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Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at Toronto’s potential free agent strategy for this year and beyond

It’ll be a busy off-season for the Blue Jays, but it likely won’t feature any exciting, major splashes.

This winter will look much like last winter. We’ll likely see another Curtis Granderson type veteran addition and some Seung-hwan Oh, Tyler Clippard, Joe Smith type signings on one-year deals, all of whom can be flipped to competitive teams at the deadline. Hopefully this time they make a better addition than Jaime Garcia when it comes to upgrading the starting pitching.

Jim Duquette put out a list of baseball’s top 25 free agents this winter and their potential landing destinations and the Jays didn’t appear on any of them. The team won’t be competitive until 2021 at the earliest, it seems, and it appears the strategy is to wait until then to augment the team via free agency.

This isn’t surprising as Toronto navigates into its first official year of the rebuild. It’s hard to imagine a prime-aged player like Manny Machado or Bryce Harper wanting to play on a losing team and it’s also hard to imagine the Jays wanting to shell out major dollars without any chance of playing competitive baseball down the stretch.

I mean, it has happened before in which a big free agent joined a bad team. The Arizona Diamondbacks signed Randy Johnson to a big four-year deal after their 97-loss inaugural season, and, more recently, Albert Pujols and Robinson Cano left contending teams they had played with their entire careers to join mediocre Angels and Mariners squads respectively.

There’s some logic to making a big free agent stab right now for the Blue Jays. Like, from a business perspective, having a star player on the roster would help sell some tickets and generate excitement, and it could accelerate the opening of the team’s contention window, but it seems the front office is good with taking things slow and accumulating depth throughout the organization.

Going through the list of bigger name free agents, I could see the Jays kicking tires on a J.A. Happ return, given the team needs starting pitching. Other names that could make sense are Charlie Morton, Nathan Eovaldi, and Hyun-Jin Ryu, all of whom would be a boost to the starting rotation. If the Jays do add a starter, it would likely be on a short-term deal, given that Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman are set to hit the open market after the 2020 season.

Speaking of the post-2020 season, that’s when I would guess the front office would be willing to make a stab in free agency. By then, Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki’s mammoth deals will be off the books and they’ll have an idea of which young core players — Sanchez, Stroman, etc — will be sticking around and which part of the team needs an upgrade.

Obviously a lot will change between now and then, but names scheduled to possibly hit the open market post-2020 are Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Jacob DeGrom, James Paxton, Andrelton Simmonds, George Springer, and Yadier Molina, to name a few. If you wait another year after that, you could get Francisco Lindor, Freddie Freeman, Kris Bryant, Max Scherzer, or Noah Syndergaard!

So, uh, yeah, keep it cool for now and throw a bunch of fucking money at Trout so him and Vlad can play together. Works for me!

  • TGreg

    I’d be ok with investing in a SP, but it would have to be one that will be effective for the duration of the contract. I’m concerned that Happ (36) & Morton (34) will be asking for 3 yr deals & just when we’re getting competitive would be when they’re on the downside. Seems like this isn’t the year to be active on the FA market.

  • PastorofMuppets

    Taking the opportunity to rehash my mad dream of having them sign Harper to be a sort of hype-machine top-prospect mentor to Vlad while also still being in his prime during our projected contention window. Shapiro saying they won’t pursue him was just to lull him into a false sense of security! come play on our concrete with the Son of the Impaler, Harp!

    But I’d be totally cool with them waiting for Betts or Trout too.

  • dolsh

    Of the really big names, Harper really does make sense. He’s young enough to still be around and productive when the team is really making progress. And there’s room on the OF for a big bat. The biggest problem with him is likely the 400 M or so it’ll take to sign him, and that whole WAR of a middle infielder every other year thing. If he was in the $200M range…maybe?

    In the same pattern, Machado would make sense too…but he’s a douche.

    • sparklenshine

      harper’s got his own baggage…not really respected by his team-mates in Washington by most accounts – way too much ego !…no way this front office invests in anyone who doesn’t toe-the-line..i do like Trout and his personality is low key. He’s be approaching an age where the ol’ knees won’t take to kindly to artificial turf after playing on grass all his career.

  • TGreg

    The strategy I’d like to see is trade for another couple of studly position player prospects – Taylor Trammell would look great in CF for the next 10 years, & maybe – and then when it all starts to gel spend the cash on a couple of bigtime SPs.

  • Tomcat34

    I get why people would talk about maybe getting a star player while they are sitting around the stove during the winter but I would hope everyone realizes that Shatkin’s acquisitions when we were in contention were less than inspiring so what would make them all of a sudden change into bold management .