Timelines and expectations for Matthew Knies as a Maple Leaf

Timelines and expectations for Matthew Knies as a Maple Leaf

Matthew Knies could very well be in his last couple of months of college hockey. The Leafs very much wanted to add him last spring after his breakout freshman season and Olympic appearance, but with the Minnesota Golden Gophers coming up short on the national title there was some unfinished business Knies wanted to attend to and with the Gophers having some additional high profile returning players and even more significant freshman additions in Logan Cooley and Jimmy Snuggerud, the desire to return to the NCAA was strong.
Since that time, Knies has continued to be a top prospect for the Leafs. Some flaws with Knies might have been acknowledged at the Leafs summer prospect camp where he failed to stand out, and in the summer World Juniors, Knies couldn’t buy a goal even if he was useful in creating space for his linemates Logan Cooley and Matthew Coronato. There might have been concerns, but those are largely gone now that Knies is sitting on a new career best 17 goals (in 5 fewer games than last season) which are good enough for the 3rd best in the country. He also finds himself in the top 20 in the country in scoring and 30t …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The Julian Merryweather era has come to an end

We’ll always have those two saves in April of 2021.

The Toronto Blue Jays designated Julian Merryweather for assignment last week in order to make room on the 40-man roster for the newly-signed Brandon Belt. On Tuesday, the team announced that Merryweather had been claimed by the Chicago Cubs…

ROSTER MOVES:
🔹 RHP Julian Merryweather has been claimed off waivers by the Cubs
🔹 RHP Junior Fernández has been assigned outright to Triple-A pic.twitter.com/F2bdTV3n4p
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) January 17, 2023

Merryweather was acquired back in October of 2018 as the Player To Be Named Later from when Josh Donaldson has been traded to Cleveland a couple of months earlier. At that time, Merryweather was a bit of a mystery as he hadn’t pitched since the 2018 season.
After missing virtually all of the 2019 season, Merryweather finally appeared in 2020. He made eight appearances for the Blue Jays in the pandemic season, posting a 4.15 ERA over 13 innings while racking up 15 strikeouts.
By the time 2021 rolled around, the narrative around Merryweather had shifted from ‘Is he even a real guy?’ to ‘This guy is the closer of the future.’ 
On Opening Day, Merryweather came in for the 10th inning to protect the Blue Jays’ 3-2 lead over the New York Yankees and he struck out the side. A couple of days later, he was brought in for the ninth inning with the Blue Jays up by a score of 3-1, and he struck out two Yankees en route to another save.

Unfortunately, things peaked there for Merryweather. He made two more appearances in April and went on the Injured List with an oblique strain. He didn’t ret …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

The Blue Jays are expected to sign first baseman Brandon Belt

Well, the Blue Jays have reportedly added another left-handed batter.

According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the long-time San Francisco Giant will be signing a deal with the Blue Jays on Tuesday.

Brandon Belt will be signing a one year deal with Toronto, I’m told. Deal will be announced tomorrow.
— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) January 10, 2023

Per The Athletic’s Kaitlyn McGrath, the contract is a one-year deal worth $9.3 million, a sizeable chunk.

The deal is for one year, $9.3 million, per a source https://t.co/J9vDSFZoxc
— Kaitlyn McGrath (@kaitlyncmcgrath) January 10, 2023

The 34-year-old has mainly played first base since the plague starter, but he’s definitely a bat first player. He struggled a bit last season, slashing .213/.326/.350 with eight homers in 298 plate appearances, with a 12.4 BB% and a 27.2 K%. This led to a slightly below average 96 wRC+.
However, Belt is not too far removed from a fantastic season, as he slashed .274/.378/.597 with 29 homers in 381 plate appearances (a bonkers number). From the start of the COVID season until the end of the 2021 season, he slashed .285/.393/.595 with 38 homers in just 560 plate appearances for a 162 wRC+.
So while he struggled in 2022, it’s a low-risk signing for a guy who was good just a year ago. What’s more, he was injured for a significant portion of 2022, so the drop in numbers makes sense.

Brandon Belt – 06/18/2021 pic.twitter.com/dydW6odgR6
— Random Homers (@randomhomers) December 28, 2022

Belt’s role on the team is to likely be a backup first baseman who can designate hit and come off the bench to pinch hit. While he used to play in the outfield, he hasn’t done that since 2019.
The 34-year-old was a part of two World Series-winning teams, as he was part of the Giants teams that won the 2012 and 2014 titles.
If he could hit anything as he did in 2020 and 2021, this is a fantastic signing. Even if last year was who he is (his knee is fully healthy now, so I find tha …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

2022 Blue Jays Retrospective: Bo Bichette’s legendary September, the Wild Card series vs. Seattle, and more

Over the next few days, we’ll be taking a look back at the year that was for the Toronto Blue Jays. 

Bo Bichette Revenge Tour
One of the only ways that Blue Jays fans could describe September of 2022 was simply the name Bo Bichette. Bo went on an absolute tear, in which he was undoubtedly the best hitter in baseball through the first couple weeks of the month.
The numbers are truly eye-popping; Bichette posted a .403 batting average with a 1.134 OPS throughout September, with 7 home runs and 27 RBIs. His 48 hits set the Blue Jays record for most hits in a single month, and if it wasn’t for Aaron Judge, the MLB would have likely named Bichette the AL player of the month.
Let’s take a quick dive into how Bichette did in some of the September series.
September 2-4 @ Pittsburgh: Bichette went 6-for-12, with 5 RBIs. His clutch three-run double in game two of the series broke a 1-1 tie in the 7th inning, sealing the series win. He also added two much-needed insurance runs in the 9th inning of game one with a two-run home run off of Pirates reliever Yohan Ram …

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Author: Evan Stack / Blue Jays Nation

2022 Blue Jays Retrospective – Pt. 1: An Opening Night for the ages, Vladdy lights up the Bronx, and more

Over the next few days, we’ll be taking a look back at the year that was for the Toronto Blue Jays. 

Spring training was fun and all, and it was good to see the Blue Jays back out on the field competing again after the lockout. To make things even more exciting, the city of Toronto was able to witness an opening night at the Rogers Center for the first time since 2019.
A wild opening night comeback
Opening night was a rollercoaster, to say the least. The vibes of the fanbase were about as positive as they could be — a World Series-contending roster was about to take the field with the highest expectations since the ’15 and ’16 playoff teams.
Let’s start with Jose Berrios, the opening night starter. Oof, talk about a performance that served as a harbinger of things to come. Berrios allowed a leadoff home run to Brad Miller, and it only went downhill from there. Berrios recorded only one out before being pulled from the game, after he allowed three hits, four runs, and two walks, serving him up an ERA of 108.00.
Tayler Sauc …

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Author: Evan Stack / Blue Jays Nation

Tough Night on Broadway + Leafs/Caps Preview: Leafs Morning Take

Tough Night on Broadway + Leafs/Caps Preview: Leafs Morning Take

Well, the point streaks had to end eventually, right?

Former Leaf Jimmy Vesey scored twice as the Rangers upended the Leafs 3-1 to snap Toronto’s 15-game point streak. On top of that, Mitch Marner failed to register a point as well, which marked the end of his impeccable 23 game run. Speaking of which, we have another point streak to watch closely now as Michael Bunting scored to extend his to 10 games. Dun, dun, dun.
It’s one loss, whatever. The Friday Edition of Leafs Morning Take recapped a tough night at Madison Square Garden. Again, it’s tough to rip a team that just suffered its first regulation loss in over a month (Nov. 11).

Presented by @PointsBetCanada ..
The sky is falling once again in Toronto..🤣🤣🤣
Just kidding. #LeafsForever
Leafs Morning Take | @Jay_D_Rosehill | @TLNdc
Full Show: https://t.co/xrQfhGhkv3
Recapping last night’s loss to the #NYR: pic.twitter.com/pONFdR9dad
— Nick Alberga (@thegoldenmuzzy) December 16, 2022

 
Meantime, we also discussed the injury to Timothy Likjegren. After the game, Sheldon Keefe called it an upper-body issue. Next man up, that’s all they can do, right? Also, it sounds like Morgan Rielly is getting closer, too.
Lastly, we previewed the Leafs/Capitals game tomorrow night from Washington. With a goal, Alex Ovechkin can tie Gordie Howe for second all-time. Ilya Samsonov, who’s making his return to D.C., will get the call. I love revenge games.
As per usual, we wrapped with the PointsBet Canada bet of the day:

.@thegoldenmuzzy & @Jay_D_Rosehill are on another shot prop tonight👀
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Details -> https://t.co/uvEnShf7GT#ad #pointsbetcanada
Full Show: https://t.co/pKRYvS4YF7 pic.twitter.com/VPKnkK1rYj
— TheLeafsNation (@TLNdc) December 16, 2022

I’ll be flying solo to recap the weekend on Monday at 11 AM ET. Also, Rosie will be by for another instalment of 3 Hits With Rosie.
Don’t forget to subscribe, like, and leave us a review wherever you’re checking us out! …

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Author: Nick Alberga / The Leafs Nation

Another starting pitcher is off the market, as the San Francisco Giants sign Sean Manaea, plus what it could mean for the Carlos Rodón sweepstakes

Well, writing two of these articles in less than two days isn’t what I wanted to do, but here I am.

According to Jon Heyman, the San Francisco Giants have signed left-handed pitcher Sean Manaea to a two-year, $25,000,000 with an opt-out.

Sean Manaea to Giants. $25M, 2 years. Opt out.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 12, 2022

The Blue Jays were never linked to the 30-year-old lefty, but he was an interesting name for a bounce-back season. Manaea struggled in 2022, posting a 4.96 ERA and 4.53 FIP in 158 innings pitched with the Padres. He had an average K% of 23.2% and a 7.5 BB%.
However, Manaea has solid career totals, owning a 4.06 ERA and 4.07 FIP in 885 innings pitched. His 2022 K% actually surpassed his career 21.6 K%, but his 2022 BB% was higher than his career 6.2 BB%.
Again, the Jays were never connected to Manaea, and it seemed unlikely they’d want to sign a bounce-back candidate when they already employ Yusei Kikuchi and Mitch White on the 2023 roster. However, there may be some alternative ramifications.
Another potential ramification:
The Giants were (and may still be) a front-runner to sign Carlos Rodón. With the signing of a different left-handed pitcher, have they given up the chase? It wouldn’t be a bad thing… except that the Yankees are seen as the other front-runner to sign Rodón. The Cardinals have also appeared as a mystery team, so that’s something.

There’s a mystery team in on Rodon, and it’s believed to be the Cardinals (so maybe it’s not such a great mystery after all) #mysteryteam
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 11, 2022

I don’t think you need me to tell you that if the Yankees sign Rodón, that puts a wre …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Blue Jays fill part of their outfield puzzle by signing Kevin Kiermaier

Well, the Jays have added their 4th outfielder!

According to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, the Blue Jays have agreed to terms with centre fielder Kevin Kiermaier.

Damn autocorrect. Blue Jays in agreement with Kevin Kiermaier pending physical, per industry source. https://t.co/XzRWiuhxUP
— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) December 10, 2022

First things first, Kevin Kiermaier will more than likely be Raimel Tapia’s replacement, and NOT Teoscar Hernández’s replacement. My assumption is that they’ll end up signing a corner outfielder such as Andrew Benintendi or Michael Conforto or something.
But what about Kiermaier? What drove the Jays to sign the 32-year-old outfielder? To put it bluntly, his defence is really good.
Last season he finished with a 2 Defensive Runs Saved and 1 Outs Above Average in 482.1 innings played in centre field, which is just slightly above average. However, Kiermaier was dealing with a hip injury. The season before, he had a 13 DRS and 11 OAA in 894.2 innings.
Of course, Kiemaier isn’t in his defensive prime anymore, as he once finished with a 38 DRS (which is fucking nuts) in 2015. His best Outs Above Average season came in 2019 with an 18 OAA.
Still, Kiermaier has a strong arm, and when healthy, he has excellent range and speed in the outfield. He’s a definite upgrade over Raimel Tapia.
Regarding the bat, it’s not unfair to say he’s slightly below average. In 221 plate appearances in 2022, he slashed .228/.281/.369 with seven homers and a 27.6 K% for a 90 wRC+. Kiermaier’s best season came in 2017, where he slashed .276/.338/.450 with 15 homers for a 113 wRC+. Last season, he had a 101 wRC+, so there is positivity with the bat when he’s healthy.
Speaking of which, the big key to Kiermaier’s success is staying healthy. If he is, Kiermaier will easily pro …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Blue Jays, Position by Position: Without external help, the bullpen is already in good shape heading into next season

In the last installment of this series, we’ll look at the Blue Jays bullpen.

I won’t lie, I thought the bullpen was actually pretty good in 2022. It’s also looking to be much better heading into 2023, as they have quite a few relief prospects who could make the jump next season.
So, let’s recap how each of the core relievers did in 2022, the depth, and the prospects the Jays have. Afterward, we’ll look at what they may do externally to improve the arm barn.
The guaranteed relievers for 2023:
First, we’ll look at the pitchers that I believe are a lock for the bullpen in 2023.
Jordan Romano:
Starting with the bullpen ace, we have closer Jordan Romano. The 29-year-old Canadian posted a 2.11 ERA and 2.82 FIP in 64 innings pitched, along with a 28.3 K% and 8.1 BB%. His 36 saves ranked sixth in the league, but that doesn’t tell you how many one-run leads he protected.

With the winning run in scoring position, Jordan Romano shuts it down. pic.twitter.com/kBzxojcklG
— MLB (@MLB) September 4, 2022

Romano was an integral part of the Blue Jays in 2022, and he will continue to be such as he won’t hit free agency until 2026.
Anthony Bass:
The big acquisition in the bullpen at the trade deadline, the recently turned 35-year-old had an impressive season split between Miami and Toronto. He had a 1.54 ERA and 3.00 FIP in 70.1 innings pitched. Along with that, he had a 26.5 K% and a 7.3 BB%.

Anthony Bass White Castle Special. pic.twitter.com/wCgDhkihOU
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 15, 2022

His numbers with the Jays ticked up quite a bit, however, as he had a 1.75 ERA and 4.63 FIP in 25.2 innings pitched.
Bass has a $3 million club option which will more than likely be picked up by the Blue Jays. He will be a free agent at the end of the 2023 season.
Yimi Garcia:
Garcia was si …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

BJN Radio – Ep. 107: The Dog Days of Summer are over

After an up-and-down month of August (well, months of April, May, June, July, and August, really), the Blue Jays are into September clinging to a playoff spot.

We talked about the series with the Chicago Cubs, which featured some clutch home runs and excellent relief appearances, but also left a sour taste behind as the Blue Jays weren’t able to sweep a weak opponent.
After that, we talked about Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro both doing media rounds during the week and why the timing is a little strange. We also talked about the rosters expanding to 28 in September and what that means for the team.
Finally, we looked ahead to the three-game series in Pittsburgh this weekend and explained why we’re feeling a wee bit nervous despite the fact the Pirates are very bad.
You can listen to the episode here…
POINTSBET IS LIVE IN ONTARIO

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation