Offseason additions haven't delivered for scuffling Blue Jays

Nick Ashbourne
·MLB Writer
·4 min read

As the Toronto Blue Jays sit at a disappointing 8-10, there are a number of factors that explain the lacklustre start.

The most salient is that their highly-touted offence has fallen flat. Apart from a 15-1 drubbing of the Los Angeles Angels on April 10, the club has averaged an unimpressive 3.47 runs per game. You could also point to a starting rotation that’s produced a 5.68 ERA and -0.2 WAR when Hyun-Jin Ryu and Steven Matz aren’t on the mound. A slate of injuries have made the bullpen a concern, and the Blue Jays haven’t helped themselves at the margins with strong defence or base running either — although Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s improvement in those areas is rather staggering.

Marcus Semien has struggled out of the gate with the Blue Jays. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
Marcus Semien has struggled out of the gate with the Blue Jays. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

In short, the Blue Jays have come by their poor record honestly, which is frustrating for a fan base whose expectations were heightened by a busy offseason. The team entered the season expecting to take a next step based on the premise they weren’t losing anyone of note from their 2020 playoff run (and could expect continued growth from their young players) while they supplemented that core with veterans. The reality is those reinforcements simply haven’t arrived.

With George Springer, that statement is literally true, with their other additions — with the exception of Matz — it might as well be. Below is a list of the Blue Jays’ significant offseason acquisitions and what they’ve added to the team thus far by WAR.

It’s early in the season so you wouldn’t expect massive numbers here, but this was a group the Blue Jays were hoping would compose 27 percent of their roster. Springer and Yates haven’t appeared at all, Ray and Chatwood have both spent much of the season on the IL, and Semien has hit a measly .192/.268/.356 and had his WAR saved somewhat by some uncharacteristically dynamic base running. Phelps is the only player on this list who’s contributed approximately what should’ve been expected, and Matz is the only pleasant surprise.

For some perspective, here’s what this group was projected to contribute in an 18-game sample — or one ninth of the season — per ZiPS’ 2021 projections.

That requires some slicing and dicing of small decimals and rounding, and it might not seem like much, but an approximately one-win difference in this small sample of games is massive. This is another way to think about it:

So far, the Blue Jays’ much-hyped offseason class has produced about half of what the team could reasonably expect. The Springer component of that is a significant chunk, but we haven’t seen nearly the best of Semien or Ray, and the absence of Yates in high-leverage spots hurts more than those raw WAR indicate. Last weekend alone, the Blue Jays gave up game-losing home runs late in games with the likes of Joel Payamps and T.J. Zeuch on the mound.

Some of this is going to sort itself out with the return of Springer, but elsewhere there are question marks. When Semien was signed his range of outcomes went from MVP candidate to below-average hitter, and his ability to reach his projections is an open question. The same can be said for Ray, who supposedly found superior command in spring training, but hasn’t shown it in his first two starts. Missing out on Yates will continue to sting, especially as Julian Merryweather sits on the shelf. Even though Matz has been outstanding, a 3.6 WAR pace would be an aggressive expectation. That number would’ve ranked 26th among starters back in MLB’s last full season — a near-ace level contribution.

It’s clear a lack of production from their offseason acquisitions has helped the Blue Jays dig an early-season hole. That’s not in doubt. The question the club is faced with now is whether this cohort can help them find their way out.

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