Every baseball season brings fresh faces to the team, and the Toronto Blue Jays saw a smattering of new jerseys in the locker room this spring. While most of their core remains intact from last season, the team welcomes six new players this year.
Toronto’s new cast of characters includes three-time All-Star and World Series MVP, George Springer. The Jays also added a former top-three MVP finisher in Marcus Semien, and they plucked Steven Matz from the New York Mets in trade.
With a few new marquee names on the roster and a familiar face from the past, here’s some crucial information about the new guys on the team for the 2021 season, which begins on Thursday.
1. George Springer (centre field)
The Blue Jays were the most aggressive team on the free agent front, inking Springer to a six-year, $150 million deal — the largest in franchise history. The team hopes the former World Series champ brings some postseason pedigree to this unseasoned roster.
The 31-year-old becomes the elder statesman in the lineup, anchoring one of the youngest position player cores in baseball. Springer may start the season on the injured list with an abdominal strain, but he’ll slot in at the starting centre fielder spot when healthy.
Springer spent his last seven seasons with the Houston Astros, earning accolades like All-Star appearances, two Silver Slugger awards, and 63 games of postseason experience. He takes over the coveted leadoff spot in this lethal Blue Jays lineup.
This isn’t Springer’s first time adorning a Blue Jays uniform as he played for his hometown Connecticut Blue Jays as a little leaguer.
This won't be the first time George Springer has played for a team called the #BlueJays. Growing up, he played on the Connecticut Blue Jays
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) January 20, 2021
2. Marcus Semien (second base)
One of the most underrated signings of the offseason might have been the Blue Jays netting Semien to a one-year, $18 million deal. While it’s a large one-year investment, the Blue Jays are hoping for a bounce-back season from the veteran infielder.
When healthy, Semien is an ironman on the infield; he started 276 consecutive games for the Oakland A’s from 2018 to 2020, but was sidelined for five games last September with soreness in his left side.
He struggled during the regular season, but Semien’s bat came to life in the 2020 playoffs against the White Sox and Astros, posting a .407/.484/.667 slash line with 11 hits during the A’s postseason run.
Semien moved off his native position (shortstop) and will play the bulk of his games at second base, conceding the shortstop position to his new double play partner, Bo Bichette.
3. Steven Matz (starting pitcher)
With the Blue Jays starting pitching depth already being tested, the acquisition of Steven Matz was a wise move by the Blue Jays in hindsight.
With Nate Pearson, Robbie Ray, and Thomas Hatch on the shelf in the short term, Matz vaults into the No. 2 starter spot behind Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Matz struggled in 2020, posting career highs in ERA, WHIP, and hits and home runs per nine innings, which is why the Blue Jays fetched him from the Mets for a small sum of prospects.
However, Matz appears to be turning the corner this spring, posting 15 strikeouts in 15.1 innings of work in spring training, with a fastball velocity hovering around the 93-94 mile per hour mark.
4. Tyler Chatwood (reliever)
If you’ve noticed a pattern with the type of pitchers acquired by the Blue Jays this offseason, you’re correct. With Tyler Chatwood, Toronto’s hoping to cash in on one of of their buy-low pitching candidates.
Chatwood finished his three-year, $38 million contract with the Cubs rather disastrously, posting a 4.70 ERA during his three-season stint on the north side of Chicago. The Jays hope they can instil some of pitching coach Pete Walker’s magic upon the right-hander and make him an effective right-handed reliever.
The Cubs signed Chatwood as a starter and later converted him into a reliever, which is where he slots in on the Blue Jays pitching staff. He’s one of several multi-inning relief options for Charlie Montoyo out of the bullpen.
5. David Phelps (reliever)
Mr. Phelps, welcome back to Toronto (or Dunedin, at least)! The 34-year-old veteran returns to the Blue Jays for a second stint as a member of this relief corps.
Back in 2019, the Blue Jays signed him coming off Tommy John injury. He only spent a month-and-a-half with the team before getting dealt to the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline.
The deal brought back Hatch to the Blue Jays, and oddly enough, both pitchers in the deal find themselves on the same team in 2021. Trade partners on the same team? Welcome to the baseball Twilight Zone!