Are the Blue Jays hedging their bets on the 2015 season?


The Toronto Blue Jays have made quite the splash this offseason, adding some big pieces in Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson, as well as addressing another in landing outfielder Michael Saunders. That has led many to the conclusion that the Blue Jays are going all-in for the 2015 season, trying to do what they can to capture what looks to be a mediocre division.

Sounds like a familiar storyline doesn’t it?

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Toronto took a similar path prior to the 2013 season, landing some big trades that included R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Josh Thole, Emilio Bonifacio, and Josh Johnson. Unfortunately, that effort didn’t work out well at all, as the Blue Jays finished in 5th place in 2013.

However, after seeing some solid gains in 2014 and finishing third, talk of the three-year plan again resurfaced and the Blue Jays are again making plans at competing in 2015, the last year of the supposed three-year cycle. The early moves to land All-Stars in Donaldson and Martin certainly could indicate as much.

But what if there is another angle here to see? What if there was another motive to these moves that may be going unseen? Think about this for a minute. What if the Toronto Blue Jays fail again in 2015? Where do they go from there?

What if the Blue Jays are hedging their bets and planning for a change of course?

Toronto has some significant money coming off the books after the 2015 season. Mark Buehrle’s $19 million contract is gone and R.A. Dickey has a club option for $12 million that could ride on a solid 2015 season, which could free up $31 million right off the bat. However, there are options to free up more funds as well.

Both Jose Bautista ($14 million) and Edwin Encarnacion ($10 million) have club options for the 2016 season. Both options are very reasonable rates for power hitters of their caliber and both are almost assured to be picked up. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that one or both sluggers will be a part of the 2016 squad in the final year of their respective deals.

Would it be so inconceivable for the Toronto Blue Jays to trade one or both players prior to their last seasons under contract?

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Both players still harbor some solid appeal to power-starved clubs, and if they both put together strong 2015 campaigns, that stands to remain the case next winter as well. By making a decision to move one or both of them, and their modest salaries, the Blue Jays could maximize the value by trading them next winter. That would give the receiving team the chance to still recoup a compensation pick if they depart when free agents.

The move(s) could be similar to the one the Atlanta Braves made this winter when they sent Jason Heyward to the St. Louis Cardinals for a package that included Tyrell Jenkins and Shelby Miller. It would also allow the Blue Jays to shed further salary commitments, allowing the team to reset the salary button a bit for free agent pursuits.

Justin Upton and Jason Heyward represent two options that will be available on the free agent market in 2016 to help replace those bats in the line-up. Additionally, the pitching market in 2016 is tantalizing in its own right, with Doug Fister, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmerman, Mat Latos, Rick Porcello, and Jeff Samardzija all headlining the group. And that doesn’t include Zack Greinke, who could opt out of his deal with the Dodgers after the 2015 season.

By landing Donaldson and Martin this winter, the Blue Jays have already started planting the seeds for the team for the next several seasons, planning for the eventuality of when Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are no longer members of the Blue Jays line-up. Coupled with freed up funds, Toronto may see the option to move forward in another direction as the best plan for the future of the organization, With the three year window then closed, Martin and Donaldson represent the reset button for the next window, without the need to fully blow-up the team.

Then again, this is all hypothetical, and based on whether the Toronto Blue Jays once again fail to reach the postseason in 2015. In the spirit of being homers and pumping the good mojo, we have to believe that these two were just the next pieces of the puzzle and that this team will be built to put the drought to bed.

But what if…