This is going to be a weird off-season.
The COVID-19 landscape will have ramifications on the entire league and this winter’s free agency class will certainly feel it. Many teams will be reluctant to spend big dollars in free agency this year due to the fact that owners lost a whole bunch of cash by not having fans in the seats.
From a Blue Jays’ perspective, they’re going to have to work around the uncertainty of not necessarily knowing where they’re going to play next year. Matt Shoemaker went on Sportsnet’s The Good Show on Wednesday and spoke about the challenges the organization will likely face…
“If COVID-19 is still a factor … that could play a huge aspect in anybody coming to Toronto, and hopefully it doesn’t,” Shoemaker said on Sportsnet’s “The Good Show” on Wednesday. “I think in general, before this season, everybody loves coming to Toronto when they play them on the road.
But I think it’s semi-tough for people to go to Toronto over a picking a different team in a regular season because some people are intimidated about going over the border.
“If Toronto wants you and they want to sign you to a deal, oh, but hey, the government still says, ‘You guys have to play in a bubble,’ (and) maybe you’re the only team (in a bubble) because it’s Canada, and your family can’t come, that would be a really big discussion.”
Shoemaker, of course, is one of a handful of Blue Jays who is set to hit the open market as a free agent this winter. Taijuan Walker, Robbie Ray, Jonathan Villar, Joe Panik, and Ken Giles are others who will be able to test free agency.
Last week, pitching coach Pete Walker mentioned that both Walker and Ray enjoyed pitching for the Blue Jays and that they loved it in Toronto, which was somewhat puzzling given the fact both, being mid-season acquisitions, never actually played in the city.
Walker also got Twitter fired up when he quote tweeted a photo of downtown Toronto, saying that something along the lines of “I would love that view.” The tweet has since been deleted, though.
Anyways, nothing Shoemaker is saying here is unfair at all. If you’re signing a deal with the Blue Jays this winter, you don’t really know necessarily what you’re getting into. You might be playing in Buffalo for half of the year and then shipping north to Toronto mid-summer. Maybe you’ll be in Buffalo all year. Maybe you’ll be playing in Dunedin. Maybe you’ll be in a strict quarantine in Toronto. Who knows.
That’s just a reality the Blue Jays face this off-season being the only team not based in the United States. But, hopefully, the players on the team had a good experience in 2020 despite the challenges they faced and they can give a good word to free agents.
At the end of the day, though, money talks. If the Jays offer a player a big deal worth a lot of money, that player probably isn’t going to turn down the chance to join an up-and-coming team with a big paycheque because they might have to spend some time in Buffalo. It isn’t the end of the world.
And, as I said earlier, a lot of teams are going to avoid handing out big contracts in free agency. If Rogers isn’t cheap this winter, the Jays should be able to navigate their disadvantage.