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Photo Credit: © Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Off-Season Notes: More teams are getting in the free-agent mix, Corey Seager might be Toronto’s “ideal target,” Blue Jays catchers are drawing interest, and more!

One thing that was advantageous to the Blue Jays last winter is that there weren’t as many teams as usual in the mix to sign big-ticket free agents.

Last year, it was pretty much the Blue Jays and New York Mets appearing in rumours around just about every name on the open market while the usual suspects, the Yankees and L.A. Dodgers, were also creeping around.

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That won’t be the case this year.

The Mariners are expected to add to their roster after a surprising season that saw them go 90-72. The Texas Rangers are expected to have a big off-season and there are rumours that they could add more than $100 million to their payroll for 2022. The Los Angeles Angels, fresh off yet another disappointing season wasting the likes of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, are planning to add significantly to their starting rotation this winter.

And those usual suspects, the Dodgers and Yankees, will, as always, also be in the mix. The Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, and Corey Seager as free agents, so they’ll have a bunch of cash to make changes to their roster. The Yankees need to improve after a ho-hum season that saw them bow out in the wild-card game to the Boston Red Sox.

So, all told, this will be a much more competitive market than the one we saw last winter, meaning we could see the Blue Jays opt to make a big splash via trade, unlike the previous two off-seasons in which they made their big additions, George Springer and Hyun Jin Ryu, in free agency.

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Before getting into what the trade market could look like and who might be coming and going, Shi Davidi had an interesting note over at Sportsnet about who he thinks the Blue Jays’ ideal target will be in free agency…

As a more established commodity than Heaney, Matz will get more term and a bigger number in average annual value, but adding both wouldn’t have precluded the Blue Jays from trying to land an impact player, as well.

The guess here is that the ideal target for them in that regard is Corey Seager, a dynamic left-handed hitter who could slide over to another infield spot the way Marcus Semien did last year.

Between big-league roster surplus in the outfield and at catcher, farm-system depth (chill, Gabriel Moreno isn’t going anywhere) and payroll room, they’ll, in Atkins’ words, “have opportunities to make our team better.”

The context here is that the Blue Jays made an offer to left-handed pitcher Andrew Heaney before he inked a one-year deal with the Dodgers with the intent of becoming next year’s version of Robbie Ray. Davidi notes that the Blue Jays will need to replace Matz and Ray if they do wind up signing elsewhere and that doing so wouldn’t stop them from also trying to land an impact position player.

Davidi’s guess for the impact player who the Blue Jays wound covet, which could be a complete shot in the dark, is Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager.

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Seager makes all kinds of sense for the Blue Jays. Well, I mean, he makes all kinds of sense for anyone with any kind of aspiration of winning because he’s really good, but he fits the profile of exactly what the Blue Jays are looking for on the position player front, which is an infielder with a lefty bat to make the lineup less right-handed.

Since breaking into the league full-time in 2016, Seager has been among baseball’s best shortstops. He ranks sixth behind Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts, Manny Machado, Trea Turner, and Marcus Semien in terms of WAR over that time and he’s second behind only Fernando Tatis Jr. in terms of wRC+.

Seager was elite defensively when he came into the league in 2016 and 2017 but, since he had season-ending Tommy John surgery in 2018, that hasn’t been the case. Between 2019 and 2021, Seager has been just average defensively at short, so bringing him in to play either third or second base with the ability to play short in a pinch would be the move here.

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Of course, even if Davidi is correct and Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins view Seager as their ideal free-agent target, it might not mean anything. The Blue Jays would hypothetically be competing with the Yankees, who have already been in contact with Seager, and the Dodgers, who might just let Kershaw and Jansen walk in order to make re-signing Max Scherzer and Seager their big winner moves.

Sticking with the Yanks for a second, they’ve also spoken with free-agent shortstop Carlos Correa, who’s the one name above Seager on the market. It seems inevitable that Correa will leave Houston, given the pathetic offer (five years, $160 million) that was leaked last week.

If New York lands Correa, it really isn’t completely out of the question for Toronto to sign Seager. I mean, the Blue Jays would still presumably be competing with the Dodgers and perhaps the Rangers, Angels, Tigers, and Phillies, all who have a need for an infielder and money to spend, but, hey, dare to dream.

Money talks, obviously, but the Blue Jays would have to pony up a significant amount of cash to lure Seager to Toronto. He turns 28 years old in April and is projected to land a 10-year deal worth north of $300 million. Do the Blue Jays want to pay Seager like an elite shortstop to not play shortstop when they’re soon going to have to dish out a big contract to their current shortstop?

Sure, why the fuck not! Open up those wallets, Ed! Earn some much-needed goodwill after that Masi Ujiri story!

Anyways… Moving along to some trade stuff.

Gregor Chisholm mentioned that the four catchers on the Blue Jays 40-man roster, Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire, Alejandro Kirk, and Gabriel Moreno, have all garnered trade interest.

The free-agent market for catchers is horrendous, as Yan Gomes, who slashed a .252/.301/.421 line between the Nationals and A’s in 2021, is the only name out there in free agency who you could legitimate talk about as an option to be a team’s starter behind the plate.

I talked about the Blue Jays’ catcher situation last week as it appears inevitable that one of those aforementioned names on the 40-man roster will get moved during the off-season. My guess was that Kirk is the one that winds up getting moved as part of a trade because he falls in the middle of everyone. He doesn’t have as much experience as Jansen, he has more value than McGuire, and Moreno appears to be untouchable.

Now, would Moreno be untouchable if the Marlins came strolling in and said that the Blue Jays could have Sandy Alcantara, who produced a 3.19 ERA in 2021 over 205 2/3 innings and is in his first go-around at arbitration? Hard to say! Maybe the Blue Jays could just offer them Breyvic Valera, who appears to be the closest player they have to Joe Panik? Ayyyyyy hahaha!!!

Jokes aside, the Marlins make a lot of sense for the Blue Jays as a trade partner because they’re reportedly looking for “bats,” specifically at centre field and catcher…

The Blue Jays most certainly have catchers to fulfill that need for the Marlins, but, unless ultra-cheap Miami is interested in taking on Randal Grichuk for whatever reason, Toronto won’t be able to fulfill their desire for a centre fielder.

The other name that could make sense here is Lourdes Gurriel Jr. While Gurriel isn’t a centre fielder, he’s got an excellent, albeit streaky bat, a very cheap contract ($4,928,572 in 2022 and $5,828,571 in 2023), and has big-time marketing potential in the community as the son of a Cuban baseball legend.

One other thing to mention about Gurriel, though, is that his contract isn’t quite as favourable as we all thought. While he’s listed on the internet as being under contract in 2022 and 2023 and then arb-eligible for 2024, Ben Nicholson-Smith noted that Gurriel will, in fact, become a free agent after the 2023 season. Obviously, the Blue Jays and other teams know this, but it means Gurriel won’t be worth quite as much as us Armchair GMs and Rosterbators assumed he was in our hypothetical moves.

We’ll finish off with this…

Ooooooooof! Not surprising, but a shitty thing to read, of course.

As much fun as it is to speculate about the Blue Jays signing Corey Seager and trading for Sandy Alcantara, we surely won’t be seeing anything major happening soon.

Big names won’t be signing until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is reached and the selling teams (think Cleveland, Oakland, Miami) also likely won’t be pulling the trigger on trades either because they don’t know what kind of changes might be made to players’ control years.