Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knows the Toronto Blue Jays playbook by now. They develop young and exciting hitters to fill the top of their lineup. Trades and free agency usually take care of the rest.

More recently, the Blue Jays’ success in developing prospects has upped their rivalry with the Yankees. Toronto was even the World Series favorite headed into last year. Instead, the Yankees clinched the AL East at the Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays didn’t make it past the Wild Card round.

This isn’t a surprise. Toronto was active in the offseason and while some moves were exciting, none were serious game changers. And yet, they’re already picking up right where they left off last season: starting a war of words to stoke the fires.

This season’s matchups should be no different, even with full interleague play. The Blue Jays have four series with the Yankees, but the most important games are six in September. We all know what those games will be like.

Both teams will either be in the thick of the AL East race, or one team or the other will already have won it.

Greatest Addition: Chris Bassitt. The Jays needed to boost their pitching staff and Bassitt was great for the Mets last year. The veteran righty posted a 3.42 ERA and led all qualified starters with 22.1% soft contact allowed. This skillset is valuable in the hard-hitting AL East and the Blue Jays gave Bassitt a three-year, $63 million deal.

The money is a lot for a mid-rotation man, but Bassitt is a nice complement to dual aces Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah. If he keeps using his slider and curveball more and his changeup less, he should be a boon to this Blue Jays rotation.

Greatest Loss: Teoscar Hernandez, even though he’s an expiring contract and probably would have been traded anyway. He was traded to the Mariners for reliever Erik Swanson after six memorable years in Toronto. Hernandez hit 129 home runs as a Blue Jay and had a strong arm out of right field.

Thankfully for Toronto, team president Mark Shapiro traded for Daulton Varsho. He had a career-high 27 home runs in Arizona last year and also played great defense in right field. Until he hits for a better average, he can only dream of being as popular as Hernandez.

Greatest Strength: The heart of the lineup. Toronto’s .264 team batting average was best in baseball and they also ranked seventh with 200 home runs. This was thanks to 108 of them coming from four players: Bo Bichette, Matt Chapman, Teoscar Hernandez, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

This, dear readers, is how the Blue Jays have built winning teams in the past and still do today. They go all in on a small core group of players at the heart of the lineup and hope the bats are enough. Toronto used this same model in 2015 with Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Russell Martin and won the AL East.

Can Daulton Varsho build off his career season and help the Blue Jays outslug the Yankees this year? We’ll soon find out.

Greatest Weakness: Pitching. The downside to Toronto focusing its development on the lineup is often at the expense of the pitching staff. The 3.87 ERA the Blue Jays’ arms posted last year ranked 15th in baseball, directly in the middle. Nobody really established themselves as a consistent arm behind Manoah and Gausman.

Sadly, this year is no different in Toronto despite adding Chris Bassitt. He’s 34 and exactly what the Blue Jays are paying him to be: a No. 3 starter. Remember, he was largely the Mets’ No. 2 by necessity last year after Jacob deGrom was injured.

It doesn’t get any better for the Blue Jays. Jose Berríos had a 5.23 ERA last year simply because he didn’t pitch well, and has four more guaranteed years left on a $131 million deal. Who knows what to expect from Yusei Kikuchi despite his strong spring?

No. 1 prospect Ricky Tiedemann is still a year away from debuting. There is no imminent help coming from the farm system. The Blue Jays’ pitching staff really has no choice but to be great this year if the team is serious about contending.

Can the Blue Jays catch the Yankees in 2023? Only under certain circumstances. Poor playoff performances across the board in recent years make it easy to sleep on the Yankees regardless of the state of the AL East. Throw in the power at the top of the Blue Jays’ lineup, plus their recent history, and it’s even easier to get excited about them.

But if the Houston Astros have taught us anything, it’s that pitching matters more. The Blue Jays simply do not have arms that can keep up with better teams. Both the Yankees and Rays finished ahead of them in team ERA last year. So did the Mariners, who stormed past Toronto in the Wild Card.

This means that if the Blue Jays make a deep run this year, it’s probably for one of two reasons. Either they overachieved or the Yankees underachieved.

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Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.