The MLB off-season will finally crescendo this week in National Harbor, Maryland.
With all team executives under one roof for the MLB winter meetings, you can expect a flurry of trade activity and free agent signings. As those top-end names begin to leave the market, it also sparks teams to move quickly to their next options and creates a quick trickle-down effect that hasn’t quite happened yet this off-season.
The Blue Jays enter the meetings with clear needs. Toronto undoubtedly needs one corner outfielder, possibly two, and multiple bullpen pieces. Beyond that, their backup catching position isn’t stable and the 1B/DH combination of Kendrys Morales (three years, $33 million) and Justin Smoak still leaves much to be desired.
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All of that being obvious, don’t dismiss the possibility that the Blue Jays make a more surprising move on the trade market. This is the first “full” off-season of Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins — let’s consider 2015-16 to still be somewhat of a transition — and this remains a roster that they largely did not build. There won’t be a complete remodelling by any means, but a reallocation of assets isn’t out of the question.
The trade market could be Toronto’s avenue for their obvious needs, too. Jay Bruce remains linked to the Blue Jays, and if the Mets would eat some of his $13 million salary, there’s a fit that might be better than you think. Curtis Granderson is another option from New York, while Andrew McCutchen and Adam Eaton are the big names floating on the market (though both are likely well out of Toronto’s price range). Even old friend Melky Cabrera is available.
Detroit and Chicago (White Sox) are both expected to be in salary-cut mode at these meetings. Tigers’ outfielder J.D. Martinez has one year remaining and it would be a shock if he wasn’t moved. Even Chris Sale‘s name is making the rounds, and the return package on a deal for the left-hander would be scary.
Relief arms continue to be the Blue Jays’ quietest need, but they deserve a much larger part of the conversation. Beyond Roberto Osuna and Jason Grilli, who turned 40 in November, the Blue Jays have no locks in their current bullpen.
Joe Biagini might still be stretched out as a starter full time, so the Jays are currently looking at Aaron Loup, Chad Girodo, Bo Schultz, and Ryan Tepera not as seventh arms bouncing between Toronto and Buffalo, but as permanent relievers. That’s not going to work, so expect that to change.
The coming week should tell Blue Jays fans a lot about this front office. Was the Morales deal a stabilizing piece to set up something a little larger, or will those floor-raising moves remain status quo for the Jays?
Stay tuned to Jays Journal throughout the meetings for all of your news, reports, and analysis as it unfolds.