Transaction Season Is Upon Us! Corey Kluber, Brad Hand, Roberto Osuna, and more!

The World Series has been awarded so you know what that means? It’s Transaction Season, baby.

This is certainly going to be an interesting off-season and virtually all of the teams around Major League Baseball are feeling the squeeze of operating the 2020 season without fans in the seats. It seems as though fewer teams than usual are going to be interested in adding to their team payroll so we’ll likely a team-friendly free-agent market this winter.

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Just one day into the off-season and we’ve already seen some surprising names headed to free agency. I’ll round up some of the players that could interest the Blue Jays…

The Corey Kluber era in Texas could be over after just one inning.

Last winter, the Rangers acquired the former Cy Young winner from Cleveland as a salary dump reclamation project. Kluber was coming off an injury-riddled 2019 season in which he posted a 5.80 ERA over just seven starts.

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Kluber wasn’t able to bounce back in Texas. He got injured in his first start and only ended up pitching one inning in 2020. Kluber’s diagnosis was a Grade 2 teres major strain but, apparently, the injury is behind him as he’s been cleared for a normal off-season routine.

The Rangers are planning to decline Kluber’s $18 million option and swallow the $1 million buyout.

There’s an obvious connection here for the Blue Jays as Kluber was developed in Cleveland’s system back when Mark Shapiro was there. Cleveland acquired Kluber as part of a multi-team deal with San Diego and St. Louis while Shapiro was still the general manager.

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As we know, the Blue Jays need starting pitching. Kluber is far from a guarantee, but he’s worth a risk on an incentive-laden deal.

The explosion of the 2019 World Series Champion Washington Nationals continues this off-season.

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The team declined options on Adam Eaton and Anibal Sanchez and they also declined their mutual options with Eric Thames and Howie Kendrick. Three of those four guys were key players on the World Series team squad year, but, after a miserable follow-up performance in 2020, the Nationals obviously want to get younger and cheaper.

Eaton is a name I didn’t really expect to see on the free-agent market this year. He would have cost the Nationals $10,500,000 for 2021, which doesn’t seem like too much for a quality outfielder. Eaton was worth -0.5 WAR in 2020 but was worth 2.3 in 2019 and 1.9 in an injury-shortened 2018.

He turns 32 this winter and could be a good rebound candidate for a team in need of a speedy outfielder with good contact skills. But Eaton hasn’t played centre field since 2017 so he probably isn’t the upgrade the Blue Jays are looking for with the mix of corner outfielders they already have.

Here’s another name I really didn’t expect to see this winter.

The Cardinals declined Kolten Wong’s option, which was worth $12,500,000, making the former Gold Glove winner a free agent. Unlike Eaton, Wong is actually coming off of a pretty good season.

He didn’t hit all that well but Wong was worth 1.3 WAR based on his elite glove. His slash line last season was .265/.350/.326 in which the noticeable difference between 2020 and 2019 was his slugging numbers. In his 3.7 WAR 2019 season, Wong had a .285/.361/.423 line with 11 homers.

Even if his bat isn’t great, Wong is one of the better defensive second basemen out there. But with Cavan Biggio already in the mix and a Bo Bichette move to second base a possibility, Wong might not be the best fit. The team is probably better off finding a defensive upgrade at short rather than second.

And now we’re into the really, really cheap team stuff.

Cleveland didn’t decline closer Brad Hand’s option, they put him on outright waivers so that they can get themselves out of having to pay his $1 million buyout. So, basically, anybody can grab themselves a really good veteran reliever if they’re willing to pay $10,000,00.

Hand was excellent for Cleveland in 2020. He made 21 appearances, picked up a league-leading 16 saves, posted a 2.05 ERA, and struck out 11.9 batters-per-nine while walking 1.6 per-nine.

With Ken Giles out for all of 2021, Hand would make sense at the back of Toronto’s bullpen. But given the way this market is looking like it’s going to unfold, they might be able to find another good, veteran reliever for less later in the winter. Liam Hendriks, Blake Treinen, Alex Colome, and Shane Green are all set to hit the open market. Patience is probably best in this scenario.

Speaking of closers… here’s some news on a familiar face.

The Astros have placed Roberto Osuna on outright waivers to get out of paying him anything while his future is unclear due to injury. Osuna pitched just four times for the Astros in 2020 because of an elbow issue, though it isn’t expected that he’ll undergo Tommy John surgery.

This is obviously not a name I would want or expect the Blue Jays to pursue but it’s an interesting note nonetheless. The Jays ended up getting the same out of Ken Giles that the Astros got out of Osuna. Given the circumstances, they did really well in that deal.