The Toronto Blue Jays outfield is going to look much different in 2023.
Loudres Gurriel Jr., Raimel Tapia, and Teoscar Hernandez are all gone. Tapia is not exactly a loss as a weak hitting fourth outfielder who the Blue Jays declined to offer arbitration. Gurriel and Hernandez were more surprising, given that both players were productive. However, the Blue Jays were able to pick up the pieces they needed while getting younger.
The real reason for the Toronto Blue Jays outfield moves – defense
There is one common theme among those players. Gurriel, Tapia, and Hernandez are all mediocre defensive players at best. Gurriel cost the Blue Jays two runs defensively while Hernandez and Tapia cost the Blue Jays four runs each. With the fly ball and home run hitters in the AL East, the Blue Jays need outfielders that can actually make plays.
Enter the new additions. Kevin Kiermaier may not be on the diamond at all times due to injuries, but he is an excellent defensive center fielder when he plays. He has saved 69 runs in center since joining the league and is a three time Gold Glove winner. If healthy, he is a dramatic upgrade defensively.
The same can be said with Daulton Varsho. The converted catcher was impressive in the outfield last year, saving 19 runs in total (14 in right and five in center). Springer may not be the defensive stud he was in the past; however, his declining glove can be mitigated with those additions.
These additions make even more sense given the Blue Jays pitching staff. Alek Manoah, Jose Berrios, and Kevin Gausman all ranked in the top 28 for the most fly ball outs of any pitcher last season. Chris Bassitt is not as extreme of a fly ball pitcher, but he ranked 45th on that list. New reliever Erik Swanson is also an extreme fly ball pitcher, making that improved outfield defense all the more important.
The difference between a playoff team and one just outside the postseason can come down to those small details. Sometimes, one game can make a major difference, which is especially the case now that the league decreed that Game 163 no longer exists. Every win matters. Improving their outfield defense this much could be that difference.
The Toronto Blue Jays have made one major improvement to their roster. Their outfield defensive is drastically better than it was in 2022.