The Blue Jays 2021 season is over.
It happened abruptly with Toronto's players not even standing on a baseball field, but a series of post-game press conferences with some of the Blue Jays' most prominent players closed the book on the playoffless year.
Full post-season wrapups will trickle in throughout the coming days, but here are some initial takeaways from the final media sessions:
1. Marcus Semien's Free Agency
Marcus Semien moved coasts, changed countries, and swapped positions to join the Blue Jays on a one-year deal.
He proceeded to be the second-most valuable position player in baseball (by WAR), hit for more homers than any other second basemen in a single-season ever, dropped an .873 OPS, and plastered career-highs up and down his statline. Now, he enters free agency set to cash in.
It's clear the impact Semien had on this team, both with his play and leadership. Bo Bichette choked up saying how much he meant to him, personally, this year: "Everything."
Semien, still mentioning how he sees himself as a shortstop, said he was "of course" open to re-signing in Toronto, but wasn't sure yet how free agency would play out. He cited the Rogers Centre facility, Toronto fanbase, and young core of the Blue Jays as reasons to return.
“We had the best offense in the major leagues and the best starting pitching in the game," Semien said. "How could you not want to be part of that?”
2. The Future of Robbie Ray
Like Semien, Ray parlayed a one-year deal with the Jays into a spectacular season of career-highs: leading the league in ERA, games started, innings pitched, strikeouts, and WHIP.
“I felt like I was finally doing what I felt like I was capable of," Ray said. "Everyone always talked about if it would all come out.”
He should be a clear American League Cy Young winner and, like Semien, will enter the free agent market earning a massive pay day. Ray said he, too, would be open to a Blue Jay return.
“It’s definitely an option," the lefty said. "I’m sure we’ll be in touch.”
3. One Painful Win Away
Charlie Montoyo thought this Blue Jays team could compete for a World Series. Marcus Semien said they became the best team in baseball. The 2021 Jays won 91 games, but fell one short.
The five Toronto players and manager who met with the media Sunday talked about their different takeaways from the season, outlooks going forward, and answered the specified questions reporters threw at them. But, one thing was consistent.
The disappointment and pain of Sunday's season end was on the face and in the words of every one of them. Toronto posted the best record in baseball in the month of September, loaded up at the trade deadline, and fell just short of the goal — the sting of that reality was the main theme on Sunday.
“It hurts," Vlad Guerrero Jr. said. "Knowing you win 91 games and you didn’t make the playoffs hurts me and it hurts all my teammates.”
4. The Vlad Season That Was
Personally, Vlad Guerrero Jr. wasn't satisfied.
He hit 48 homers, drove in 111 runs, and led the league in home runs, runs, OBP, OPS, and total bases. Guerrero won all-star game MVP and corrected anyone who uttered the word "bust" in the last two seasons. But, without a playoff appearance, Guerrero wasn't satisfied with any personal accomplishments, he said.
There were questions about potential departures in Ray, Semien, and Steven Matz, but the objective growth of the Blue Jays core was one of the positives taken away by all on Sunday. Alongside Bichette, Guerrero drew praise from his manager and teammates for his accomplishments in 2021.
Guerrero began the season by arriving in the best shape of his life, and then he stayed in it. The results spoke for themselves, and Guerrero aims to get back to work this winter.
"I'm going to rest," Guerrero said through interpreter Hector Lebron, "After playing 161 games I'm obviously tired right now. But I'm going to take some time off to enjoy with my family and then back to work. I'm going to work harder than I did last offseason and come ready to go next Spring Training."