Just a few hours after I kicked off my off-season thoughts series with a post on how attendance is cratering because not enough teams are trying to win, Ben Nicholson-Smith let us know that the Blue Jays are, in fact, planning to spend some money this winter.
Along those lines, #BlueJays are comfortable taking on salary in trades per Atkins
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) October 1, 2019
According to Benny Fresh, the Jays are open to being creative this winter. They’re willing to offer different structures and terms on free-agent contracts and they’re willing to take on money in trades. That could mean adding a shitty contract to acquire a prospect and it could mean straight-up trading for a good player.
I don’t think this means the Jays are going to pony up the hundreds of millions of dollars in cash (along with the draft pick) needed to sign a marquee free agent like Gerrit Cole or Anthony Rendon, but the team is ready to expand the payroll after a year of major salary slashing.
As Nicholson-Smith suggests, this will be more like post-2015 and 2016 spending for the Jays. The Mark Shapiro-led front office David Price walk when they took over, but they kept the window open by signing J.A. Happ and re-signing Marco Estrada. They sorta tried to keep it open after 2016, letting Edwin Encarnacion go in order to acquire a draft pick, but also re-signing Jose Bautista and adding Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce in free agency.
I would guess that the front office will avoid major long-term commitments given that we don’t know exactly where glaring needs on the roster will pop up quite yet. I mean, you don’t want to sign three starting pitchers to big contracts until you have an idea of what guys like Anthony Kay, T.J. Zeuch, Ryan Borucki, Trent Thornton, Patrick Murphy, and Nate Pearson can do. After 2020, we’ll have a better idea of where the organization needs to invest than we do right now.
That would open the Jays up to players on shorter-term deals, like Happ we saw with Happ, Pearce, and Morales. Maybe a veteran addition like Cole Hamels or Mike Moustakas makes sense, or a buy-low on someone like Dellin Betances, who was injured for virtually all of 2019, could work. I don’t know. I just wouldn’t expect Cole, Rendon, or anybody like that right now. I would expect something more along the lines of what we saw the Minnesota Twins do last off-season.
The other avenue I would expect this front office to explore is the taking on salary in a trade route. We’ve seen these guys weaponize payroll in the past, acquiring Francisco Liriano’s entire contract in order to also receive prospects Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez. Maybe the Jays could net themselves a prospect if they take on Wil Myers from San Diego. Maybe they sneak in and acquire a veteran like Corey Kluber or Charlie Blackmon from a team that wants to save some money.
Who knows! But it’s nice to see the Blue Jays will be active this off-season. I understood that last year was about tearing it down and throwing darts against the board, but after bottoming out for a year, it’s time for the Jays to start working towards being competitive. It might not yet be time for a massive free-agent splash, but there’s money to be spent that can start moving this team in the right direction.