5 things to watch as Blue Jays focus shifts sharply to next season

The postseason ended shortly after it started for the Toronto Blue Jays. The Seattle Mariners shut out the Blue Jays in Game 1 last Friday and came back from a seven-point deficit in a 10-9 victory a day later to complete a two-game sweep.

The exit from the wild-card series has forced Toronto team chiefs to focus on the offseason and the 2023 campaign. Here’s a look at five things to watch as the Blue Jays aim to make improvements for the season. ‘next year.

The next step

The unpredictable nature of a short best-of-three streak is a challenge for all teams in the wildcard mix.

The top two division winners are rewarded with first-round byes and can rest a little easier knowing they have home advantage in a longer best-of-five set.

Winning the East Division and finishing in the top two in the American League will be one of the Blue Jays’ main goals in 2023. The wildcard round hasn’t been kind with two sweeps in the past three years.

Pitching depth will need to be addressed to have a decent chance of winning a division crown. A left-handed bat or two would also help.

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Rotation fluctuations

The start of Toronto’s starting rotation is one of the best in the major leagues. The back end needs work if the Blue Jays are to struggle.

Alek Manoah became a staff ace and Kevin Gausman delivered his first season with the team.

Free agent pending Ross Stripling was reliable but Jose Berrios was inconsistent and Yusei Kikuchi landed in the bullpen. Mitch White has struggled mightily and Hyun-Jin Ryu may not be ready to play next season after elbow surgery.

Even if Stripling were to return, at least one more starter is needed. A relief team that has been in the middle of the pack for the past two years also needs attention.

Provisional tag

The Blue Jays were 46-28 under John Schneider after replacing the fired Charlie Montoyo in July.

The interim lasted until the end of the season. Now the Blue Jays must decide if Schneider will return as a full-time skipper.

Toronto had an uneven first half and stabilized in the second half under Schneider. The Blue Jays won 92 games overall and earned the fourth seed in the American League.

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins praised Schneider’s performance during his late-season availability, but said more time was needed before a final decision was made.

Time to experiment?

It’s entirely possible the Blue Jays are trying to experiment to maximize roster depth.

Could center back George Springer move to right field? Could Bo Bichette be moved to second base? Could receiver Gabriel Moreno be used on the field?

Off-season additions and trades could impact potential position changes, but the Blue Jays could get creative when spring training begins in February.

Anchor extension

The offseason will provide another opportunity to sign long-term extensions with key players if both sides are open to it.

The team’s young core anchors—Bichette and first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr.—remain under the team’s control for another three seasons.

The main position players are all under contract for 2023, so the team could very well have a similar look.

However, the pressure will be increased for a team that has taken small steps this year but has not been successful. This club is in winning mode now and another exit in the first round would be a big disappointment.

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