Blue Jays FAQ: A casual fan's guide to the 2023 season
When does the Blue Jays' season start? Who are Toronto's new stars? We have the answers to those questions and many more.
Spring training is winding down and the start of the regular season is only one week away for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Toronto made major changes to its roster over the winter on the heels of a disappointing two-game sweep in the American League Wild Card Series that featured one of the worst collapses in MLB playoff history.
With that disaster firmly in the rear-view mirror and optimism flowing ahead of a new year, here's everything you need to know heading into the 2023 season.
When does the Blue Jays' season start?
Toronto plays its first game on March 30 at 4:10 p.m. ET on the road against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Blue Jays' home opener is scheduled for April 11 at 7:07 p.m. ET against the Detroit Tigers.
Are the Blue Jays expected to be good? Will they make the playoffs?
It would be a big surprise if the Blue Jays missed the postseason in 2023. They finished second in the American League East last year and earned the top wild-card spot. Their roster is a lot different than it was in 2022 but the team still looks like one of MLB's best.
The New York Yankees are once again favoured to win the division, but popular website FanGraphs gives Toronto a 70.8 percent chance of making the playoffs.
Who are the Blue Jays' biggest stars?
Toronto's best players remain the same as last year. First baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the team's top slugger and could be in the running for MVP if he plays up to his full potential. He finished second in MVP voting in 2021 and still hit more than 30 home runs in what was considered a disappointing 2022 season.
Shortstop Bo Bichette is another young star who also ranks among the best players in the majors. He just turned 25 and has led the American League in hits in back-to-back years. Look for him to hit around .300 and blast 25-30 home runs this year.
On the pitching side, right-handers Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman lead the way for the starters. Both of them could easily be the best pitcher on other teams and it wouldn't be surprising to see either one in contention for the American League Cy Young award, which is given to the top pitcher in the league.
Markham, Ont., native Jordan Romano is still the Blue Jays' closer and is becoming one of baseball's best relief pitchers. He's been dominant in each of the past two seasons and was named an All-Star for the first time in his career in 2022.
Who are the new Blue Jays to know?
The Blue Jays made a major splash right before Christmas when they acquired outfielder Daulton Varsho from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Varsho is an exceptional defensive outfielder and brings an extra element of speed to the Blue Jays. He also has plenty of power offensively but posts low batting averages and is prone to striking out.
Toronto also signed two veteran players in first baseman Brandon Belt and outfielder Kevin Kiermaier. Belt won two World Series rings with the San Francisco Giants and can hit for both power and a high batting average when healthy. Kiermaier is another defence/speed specialist who has won three Gold Gloves over his career with the rival Tampa Bay Rays.
Chris Bassitt was the big addition on the starting pitching front, as he signed a three-year, $63-million deal in the winter. His ceiling isn't as high as Manoah or Gausman's, but he has been one of the most consistent starters in the majors since 2015.
In the bullpen, Erik Swanson was acquired from the Seattle Mariners to give manager John Schneider another late-inning weapon in front of Romano. Swanson had the best season of his career in 2022 and has the ability to strike lots of batters out.
Which players aren't on the Blue Jays anymore?
MLB rosters are constantly in flux but four players stand out as the biggest offseason losses for the Blue Jays. Fan favourites Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. were both traded (in the Swanson and Varsho trades, respectively) as Toronto overhauled its outfield to prioritize defence. Top prospect Gabriel Moreno was also sent to Arizona in the deal for Varsho.
Ross Stripling, who started in the bullpen last season but stepped in and thrived as a starter midway through the year, also left via free agency. The right-hander opted to sign with the Giants.
What's this I hear about MLB's new rules?
MLB instituted a number of new rules for the 2023 season in an effort to speed up the game and increase the action on the diamond. Here's a brief summary of each rule, via USA Today:
Pitch clock: There is a 30-second timer between batters and a time limit between pitches. After receiving the ball from the catcher or umpire, pitchers are required to begin their motion within 15 seconds with the bases empty or within 20 seconds with runners on base. If they don't, they're charged with an automatic ball.
Hitters must be ready for the pitch by the time the clock reaches eight seconds. If not, they're charged with an automatic strike. A batter can call time out only once per plate appearance.
Defensive shift limitations: At the start of each pitch, teams must have at least two infielders on either side of second base, with all four positioned on the infield dirt. Infielders may not switch positions unless there is a substitution.
Bigger bases and baserunning rules: The bases are now 18 inches square (previously 15 inches). That decreases the distance between first, second and third base by 4.5 inches, which should presumably lead to more stolen base attempts. Home plate – which stays the same size – to first base is 3 inches shorter.
In addition, pitchers are limited to a maximum of two pickoff attempts per plate appearance. If a pitcher attempts a third pickoff throw and doesn't get the runner out, all runners move up one base.
Here's a more in-depth look at what these changes mean for the Blue Jays.
What's up with the Rogers Centre renovation?
The Blue Jays' home stadium is undergoing a $300-million makeover, with Phase 1 of the project being completed in time for the home opener. This phase saw major changes to the stadium's outfield dimensions, which should impact players in numerous ways both offensively and defensively. The bullpens were also raised to bring fans closer to the action as pitchers warm up.
The 500-level seats were replaced, while a number of new general admission social spaces were created throughout the stadium. Any fan with a ticket to the game can access these areas. You can even purchase a $20 ticket that doesn't get you a physical seat, but allows you to enter the general admission locations.