in which he went seven innings and only allowed two runs.
Berrios’ success is critical to the entire team. Last year, the team was 23-9 in games that Berrios started, and that was the worst statistical year of his career. All I’ll say is, if he finishes the year strong and becomes a playoff-calibre starter for Toronto, the apology better be as loud as the disrespect was for Jose Berrios.
Someone on the coaching staff is in trouble
The verdict: Proper reaction
This is a spicy one, simply because John Schneider is in his first official season as manager of the team. Schneider had grown through the Blue Jays system with many of the current players, and we can’t forget he had a strong finish to the 2022 season prompting Toronto to host a playoff series. He has had some hiccups (see Tim Mayza facing Carlos Santana in the playoffs, and the Alek Manoah debacle last weekend), but which manager hasn’t?
While I don’t exactly think pulling the plug on Schneider is the answer, let’s explore how Blue Jays management has operated with the team’s leaders. They let John Gibbons ride out the rest of the 2018 season, but that was the right thing to do. Once that season reached June/July, any playoff expectations had dwindled away, especially when it was evident that one of the more dependable starting pitchers was Sam Gaviglio. Gibbons, with his two ALCS appearances, deserved a chance to finish things out, and with a new wave of talent coming in, it was an ideal time for a new voice.
With Charlie Montoyo, upper management let him take his bumps and bruises, but once the team was competitive enough, Montoyo had much larger expectations. He made the playoff-expanded postseason in 2020, missed the 2021 playoffs by one game, and was dancing around .500 last season before getting the can 88 games into the season. If this proves anything, it’s that the Jays aren’t afraid to make a change if expectations aren’t being met. Montoyo is one example, but moving on from guys like Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez – two faces of the team who were also close with guys like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – is further indication that even the difficult decision might have to be made sometimes.
It’s not a money thing either. Montoyo’s contract was through 2023. So eating money to potentially change the leadership of the club is something I don’t think the Jays are afraid of. That comes into play here, as Schneider is only in year one of a three-year deal.
Lastly, a losing team generally results in some finger-pointing, so it may result in some restructuring of the coaching staff, especially if one specific area of the team is struggling immensely. Again, I personally don’t think anyone’s job is in danger right now, but there’s some validity to the thought.
Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
The Jays will trade a major league player at the deadline
The verdict: Proper reaction
Shapiro and Atkins’ trade deadlines since 2020 (their arguable competitive window) have mainly featured Toronto dealing prospects for their returns. There have been a couple of exceptions, those being 1B/DH Rowdy Tellez, INF Joe Panik, and the “get your feet wet” major leaguers such as C Riley Adams and RP Max Castillo. Outside of that, Toronto has pulled from their farm to make deals.
This year, however, the Blue Jays have a surplus at multiple positions, so I think this is very realistic. Names that were tossed around this past offseason were Cavan Biggio and Santiago Espinal. They both primarily play second base, but Whit Merrifield has started to rightfully get closer and closer to playing every day there, and the Jays also have a promising infield prospect in Addison Barger. The value of those two may be low, but they could be part of a trade package.
Toronto’s bullpen also has a couple of trade candidates. While they too may be shopping for bullpen arms, they could use one of their own to obtain another bat or a starting pitcher. I’m spitballing here, but maybe someone like Anthony Bass, Adam Cimber, or Yimi Garcia might be available to other teams. Bass and Garcia are on expiring contracts (with Garcia having a club option in 2024), and Cimber is still under team control/arbitration.
Alek Manoah might don a Bisons’ jersey at some point this year
The verdict: Proper reaction
While this very well may happen, I’d encourage you not to look at this as a bad thing. I think we all need a reminder that Manoah is 25 years old, and he only pitched 35 total innings of minor league ball. While he thrived during his ’21 and ’22 campaigns – and we should be extremely blessed that he did – he has struggled for many of his starts this season. Nothing showed it more than yesterday’s start in Tampa Bay in which he threw 87 pitches over only three innings. Manoah owns a 1-5 record with a 5.53 ERA and a dreadful 6.3 BB/9 versus a 7.7 K/9.
Manoah is a guy that exudes a lot of confidence in himself, and fans got a great taste of that during the past two years. He’s been open in postgame media sessions about how this is a challenge the game is throwing at him, and he’s taking it head-on. Whether it comes by option or an IL stint, I think going down to Buffalo for a couple of starts to try and get his groove back would be a great benefit to him. Sorry Yankees fans, this has nothing to do with his weight.
The Teoscar Hernandez and Gurriel Jr./Moreno trades were mistakes
The verdict: Overreaction
Until Daulton Varsho gets to a .300 batting average, this one will absolutely be a narrative that is pushed. The three former Jays and their stats are below.
Hernandez: .236 BA / .688 OPS / 9 HR / 25 RBIs / 5 2B / 71 K’s (MLB lead)
Gurriel Jr.: .317 BA / .928 OPS / 8 HR / 27 RBIs / 14 2B
Moreno: .304 BA / .741 OPS / 2 HR / 19 RBIs / 6 2B
Erik Swanson: 2-2 / 3.52 ERA / 4.54 FIP / 11.0 K/9 / 4.3 BB/9
Daulton Varsho: .217 BA / .659 OPS / 7 HR / 20 RBIs / 8 2B
Gurriel Jr. and Moreno are off to great starts, and it’s paying off for the Diamondbacks as they are currently 1.5 games back of the AL West lead. Gurriel is only one year removed from being a free agent, so there’s no guarantee that Arizona brings him back. Varsho is not a free agent until 2027, and he is just one year removed from hitting 27 homers. He’s bounced around in Toronto’s lineup, so the best has yet to be seen from him. However, his defensive flexibility, 0.8 dWAR (6th in the AL), and skillset at the plate still offer a lot.
Hernandez, like Gurriel, will also be a free agent after this season. Teo has gotten off to a rough start, but there’s a talented hitter in there somewhere. Swanson has been “meh” lately after a great month of April.
For both deals, it’s simply too early to tell if they were truly “mistakes.” Moreno is hitting for average far better than Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk, so yes, if the season ended today, Arizona would certainly look like a winner. But, as I mentioned earlier, there are 111 games left for the Blue Jays.
Collective deep breath on three.
*Writer’s note: Statistics are as of 8:00 PM CT on May 26, 2023
Recent articles from Evan Stack