Toronto Blue Jays' best-case and worst-case scenarios for pivotal 2024 season

Feb 23, 2021; Dunedin, FL, USA;   Toronto Blue Jays infielder Vlad Guerrero, Jr. takes infield
Feb 23, 2021; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays infielder Vlad Guerrero, Jr. takes infield / Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Blue Jays are working through the final stages of what may be the least eventful offseason of any of the 30 major league teams.

Two-thirds of the starting lineup responsible for an 89-73 record returns for 2024, as does the entire rotation. Of the three projected regulars added this past winter, only third baseman-DH Justin Turner projects to be consequential.

That means the onus for making a success of this coming season – after being eliminated in the Wild Card round last year – will be squarely on the returning vets.

Toronto Blue Jays' Best-Case Scenario for 2024

There’s certainly room for improvement among the stars. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto’s fourth highest paid player, had (by his standards) a bad 2023, producing just a .788 OPS, his worst since his 2019 rookie season. His .444 slugging average was nearly 50 percentage points off his career norm.

Alek Manoah, coming off a superb 2022, stumbled through 19 starts with a 3-9 record and 5.87 ERA, looking lost enough to earn a quick demotion to the low minors.

So the easy recipe for a big season in Canada is simple: if Guerrero and Manoah both play up to their massive potentials, the Jays are good to go.

Turner is basically the replacement for lost free agent Matt Chapman, although fellow newcomer Isiah Kiner-Falefa probably will get most of the defensive time. Turner hit .276 with 23 homers and an .800 OPS for Boston last season, but he did turn 39 in November, so it’s possible the bat is slowing up. He battled injuries down the stretch in 2023, as well.

Beyond Guerrero and Manoah, the Jays need the rest of the supporting cast to continue to kick in. Shortstop Bo Bichette and starters Kevin Gausman, Chris Bassitt and Jose Berrios are the surest bets in that respect.

What about George Springer, the club’s highest-paid player? In 2023, Springer’s OPS lost 82 percentage points from its .814 level of 2022; he hit fewer homers, drove in fewer runs and saw his slash line decline across the board. The Jays need Springer to join Guerrero and Manoah on the rebound.

Toronto Blue Jays' Worst-Case Scenario for 2024

The alternative is for the club’s most vital assets – Guerrero, Springer and Manoah – to replicate their 2023 mediocrity or – worse yet – lose even more productivity. With the sole notable exception of Bichette, the rest of the offensive core – Kevin Kiermaier, Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk, Daulton Varsho, Cavan Biggio and Turner – simply isn’t imposing enough to withstand that loss of productivity potential.

The Jays were dead-center 15th in the majors in runs per game last year, but only one of the other 11 postseason teams – the Miami Marlins – got there with a less productive offense.

Bassitt, Berrios, Gausman, and Yusei Kikuchi comprised four-fifths of a solid rotation last season, but all four are now in their 30s, an age where wear and tear can begin to catch up on a pitcher’s arm. Last season’s backup, veteran Hyun-Jin Ryu, is off to his Korean homeland, and the new backup plan begins with Bowden Francis, a career minor-leaguer who largely saw mopup relief duty in 2023. The Jays don’t want to go there.

Complicating Toronto’s situation is their location in the AL East, where the average win total last season was 89, exactly the Jays’ total. And the division floor may be rising on them: the 82-win Yankees in particular made notable offseason additions far in excess of Toronto’s revamp.

Most realistic scenario for 2024 Blue Jays

If Guerrero, Springer and Manoah return to All-Star status or even close to it, the Jays can be a serious AL East contender. But Toronto very much needs that restoration to occur; the Jays simply didn’t do enough during the offseason to expect improvement from the outside.

If those three don’t step up, then the Jays’ offense consists of Bichette and a bunch of .240 to .260 guys. That would put a lot of heat on the pitching staff. That staff did rank sixth in all of MLB in fewest runs allowed per game last season, so it’s hardly helpless. But it’s also not necessarily the way to go in today’s baseball world. Last year’s champs, the Texas Rangers, had only the game’s 13th best pitching, but they were No. 3 in offense.

Toronto also needs to repair its performance inside its own division. The Jays somehow survived to a playoff position despite going a fairly desultory 21-31 against its AL East competition. They were especially bad against the champion Orioles, winning just three of 13 meetings and being out-scored 85-40 in the process.  

The entirety of the portrait paints Toronto as a team of interest, but less than a front-line threat, in the 2024 AL East. Unless their stars step up, the Jays are likely to find themselves retreating toward mediocrity this coming September.

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