The big talk over the past week since the Blue Jays got shoved out of the post-season by the Rays has been what kind of bold moves the front office can make this winter.
Last winter was highlighted by the addition of Hyun Jin Ryu, who signed an $80 million contract. That decision signalled that the front office was ready to invest in this young team and them taking a massive step forward in this year’s COVID-shortened season certainly validated that investment.
But before we worry about signing Trevor Bauer or trading for Francisco Lindor or bringing Jose Bautista back as a pitcher, there’s a whole bunch of other monotonous early off-season business to deal with. Let’s walk through all of it.
At the end of October, somebody is going to be awarded the World Series in Arlington, and, as per usual, it won’t be the Texas Rangers. It won’t be the Blue Jays either, obviously. So why does this matter? Because one day after the World Series gets awarded is when things start to happen.
Trades can resume the next day, five days later is the deadline for tendering qualifying offers to impending free agents and exercising team and player options.
Seven Blue Jays are eligible to hit the free-agent market this winter: Taijuan Walker, Robbie Ray, Jonathan Villar, Matt Shoemaker, Anthony Bass, Ken Giles, Joe Panik, and Jonathan Villar. I don’t imagine any of them will receive a qualifying offer. Walker would be the only one good enough to warrant one, but he can’t be qualified because he was traded mid-season.
I would guess we still see some of those guys back next season, though they might not be signed to new contracts until later on in the off-season because this winter’s market is going to be much different than usual.
Personally, I would bring back Walker and Shoemaker, I would consider Ray on a bonus-laden deal, and would bring back Giles on a cheap, two-year rehabilitation deal. Panik and Bass would also be fine to bring back on cheap deals. I would let Villar walk.
The Blue Jays also have two players with club options. Rafael Dolis has a $1.5 million option and is a no-brainer to bring back after his great 2020 season. Chase Anderson has a $9.5 million option and it seems fairly likely the Jays will take the $500k buyout.
At some point in mid-November, we’ll also have to start thinking about the Rule 5 Draft and which prospects should be added to the 40-man roster.
The Blue Jays don’t have a terrible crunch to deal with this year. Catching prospects Gabe Moreno and Riley Adams need to be added to the 40-man in order to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft, but, beyond them, there aren’t really any major names who are Rule 5-eligible. Some names to keep an eye on are infielder Kevin Smith, outfielder Josh Palacios, former first-round pick Logan Warmoth, and pitcher Josh Winckowski.
Letting free agents like Jonathan Villar and Joe Panik walk, not picking up Chase Anderson’s option, and possibly releasing Tanner Roark and eating the second year of his contract are ways to open up room on the 40-man without having to designate anybody for assignment. If somebody does need to be DFA’d, I would suspect names like Yennsy Diaz, Hector Perez, Reese McGuire, and Jacob Waguespack would be in the mix.
Come December, there’s the deadline for tendering contracts to unsigned players who are under team control. For the Blue Jays, this is Teoscar Hernandez, Ross Stripling, Travis Shaw, and A.J. Cole.
Teoscar is a no-brainer given his breakout season, Stripling would seem like an obvious one given the high price the team paid to acquire him from L.A., and Cole could be back after a solid season. Shaw is difficult to predict. He didn’t have a great year by any stretch but he’s a passable veteran at a position in which the team doesn’t exactly have an immediate Major League option.
And then, we get to the fun stuff. Winter Meetings are scheduled for Dec. 6-10, so that’s generally around when we’ll get big trades and signings. Another thing to keep an eye on is Mark Shapiro’s contract, which comes to an end at the conclusion of 2020.