During the height of baseball’s Winter Meetings, it may have been easy to overlook the excellent piece that Shi Davidi wrote for Sportsnet on the impending outfield situation for the Toronto Blue Jays and its possible impact on, not only the club’s offseason endeavors next winter, but also while discussing potential trades on this year’s hot stove. To sum it up, Davidi points to the team’s payroll commitments already on the books, coupled with the Blue Jays need to add pitching, and finally topped off with the impending free agency for both Colby Rasmus and Melky Cabrera, all coalescing into what appears to be the perfect storm.
As Davidi notes, the loss of Cabrera can be mitigated if Kevin Pillar, Anthony Gose, or Moises Sierra step up and show they can handle a full-time role. Gose’s development can also help to determine whether or not the Blue Jays get serious about extending Colby Rasmus beyond this season. The price of doing so will likely be much higher than the Blue Jays, or most teams, would be willing to pay for Rasmus, but the dearth of center field talent in next season’s free agent pool is going to determine a hefty market value for Rasmus.
That plays an important part in any decisions that Alex Anthopoulos has to make this winter. Committing further funds to the rotation, which may now appears necessary, may also prevent the Blue Jays from retaining Rasmus or pursuing a viable replacement from a field that includes only Brett Gardner as a candidate that would remotely qualify under the tag “viable”. That pins an awful lot of hope of Anthony Gose becoming the player we’ve envisioned over the last several seasons.
It also means that the legions of fans chanting to trade Jose Bautista may be seeing precisely the reason why the Blue Jays haven’t pursued that angle. Yes, Bautista’s contract and production make him an ideal trade bait if Toronto were going to punch out of the race this season, any trade would not only have to bring back a Major League quality pitcher, but also an outfielder or two that can be counted on to step up to the Major League level in 2015 or earlier. Friendly contract or not, that may be a fairly hefty return fee for a power hitting outfielder that has watched each of his last two seasons end early with wrist and hip injuries respectively.
Rasmus will be 28-years-old midway through the 2014 season, and if the Blue Jays are serious about pursuing the contention window as it sits, they may have to seek an internal option for their pitching staff and extend Rasmus instead. Of course, the team could pursue a trade for an outfielder as well and settle their need for pitching on the free agent market, but are they going to find a 4-win outfielder via trade at a cost that is going to allow such a move to be made? Dexter Fowler was the only viable trade option but he’s not nearly the defensive outfielder Rasmus is and has already been moved from Colorado to Houston.
In the end, it becomes a very difficult situation to be in for the Blue Jays. Perhaps Alex Anthopoulos misjudged the window of contention when he flushed the farm system plan in hopes of the big moves last winter. Perhaps there is no clear cut path to keeping the window of contention open.