The Blue Jays aren’t just ready to compete now – they’re built to last

There’s a lot of hype surrounding the 2022 Toronto Blue Jays – and rightly so.

By any measure, Canada’s only MLB team has the makings of a World Series contender.

The Jays have one of the best rosters in baseball, led by MVP candidate Vladimir Guerrero Jr., former World Series MVP George Springer and shortstop Bo Bichette.

Their rotation is five strong, with the addition of last season’s trade deadline Jose Berrios as an ace and free agent signing Kevin Gausman (formerly of the San Francisco Giants) as a no. Prominent ° 2.

The bullpen, like most, comes with question marks. But closer Canadian Jordan Romano geared up well in his first year in the role last season, and he’s ready again for the ninth inning.

“I love the energy of this group,” manager Charlie Montoyo told reporters earlier this week. “They believe they can win. You don’t teach that. They have it in them. I think that’s why I feel good at this club. It’s their mentality.”

Competitor status is reflected in both statistical projections and betting odds. But what those numbers also tell us is that there’s a good chance Toronto won’t win the 2022 World Series.

ZiPS, Fangraphs’ trusted projection model, has listed the Blue Jays for the same 88 wins as their division rival the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.

There’s so much that can go wrong in a 162-game MLB season — especially in the busy AL East.

So it’s a good thing the Blue Jays aren’t just all-in for 2022. The team is ready to fight for years to come.

WATCH | The Blue Jays are testing new pitch calling technology:

Toronto Blue Jays test new pitch calling device

The Toronto Blue Jays are testing new technology in spring training: a pitching call device that allows the catcher to wirelessly transmit a signal to the pitcher, preventing sign-stealing attempts and speeding up the pace of play. 2:01

Playoff changes boost odds

Adding one more playoff team per league, starting this season, obviously increases Toronto’s chances going forward.

And starting in 2023, MLB will implement a balanced schedule. For years, Toronto has been doomed by its division, forced to play the Yankees and Red Sox more than non-divisional playoff hopefuls. But next season, the Jays will face the Kansas City Royals as many times as the Yankees.

These changes on paper certainly help. Corn the game is not played on paper.

The Blue Jays have the best players guaranteed to be with the team for a long time.

Springer, Berrios and Gausman are all signed through 2026. The team’s control of Guerrero Jr., who is just 23, and Bichette, 24, ends a year early.

These are arguably Toronto’s five most important players in 2022. Four of them are in prime positions and the fifth – Guerrero Jr. – placed second in MVP voting last season. The fact that they’re locked in for the long haul gives the Blue Jays the flexibility to build around them and add as needed over the next half-decade.

Guerrero Jr., Bichette provide the backbone

The two young stars are the backbone of a solid team.

Guerrero Jr., lived up to his top prospect status last year after being moved through the diamond from third base to first. He became an offensive force, hitting 48 home runs with 111 RBI and an OPS (on-base plus hitting percentage) of 1.002 (players rarely eclipse the 1.000 mark).

“What we did last year was the trailer,” Guerrero Jr. said as spring training began. “Now you are going to see the movie.”

Bichette, meanwhile, led the American League with 191 hits while hitting 29 homers to go with 102 RBI. His shortstop defense, which he improved to about average last season, is only expected to improve with Gold Glover Matt Chapman, who the Jays acquired in a trade from Oakland, who now occupy the hot corner next to Bichette.

“Bo was super impressive,” Chapman said. The Toronto Sun. “He’s on the court early. He always works hard. A guy like that, he’s thirsty to learn and thirsty to work hard. He just seemed to be really focused on his defense this offseason.”

Less urgency in 2022

Given Springer’s injury and the nomadic nature of the 2021 season which saw the Jays play home games in Dunedin and Buffalo ahead of Toronto, there’s a feeling of ‘only uphill from here’ around of the team.

But 2021 also brought a surprise win for Robbie Ray’s Cy Young and 45 homers in a career year for second baseman Marcus Semien. Combined with the offer of Guerrero MVP and the breakout of Bichette, there was a lot that went right.

And because Ray and Semien were on the verge of becoming free agents, there was a sense of urgency – it’s hard to lose to players like that and recover. Ray eventually signed in Seattle, while Semien went to Texas.

In Gausman and Chapman, Toronto hopes to find worthy replacements. But with the first on board until 2026 and the second until 2023, it’s time to find out.

In fact, the entire core Blue Jays are signed for at least next season.

Meanwhile, top prospects receiver Gabriel Moreno and shortstop Orelvis Martinez, the latter of whom made waves in spring training, could find themselves helping the big league club in a surge of World Series at the end of the season.

The Jose Bautista-led Blue Jays of 2015 and 2016 were, in many ways, lightning in a bottle. And that provided a lot of excitement.

But today’s Blue Jays led by Vladimir Guerrero Jr.? They are built to last.