This was not supposed to be the season the Toronto Blue Jays were expecting. At the beginning of the year, the Blue Jays were expected to contend for a division title, but have not lived up to expectations, and quite frankly have not been remotely close.
Yes, they are three games above the .500 mark at 25 wins and 22 losses, however at the current time, Toronto is dead last in the American League East, and 8.5 games back of the division leading Tampa Bay Rays. One major problem is the lack of timely hitting. The Blue Jays are currently 24th in the Major Leagues in runners in scoring position batting average at .235. They are getting their chances, but just not executing when needed.
Toronto has also been awful against the American League East this year. They have a record of five wins and 12 losses after having a record of 43 wins and 33 losses last year.
So why do the Blue Jays seem weaker in 2023 than 2022? Well, for one, the Blue Jays lineup from an offensive standpoint is simply not as dangerous as it was a year ago. In an effort to improve the Blue Jays’s bullpen and team defense, Blue Jays General Manager Ross Atkins sacrificed Toronto’s overall offensive skillset.
Loss of Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel is Huge
The Blue Jays are really missing the power of Teoscar Hernandez of Cotui, Dominican Republic and consistency of Lourdes Gurriel Jr. of Sancti Spiritus, Cuba. Hernandez already has eight home runs this season with six other extra base hits, 24 runs batted in, and a slugging percentage of .419. Over the last two seasons in Toronto, Hernandez had 57 home runs and 64 doubles. He may not be great defensively, but should have been the Blue Jays’s everyday designated hitter this season. An everyday player, Hernandez was traded for relief pitcher Erik Swanson, who will only give you about four innings a week.
Gurriel Jr. meanwhile has an excellent batting average of .304 with seven home runs and 25 runs batted in. He has 27 runs scored, 48 hits, 12 doubles, one triple, one stolen base, 13 walks, 83 total bases, one sacrifice fly, an own base percentage of .362 and a slugging percentage of .525.
Daulton Varsho has been terrible
Daulton Varsho, who the Blue Jays acquired from the Diamondbacks for Gurriel Jr. AND catcher Gabriel Moreno, was supposed to improve Toronto from a defensive standpoint and on the basepaths. However, he has struggled mightily offensively to start the year and is only six points above the Mendoza line at .206. Varsho’s lack of offensive consistency should have been predicted by Atkins as Varsho only batted .188 as a rookie with the Diamondbacks in 2020, and was only .235 last year. At the time of the deal, I was of the opinion that Atkins should not have traded Varsho for Gurriel or Moreno, and inexplicably, he traded both of them for an inconsistent bat.
Traded the wrong catcher
We have not even got to the catcher position yet, and here Atkins once again made a colossal error. Of the three Blue Jays catchers a year ago, there is no doubt that Gabriel Moreno of Barquisimeto, Venezuela had the most upside. He was considered an elite coaching prospect and one Blue Jays fans deserved to see for many years. Yet, he was the one traded to Arizona, despite batting .319 last season.
So far in 2023, Moreno has been great for the Diamondbacks. He is batting .311 with one home run and 17 runs batted in. During 119 at bats, Moreno has 37 hits, six doubles, two stolen bases, a .339 on base percentage, .387 slugging percentage, 46 total bases, and two sacrifice flies. Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen meanwhile is batting only .202, which is remarkably four percentage points worse than Varsho, and fellow backstopper Alejandro Kirk is only batting .234.