The Toronto Blue Jays offseason has had its fair share of headlines, but it has not materialized into any major improvements to the roster. At least not yet.
There was some chatter online that the Jays were one of the final teams in on Juan Soto before he ended up with the division rival New York Yankees. We all recall tracking airplanes when we thought Shohei Ohtani was on the verge of joining the organization.
Yet the only additions to the club at this point are Kevin Kiermaier who re-signed with the Jays and Isaiah Kiner-Falefa who signed as a free agent this winter as well. With spring training inching closer and closer, we may have to start dealing with the reality that the 2024 Blue Jays roster is going to look an awful lot like the 2023 Blue Jays.
If that is the case, the team will be looking for internal growth to see them take the next step and win a few playoff rounds. Or at least a few playoff games which would be a step forward.
The biggest x-factor in that regard will be Alek Manoah. If the Blue Jays are going to compete with the Yankees, the always good Tampa Bay Rays and the suddenly really good Baltimore Orioles for a division title, they are going to need a big rebound from Manoah to make the difference.
The Homestead, Florida native burst onto the MLB scene in 2021 when he was called up and immediately dominated big league hitters. He started 20 games, posting a 3.22 ERA while whiffing an impressive 27.7% of hitters he faced. He backed up that performance with a third place finish in the Cy Young voting during his first full MLB season in 2022. He pitched 196 ⅔ innings that season, striking out 22.9% of batters faced while walking a miniscule 6.5% of hitters.
Manoah had a 2.24 ERA that season to go with his 16-7 record. He was an All-Star and even had a few MVP votes but came in just behind Dylan Cease (and well behind Justin Verlander) in Cy Young votes.
He appeared slated for a dominant 2023 season but completely lost control of the strike zone. He struggled to a 5.87 ERA over 87 ⅓ innings while walking more batters than he did the previous season when he had more than twice as many innings of work.
The Blue Jays still managed to sneak into the postseason on the back of Kevin Gausman’s elite performance, Chris Bassitt’s workhorse showing and impressive seasons from Yusei Kikuchi and Jose Berrios.
That was enough to get the Blue Jays into the postseason. If they want to go even further in 2024, they will need Manoah to return to form, as it is starting to look like there will not be big additions via free agency to push this team over the top.