The Blue Jays kicked off their off-season last weekend by inking Robbie Ray to a one-year deal.
According to general manager Ross Atkins, the team was also close to executing another deal shortly after that signing.
#BlueJays have been busy early. Signed Robbie Ray & per GM Ross Atkins "have actually been close on another deal." Asked whether it was a trade or free agent, Atkins declined to say.
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) November 12, 2020
As Ben Nicholson-Smith notes, Atkins declined to mention whether this was a trade or a free agent. Let’s put on our detective hats and try to figure out who it might have been.
Given how the market is moving along like a glacier, it’s pretty unlikely that the Blue Jays and somebody else were close to pulling the trigger on a trade, so we can pretty safely assume that it was a free agent the team was closing in on.
Eight players have agreed to contracts so far this off-season. There’s Ray, who signed with the Jays, Kendall Graveman, Josh Harrison, and Mike Tomlin, who are also sticking around with their teams, Jose Peraza and Mallex Smith, who inked minor-league deals, and Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman, who accepted their qualifying offers.
The best guess here, as Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet pointed out, would probably be Gausman. After the way things went between the two sides back in 2019, I have a hard time imagining that there’s going to be a Marcus Stroman/Blue Jays reunion, so that leaves us with Gausman. I would guess the Jays offered him a two-year deal and that he ultimately decided to bet on himself, take the qualifying offer from the San Fransisco Giants, and give free agency a go again next year.
The Blue Jays were reportedly in on Gausman last year before he ended up signing a one-year deal with the Giants, so it would make sense they circled back after his solid showing in 2020.
Who knows! Maybe Atkins was close to a 10-player deal to acquire Francisco Lindor. It’s all just speculation at this point as the off-season slowly grinds along.