Home sport Amid a competitive window, the Blue Jays are pushing for more as 2023 dawns

Amid a competitive window, the Blue Jays are pushing for more as 2023 dawns

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March 30, 2023, 11:01 a.m

street. Louis – There is a maturity in Alec Manoah’s gaze that belies his age, an age-old wisdom of mind that connects youthful enthusiasm with the realities of where he comes from and who he is, the privilege of her generous physical gifts that never blind her. What is the real problem.

That’s why, on the eve of his first Opening Day for the Toronto Blue Jays, the 25-year-old right-hander sat in the visitors’ dugout at Busch Stadium contemplating his rapid rise from 2019 draft pick to Cy Young Award. Year 2022. Surrealism. everyone. »

He later added, “Life has taught me so much.” I am so grateful for everything I have been through in life and some of the hardships I have had that I had to go through and all that baseball has taught me. You allowed me to be better in life. And life taught me to be better at baseball. I try to look at the big picture and understand that it is not just about winning and losing. Some of those relationships, family members, the way you treat people, things like that mean a lot. When you focus on these things, other things fall into place. »

In many ways, Manoah reflects the direction the Blue Jays are headed in the 2023 season. And it’s done beyond their years. He exudes talent and ambition. Seeking to transcend the adversities of the past. Determined to keep things tidy and create a greater unity.

As much as the big guy notes that “it all happened too quickly” for him on a personal level, the same is true for the Blue Jays collectively. They lost 95 games in 2019, the year he was drafted. They’ve won 32 times and made the playoffs stretching through the 2020 pandemic season. A year later, in the 2021 Three Cities saga, they fell short in a bruising game after the playoffs on the final day of the season. Last year they experienced true tragedy when first base coach Mark Budzynski lost his daughter Julia in a boating accident and then suffered the heartbreak of baseball’s Game 2 collapse against the Mariners. From Seattle during the Wild Cards Tour.

It seems that the best is yet to come for Manoah and the club as well. But the different pieces on a team don’t always move at the same pace. Pivotal players have come and gone before, Marcos Simien and Robbie Ray two winters ago, Teoscar Hernandez, Lord Gurrell Jr and Ross Stripling last season, and more changes are on the horizon. Matt Chapman, Hyun Jin Ryu, Kevin Kermayer, Brandon Belt and possibly White Merrifield are eligible for free agency this fall. Danny Jansen and Yossi Kikuchi will arrive after 2024. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Pechet, Jordan Romano and Chris Bassett are likely to change direction after 2025.

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Windows of opportunity can be fleeting this way. There is time, there is time, there is time and suddenly there is no time. Realizing that, the Blue Jays are pressing harder this season than ever before. Their opening day payroll for luxury tax purposes is expected to be around $250.5 million each. Tracked by FanGraphs’ RosterResource, it crossed the first competitive financial break-even threshold at $233 million and closes in second at $253 million. This means that the Blue Jays will face an additional 20% for every dollar spent above the first line and 32% for anything above the second. These are the prices for first pushers like the Blue Jays, with surcharges rising each year the team pushes the boundaries of CBT. If they stay there next season, they’ll pay 30% on anything over $237 million and 42% on anything over $257 million. They are playing for survival now.

The flip side is that there is an expected ROI to spend at those levels and there is a line between last year’s trade deadline and now, which is nice.

Beginning with the acquisitions of Merrifield, Anthony Bass, Zach Pop, and Mitch White last summer, the Blue Jays have intentionally focused more of their organizational capital on the 26-man roster. Their farm system was, just two years ago, unanimously in the top five in the third talent standings, and is now found in the bottom half of the majors after Gabriel Moreno, along with Gurriel, was traded for Daulton Varsho, even with the addition of Adam McCoo. , who returned with Eric Swanson for Hernandez.

All of these moves have been transformative in multiple ways at the big league level. Varsho, for the first four years of his contract control, gives the Blue Jays a long-term option at center field, something they don’t have in the system, and an immediate defensive upgrade with the Force. on the left side of the painting. Swanson, along with Bass and Bob, deepened what was a combination of sweet ass and buying time for one of the juniors’ few strong arms, Nate Pearson front and center, to emerge as consistent contributors. Merrifield, with his blistering pace, positional versatility and intense contact, gives manager John Sneijder options for attacking in a number of ways. The free additions of midfielder Kiermaier, DH Brandon Belt and veteran rookie Bassett provided doses of on-field influence, off-field presence and professionalism.

In keeping with these changes, Schneider and his coaching staff have highlighted attention to detail and sideline play since replacing the sacked Charlie Montoyo last July. Its constancy, presence, and continuity are not specified Just a prediction, but it also provided a reason behind every Blue Jays drill and move.

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Perhaps the best example of this is the work that goes into acclimating players to the new rules of baseball and trying out the most effective ways to use them during their spring training days. Between chaotic rehearsals and attempts to push the boundaries of exhibition games, they seem to have found a level of comfort with the changes.

“We’re good enough that we don’t have to try to fool anyone. If there are situations we can take advantage of because of the weather, we’ll take advantage of them,” Schneider said. “My biggest hope is that all of our guys are comfortable with the norms of the rules. The fund is in no hurry. Don’t rush to the next pitch. This is to ensure that you bowl the ball quickly enough after the strike that the batter’s next pitch is not rushed. things like that. they are in. There were a million different things we covered throughout camp. We change things up here and there, trying to find new ways of doing things. We’re not going to try to reinvent the wheel. I told the guys, try not to think about it. If anyone has to get rid of it, it’s me, not you. I don’t think this should be a big problem. »

Given the talent, the moves, and the investment, the expectations for the Blue Jays are really high, and the stakes are also clear. Front and center is whether Jose Berrios and Yosei Kikuchi can perform more effectively than last year, especially with the Blue Jays behind them relatively weak, White preparing to open the season on the roster, injured, and better Zach Thompson. 1. A depth option ahead of a group that includes veterans Drew Hutchison and Casey Lawrence as well as farmhands like Bowden Francis and Thomas Hatch.

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Southpaw Ricky Tiedemann could work his way up to a breakthrough, but the Blue Jays will be more careful with the 20-year-old opening at first base and likely limit himself to shorter outings in the first half of the season. Available to him in the second half of the year. Also in New Hampshire will be Sim Robbers and Jimmy Robbins, two other pitchers made to the traditional starting template. At Triple-A, powerhouses like Yosver Zulueta and Hayden Juenger will debut but may find themselves in versatile roles.

With solid prospects like Addison Barger and Orelvis Martinez, this group of players makes up the bulk of the Blue Jays’ near-term future capital. There is talent at the bottom of the system, but the farther away the player is from the main coins, the more volatile the potential outcomes. Because of this, the next wave of players to help oust the Big League roster and keep the current competitive window blurred underscores the urgency to take advantage of the Big League roster now.

The next wave is, of course, the problem of tomorrow, the second before the collective pressure on the present that arrived quickly, perhaps faster than expected, and could disappear just as quickly. In Manoah, on the opening day hill, they not only have the embodiment of the former, but also represent what is needed to ensure that the latter are also avoided.

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