During the Blue Jays’ end-of-season news conference, GM Ross Atkins spoke to reporters about a variety of topics, including the decision to pull right-hander Jose Berrios from what proved to be the club’s final game of the season after just three innings, the future of manager John Schneider and the coaching staff as well as the club’s offense in 2022.
Regarding the decision to pull Berrios, Atkins emphasized that in-game decision-making is a role that belongs exclusively to Schneider, via MLB.com’s Julia Kreuz.
“[Pregame] meetings are [manager] John Schneider’s meetings,” Atkins said. “He has a group of individuals that he prepares with every day. … The group is the staff that’s on the field. It’s not the front office, I do not attend those meetings, and I certainly do not make those decisions. When that decision occurred, I found out about it when you did. When Yusei [Kikuchi] was getting warm in the first inning, it was obviously very clear that we had a strategy to potentially deploy.
“I was surprised when [Kikuchi] came in,” Atkins said. “We all knew the potential of that plan happening early in the game. The earlier it happened, the better for our bullpen. … There was not an influence from the [front] office that factored into that, other than maybe that it was an organizational strategy that had been communicated to players.”
Although Atkins emphasized that he did not play a role in the decision, he also expressed support for Schneider’s decision, noting that run prevention wasn’t the club’s issue during the series, where they mustered just one run on 15 hits across the two games. “The strategy is one that, in the end, was effective if we only allowed two runs,” Atkins said.
While Atkins expressed support for Schneider and confirmed during the presser that he would return as the club’s manager in 2024, the future of Toronto’s coaching staff appears less certain as Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi notes that Atkins described discussions on the future of the club’s coaching staff as “ongoing,” but the specifics of any changes being considered were unclear.
In terms of offseason priorities, Atkins made clear that the club will look to improve its offense ahead of the 2024 campaign. Although the club’s 107 wRC+ was a solid figure that placed them eighth-best in the majors this season, it still represents a noteworthy decline from last year’s AL-best offense that posted a 118 wRC+. The club suffered a particularly tough season in terms of power, as Toronto’s ISO dipped from .168 in 2022 to .161 this year. While that dip may seem insignificant, it’s all the more concerning given the much stronger offensive environment around the sport in 2023, as made obvious by the Blue Jays going from eighth best in the majors last year to just 18th this season, worst among playoff teams in the AL.
With sluggers Brandon Belt (19 homers, .236 ISO) and Matt Chapman (17 homers, .185 ISO) both scheduled to hit free agency in the coming weeks, even more pressure figures to be placed on franchise face Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to bounce back from 2023’s down season. That said, stronger performances from outfielders George Springer and Daulton Varsho as well as catcher Alejandro Kirk will also be necessary if the club’s offense is going to regain its top-of-the-league form from 2022. Of course, the Blue Jays could also look to free agency in order to give their offense a facelift. Chapman and Belt will be joined by the likes of Mitch Garver, Rhys Hoskins, J.D. Martinez and Joc Pederson as some of the better power bats available this winter.