On defence anyway, the Blue Jays were as good as gold in 2023.
That clear strength of the 89-win team was recognized on Sunday night when a trio of Toronto players were awarded American League Gold Gloves at their respective positions.
Matt Chapman, an ace at the hot corner and anchor of the Jays infield D won his fourth Gold Glove at third base and was joined by centre fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who regularly made highlight-reel plays in the outfield, and stellar defensive starting pitcher Jose Berrios.
Of course, the honours further highlight the challenges facing general manager Ross Atkins as the off-season gets under way with Chapman likely to hit free agency and Kiermaier already in that category.
Two other Jays were finalists at their position after outstanding seasons — left fielder Daulton Varsho and catcher Alejandro Kirk, whose work behind the plate is elite.
Though the Jays struggled at the plate in 2023, almost from opening day to the disappointing exit from the post season it was readily apparent where the team’s strengths were. Bolstering that defence was a priority of Atkins last winter and the moves he made paid off handsomely — particularly with newcomers Kiermaier and Varsho.
As good as Chapman was at third in his two year in Toronto, it’s unlikely that he will return for a third year with the club. While it’s expected the team will offer Chapman a qualifying offer this week, it’s almost certain that as one of the top position players on the market the California native will test free agency.
Kiermaier, who will also hit free agency, won his fourth Gold Glove as that one-year deal he signed last winter paid off both for the player and the club. His dominant work defensively made Kiermaier an instant fan favourite at the Rogers Centre.
Berrios, who had a nice bounce back season throwing the ball, was a finalist for the 2022 Gold Glove before breaking through this season.
Varsho, excellent throughout his first year with the Jays, was denied the award in left field as the award went to Cleveland’s Steven Kwan. Varsho’s shot as the award may have been compromised by the number of starts he had in centre, which could be his regular home in 2024.
Also honoured on Sunday was former Blue Jays catcher Gabriel Moreno, who was named the NL winner at his position after a stellar breakout season with the league champion Arizona Diamondbacks.
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