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!