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Toronto Blue Jays 2024 outlook: They may have enough talent to make a run at a World Series title

Toronto Blue Jays
Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Blue Jays had a good season in 2023, finishing at 89-73 and in third place in the tough AL East. The only problem is that the Baltimore Orioles finished with 101 wins and the Tampa Bay Rays had 99, so the Jays were closer to the bottom of the division and Boston’s 78-win campaign than the top.

Whether fair or unfair, fans in Toronto thought that they had a good chance of landing Shohei Ohtani this winter. He ultimately chose the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Here’s the thing with this team: they have the talent to do some damage not only in the division, but also make a dent in the postseason and go on a big run. The key for the club will be putting everything together. They have the pieces, but they need their stars to perform in big spots. With the lack of moves the team made during the offseason — aside from maybe nearly almost getting Ohtani — that seems to have been the message to the roster, too.

Let’s take a look at the moves the Blue Jays made this offseason, take a look at where they stand for 2024, and give you one player to keep an eye on for the upcoming season.

Toronto Blue Jays additions and subtractions

Toronto Blue Jays
Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Hyun Jin Ryu made 11 starts for the Toronto Blue Jays last season and racked up 52 innings, a 3.46 ERA, and 0.4 fWAR. While that may not seem like a hefty contribution to the team last year, only two players the Jays have brought aboard this offseason are projected to account for a bigger impact than the one the 37-year-old Ryu provided last year.

Those two players are DH Justin Turner (0.9 wins) and third baseman Isiah Kiner-Falefa (1.1). It’s also worth noting that last year’s third baseman, Matt Chapman, has signed with the San Francisco Giants after putting up a 4.2-win and a 3.5-win season in his two years with the Jays. The loss of Chapman counteracts all of the additions the team has made and then some.

One thing we’ve been doing throughout these team preview posts is the take a look at how much WAR the players that have departed put up last season, and then comparing that total to what the team has brought in. The Jays are one of a few teams in the red after a lackluster winter. In addition to Chapman’s 3.5 WAR, they’ll also be without Brandon Belt (2.3), Whit Merrifield (1.5), and Jordan Hicks (1.1). The team has lost 8.4 WAR from last year’s squad.

In addition to Turner and Kiner-Falefa, the Jays have also signed DH Daniel Vogelbach (0.1), utility-man Eduardo Escobar (0.1), and catcher Brian Serven (0.1) on minor-league deals, as well as bringing aboard international free agent Yariel Rodríguez (0.1) on a five-year, $32 million deal. Overall, Toronto brought in 2.6 projected WAR, which leaves them at -5.8 WAR compared to last year’s team.

Toronto Blue Jays 2024 outlook

Toronto Blue Jays
Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

FanGraphs is projecting the Toronto Blue Jays for an 85-77 finish, which would put them fourth in the East, behind the New York Yankees (89 wins), Tampa Bay Rays (87), and Orioles (85). If you want to get technical, they’d be tied with the O’s, but after Baltimore put up 101 wins last season and added Corbin Burnes this offseason, it seems fair to give them the advantage in the event of a tie.

Baseball Prospectus expects a slightly better season from Toronto, with the Jays slated to finish second behind the Yankees with an 88.6-73.4 record. That would also leave them as the third-best team in the American League, trailing New York and Houston, but ahead of Minnesota (84.5) and Texas (86).

Given the different views on the Jays heading into the 2024 campaign, there are two different routes that you can take to determine how much to expect out of this club over the next seven to eight months. On the one hand, the team didn’t do much to improve since last season ended. On the other, they have lots of former top prospects on the offensive side of the ball that could form a juggernaut to pair with one of the best rotations in all of baseball.

Alek Manoah is currently slotted as the team’s fifth starter behind Kevin Gausman, José Berrios, Chris Bassitt, and Yusei Kikuchi, and heading into last season he was considered the team’s ace, coming off a 31-start season in 2022 where he held a 2.24 ERA. If he can work himself closer to that pitcher again in 2024, then the Jays rotation is just straight up unfair.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., still just 25 this season, was good last season with a 118 wRC+ (100 is league average), but with his defense being the worst in all of baseball at first base, he needs to be a little better. His glove knocked him down to a one-win player last season, and that just isn’t the guy that everyone has been waiting on. The Jays may not need Guerrero to be a superstar in order to be a postseason team, but to have people believing they could win the whole thing in 2024, he’s going to have to swing in like it’s 2021. That season he held a 166 wRC+, 66% better than league average, and also launched 48 home runs while batting .311 with a .401 OBP.

The Blue Jays will need some improvement around the diamond from key players, but the one that everyone’s attention will be on is Vladdy.

Toronto Blue Jays player to watch in 2024

Toronto Blue Jays
Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The guy to keep an eye on this year is going to be one of their big additions from last offseason, Daulton Varsho. In his first season with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2023, the outfielder provided top tier defense, ranking in the 97th percentile in Outs Above Average with 11. He had a completely different season with the bat.

Over the course of 158 games, Varsho hit .220 with a .285 OBP, 20 home runs, and 16 stolen bases. That amounted to an 85 wRC+, 15 % worse than league average. In his two years with the Arizona Diamondbacks before the trade, his batting average had never been terribly high, topping out at .246 in 2021, but that wRC+ sat at 107 the year before the trade. An above-average bat with elite defense is something that Toronto could use in 2024.

Over the course of the final two months of the season, Varsho held a 111 wRC+ in August and then a 102 in September, so the hope here is that he’s turned things around and will be closer to the player that Toronto traded for last winter.

While the Blue Jays didn’t make many splashy moves, improvements from Guerrero, Manoah, and Varsho would go a long way to the team finally winning a game in the postseason, if not an entire series.

Jason Burke covers MLB for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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