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How genuine was the Blue Jays’ pursuit of Gerrit Cole?

The Blue Jays landed their monster free agent fish in the form of Hyun-Jin Ryu, but Gerrit Cole may have been “the one that got away.”

The Yankees signed the 29-year-old to a staggering nine-year, $324 million contract, and it’s hard to imagine any other team coming close to what the Bronx Bombers offered Cole. What about a franchise like the Toronto Blue Jays, flush with cash and with one of the lowest active payrolls in baseball next season?

This report hasn’t been corroborated anywhere else, but Joey Vendetta mentioned this interesting tidbit a few days ago on Sportsnet 590 The FAN.

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Mike, if you’re a Toronto Blue Jays fan and you heard what I heard, and I heard it from a reliable source — a very reliable source — someone that knows the front office that’s involved with the running of the team – I don’t know if you heard this, they offered $300 million to Gerrit Cole to become a Toronto Blue Jay.

$300 million for Cole? That would’ve been a competitive offer for his services, but any rumour about the Blue Jays putting in a bid like this for Cole seems very out of character for this front office.

There’s no doubt the Blue Jays were very active in free agency this offseason, the problem is they couldn’t get prospective players to take their money. Toronto reportedly made competitive offers to pitchers like Kyle Gibson and Rick Porcello, but they signed elsewhere.

In the case of bigger fish like Cole, Zack Wheeler and Stephen Strasburg, one wonders how much of a legitimate shot the Blue Jays had at these guys … even if there were respectable offers on the table. The club said they checked in with virtually every free agent pitcher, but for Cole, it sounds like the Blue Jays did a lot more than just ask Scott Boras what ballpark figure Cole was looking for.

Over the last few weeks, Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins made some vague comments about the Cole signing, and I didn’t think too much of it at the time. But things are starting to make a bit more sense now. Shapiro made an appearance on Tim and Sid last week and confirmed the Blue Jays did more than merely “check in” on Cole:

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I would say on a guy like that, that we view to be an exceptional talent, that we’re doing a lot more than due diligence. A lot more.

When you’re a team like the Blue Jays fighting against the big dogs in baseball like the Yankees, Dodgers, Angels and Astros, it might seem like a waste of time to even consider pursuing a starter the calibre of Cole. But if the organization felt like it was worth the term and dollars for a premium pitcher like Cole, maybe it would’ve been worth it.

Ross Atkins also alluded to the Blue Jays’ interest in a few of Boras’ clients, namely Anthony Rendon and Cole. The key word in this phrase was “actively,” meaning the front office performed more that due diligence on these players. This from Atkins’ interview on TSN 1050:

We were actively talking to Scott Boras about those pieces: Anthony Rendon and Gerrit Cole … we can play in those markets.

It’s interesting how the Blue Jays’ relationship with Boras has suddenly turned amicable. Paul Beeston wanted nothing to do with Boras, and last year, the super agent accused the Blue Jays of suffering from the “blue flu” when it came to spending in free agency.

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Money talks, and if the Blue Jays were in pursuit of no less than four of Boras’ clients (Mike Moustakas was another), then Boras’ stance changed towards the organization.

Circling back to the Blue Jays’ rumoured interest in Cole, Shi Davidi made a subtle mention about the Blue Jays’ reported pursuit of Cole, insinuating the legwork they spent on wooing Cole may have prevented them from landing Jake Odorizzi.

A desire to protect that flexibility isn’t an excuse for inaction, and not wanting to cut themselves off from some fantasy Gerrit Cole scenario is a bad reason to miss out on Jake Odorizzi, who was theirs for the taking.

Even if the Blue Jays were a longshot in each of these instances, it only makes sense that they’d at least do their homework and pay their due diligence with marquee free agents. If we’re led to believe this with Cole, perhaps the Blue Jays got further down the road with Boras than anybody could’ve expected.

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In the end, the Jays ended up with another Boras client in the form of Ryu. Cole would’ve been a huge coup for the Blue Jays, but even if they approached Boras with $400 million, Cole might have still preferred to play for a contending team.

Believe what you want to believe; the Blue Jays may have tabled a $300 million offer to Cole, they may have been nowhere near that dollar figure and term. The fact this is being discussed is a positive thing for the Blue Jays organization.

The Ryu signing broke down the barrier; now let’s see how much further this front office is willing to spend to push themselves even closer to contention.