Inbox: How will Blue Jays pivot from Shohei?

December 11th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Keegan Matheson's Blue Jays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Some heartbreaks bring clarity. Others, like this one, bring nothing useful at all.

Losing out on Shohei Ohtani isn’t exactly a death blow to the Blue Jays, but that’s how it feels to many fans, who have every right after this great, shining hope was dangled. Instead, the Blue Jays face a narrow, uncertain path forward.

Here are your questions about what comes next:

Now what? Will this front office still do what needs to be done to improve the roster this offseason? -- @nickofthejays
Without Ohtani and Juan Soto, this market is back to looking “normal” with a below-average position-player group. The Blue Jays can still piece together an offseason that would pass as a success nearly any other year, but this isn't any other year. As much as this organization needs to build a roster, it needs to rebuild hope.

Two groups of people matter in baseball: the fans and the players. A front office can’t always follow the hearts of fans, but at this point, it’s a legitimate factor for the Blue Jays after back-to-back seasons that have already asked so much from a weary fanbase. Just as my job does not exist without passionate, engaged Blue Jays fans, neither do the rich contracts Toronto has been handing out for the past five years.

Is there any attainable player they can add that moves the needle? -- @AdrianCrisostim
To the level of Ohtani? No.

Cody Bellinger is the top position player left, and while his upside is remarkable, so is the risk. After dreaming on one of the greatest players in this sport’s history, it’s difficult to imagine another offseason move that recaptures hearts overnight. Instead, this is back to the long game.

The Blue Jays have bowed out in the Wild Card Series in three of the past four seasons, going 0-6 in those games. The needle moves when that changes, period.

In your personal opinion, what would make this offseason a success? And how does that compare to the offseason success that would make people forget Ohtani? -- @Timmy_2_times
In this new, post-Ohtani reality, the Blue Jays need to be creative. I expect them to be very aggressive on the trade market, but given the lack of position-player talent available, they’ll look to add talent (and wins) anywhere they can.

This existing roster is too good to retreat from. It’s so close, but something has obviously been missing. That said, nobody will forget Ohtani until Toronto wins a postseason series … or three.

Thoughts on [Yoshinobu] Yamamoto and [Luis] Robert Jr. becoming Blue Jays? -- @TOSports97
Yamamoto, the Japanese ace who at just 25 could lead a rotation for the next decade, is still available. This is where the Blue Jays need to be flexible. While the rotation isn’t a “need” in the classic sense, that doesn’t matter now. Toronto needs star power, and if that comes in unconventional ways, so be it. This organization needs to be in on any star available, regardless of the market.

Do the Jays have the assets to get in on [José] Ramírez or has that ship sailed? -- @Tdot_hill
José Ramírez is forever destined to be linked to the Blue Jays. This front office has pursued him in the past and that interest will never wane, though the Guardians would need a king’s ransom for their star third baseman. If Toronto makes a major splash on the trade market, I’d expect someone with a shorter term remaining to align it with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette’s timeline (two years of control remaining).

The Jays have been connected to a lot of free agents this offseason, but one I haven't seen is J.D. Martinez. With the Dodgers getting Ohtani, do the Jays look to try and get the most reliable free-agent bat? -- @Cactuarduelist
Yes. This roster needs its Brandon Belt, and the Blue Jays have interest in Martinez as a veteran run producer. Martinez isn’t slowing down and should be available on a two-year deal.

Would there be interest in [George] Springer for trade purposes? -- Bev M.
Moving Springer and his nearly $75 million remaining over three years would be difficult. If Toronto was looking to clear money for another big splash via trade, that could be considered, but I think this is a conversation we can circle back to one year from today.

Could you see the Jays platooning at third base with Gio Urshela and one of [Addison] Barger or [Orelvis] Martinez next season? -- @bluejaysdomain
Yes. Unless Matt Chapman’s number re-enters Toronto’s comfort zone or they can swing a deal on the trade market, third base is a prime candidate to be a patchwork. That means one veteran, with someone like Urshela being an option, paired with a prospect or the club’s existing infield depth. I’ll expand from Barger and Martinez to include Damiano Palmegiani, the club's No. 18-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline, as well.

What’s your opinion on using a large chunk of available spending on one player (Bellinger, trading for [Christian] Yelich or [Mike] Trout) and filling more spots internally vs. spreading it around? -- @_sports_genius 

The sweet spot is to spend big on superstars, then fill in the “complementary” roles internally. That’s how the Dodgers keep winning. Instead of spending $5 million or $9 million on that part-time corner outfielder, develop your own.

This brings me to what assistant GM Mike Murov said late in the Winter Meetings when asked about Toronto’s suddenly deep group of infielders near the MLB level. 

“They all have a level of versatility, there [is] different-handedness and they all performed, frankly,” Murov said. “A lot of them performed really well last year. That allows us to be as opportunistic as possible in terms of finding the right fit or the right impact in terms of position, playing time, handedness, things like that. I don’t think we’re approaching any decision this offseason pigeonholed into a position or skillset.”

This is a good place to be for the Blue Jays, organizationally. The “spending on a superstar” part hasn’t gone well this week, but this is the path.

What roster moves are targeted for the Jays AFTER the 2024 season? -- @ThorntonTrading

Great question. My friends at put together an early list here.

Juan Soto, Paul Goldschmidt, Pete Alonso, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman headline the position player group, and it’s loaded with frontline pitching, so there will be no shortage of options. Some of these names will be locked up over the next 12 months, but teams with money to spend are looking at a major offseason one year down the road.