Is it time for another fresh start for the Blue Jays in 2024? Not quite | CBC Sports

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A new beginning (or something like that) was the unofficial motto of the Toronto Blue Jays at the start of last season.

After a disappointing first-round win over Seattle, the Jays had revamped their outfield (literally) as part of their effort to return to the World Series. Daulton Varsho and Kevin Kiermaier, both glovemakers extraordinaire, were hired to patrol the turf in front of the stylishly remodeled fencing and trendy new patios installed as part of a major stadium renovation to transform the musty Rogers Center into something resembling a real baseball stadium resembles. Expensive free-agent righty Chris Bassitt promised to bolster an already strong pitching rotation, and certainly young slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. would bounce back from a down year.

But the more things changed, the more they stayed the same—or got worse. The 2023 Jays won just 89 games (three fewer than the year before) and finished third in the stacked American League East before being defeated again, this time by a team, in the best-of-three wild card round from Minnesota, which had lost 18 consecutive postseason games.

Instead of regaining his 2021 MVP-caliber form, Guerrero fell even further behind at the plate as Toronto fell from fourth in the majors to 14th in runs scored. Alek Manoah, a 2022 Cy Young finalist, struggled so badly that he was demoted to the lowest level of the minors. A remarkably deep and durable pitching rotation — led by strikeout artist Kevin Gausman, the steady Bassitt and the rejuvenated Jose Berrios and Yusei Kikuchi — dragged the Jays’ sleepy sluggers into the playoffs, where they scored a total of one run in the two games. Twins game sweep.

Time for another fresh start? Not exactly. After sniffing their big swing for superstar free agent Shohei Ohtani (in hindsight: perhaps a blessing, a disguise), top executives Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins have opted to essentially stay quiet and just hope everyone plays better this year.

Shapiro and Atkins let Gold Glove (but bronze bat) third baseman Matt Chapman go to San Francisco, while their “biggest” acquisitions were 39-year-old DH Justin Turner, utility player Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Cuban righty Yariel Rodríguez were who they hope can crack the starting rotation.

The team president and GM also decided to bring manager John Schneider back, despite the puzzling decision to pull Berrios after three scoreless innings in Game 2 of the Minnesota series. But that might have something to do with the possibility that the movement came from the top Schneider pointed out after the defeat at the end of the season.

Even the Reno Stadium are rather muted this year. The players got a new clubhouse, rich fans got new premium seating areas, and the lower bowl got an upgrade with new, wider seats that now actually face home plate, and – are you ready for it? – Include cup holders. Fans can try out this cutting-edge technology on April 8 when the Jays play their home opener against Seattle.

With everything looking pretty similar to last year, it’s hard to feel the usual spring feeling of renewal from the Jays as they prepare for their opening game at Tampa Bay on Thursday at 4:10 p.m. ET. But there are reasons for optimism.

The bull case for the Jays rests on the hope that some of the hitters who underperformed last year — including Guerrero, Varsho, catcher Alejandro Kirk and outfielder George Springer — bounce back.

Guerrero is the biggest X-factor. In 2021, he appeared poised to follow his father into the Hall of Fame, hitting a game-high 48 home runs and finishing second in AL MVP voting at just 22 years old. But his performance has declined since then. especially in the performance categories. Last season, Guerrero hit just 26 home runs while posting his worst slugging percentage since his rookie year.

Is Guerrero a flash in the pan? Or is he simply suffering from normal growing pains in a sport that is notoriously difficult to master? That’s the hundreds-of-million-dollar question if Guerrero seeks free agency after the 2025 season. Also expected to be released this year is 26-year-old shortstop Bo Bichette, who is having another strong year at the plate (.306 average, 20 homers) despite missing significant time due to injury.

Guerrero and Bichette are certainly capable of putting up eye-popping numbers and leading the Blue Jays back into World Series contention. If they do that, they will make big money and restore Jays fans’ waning trust in the organization. But if not, Toronto will look very boring.

For more information on the Blue Jays’ 2024 outlook, visit read this.

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