The Blue Jays’ offseason has many fans up in arms and frustrated with the lack of big name free agent signings, blockbuster trades, and noteworthy transactions thus far. Personally, I really liked the Steve Pearce and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. signings, and think they have a very realistic chance to bring excellent value at a low cost, and the Kendrys Morales signing also filled a need.
However, that hasn’t been enough for fans that have their patience wearing thin, but the reality is that it’s only December, leaving plenty of time for them to make moves, and squash the ridiculous “inevitable mid 2017 season rebuild” hot takes.
Admittedly, Dexter Fowler was a signing that I would have loved. He was a perfect fit for this team, and his skillset is one that this team desperately needs, but can’t acquire via trade without giving up talent from their major league roster.
It’s easy to move on from the inability to nab Fowler, especially considering the contract it took to acquire him, but the hole in the outfield has become a hard problem to fix. The likelihood of Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders returning at this point seems low, the current free agent crop of outfielders is full of fourth outfielders and spare parts, and the trade market isn’t playing into the Blue Jays hand.
The Adam Eaton trade provided evidence that the Jays simply do not have the minor league system and top prospects available in order to make such a trade; furthermore, the apparent asking price for the Rockies centre fielder, Charlie Blackmon, starts with Marcus Stroman. Yeah, no thanks. Blackmon is a great player, but unless the Rockies are willing to throw in Jeff Hoffman or another MLB caliber starting pitcher, it doesn’t make much sense for the Jays to create a hole in the rotation in order to fill a hole in the OF.
The trade market will force the Jays to either unload their system once again, something they can’t afford to do if they want to have sustainable success, or take away talent from their major league roster. They could also look to find one-year stop gaps, like Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson, but their upside is obviously limited.
On the surface, it seems like the Jays are in a lose-lose situation, and their best realistic option is to bring back Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion on a short term deal, and roll with platoons consisting of Pearce, Melvin Upton Jr., Dalton Pompey and Ezequiel Carrera. You can definitely find some value in there if they stay healthy, and if they’re managed properly, but that is an awfully underwhelming outfield group.
As ugly as it may sound, they do have plenty of payroll left, and if the reported $160 million 2017 payroll is still a reality, then they can find creative ways to use in order to fill the OF vacancy by absorbing high, undesirable contracts in order to reduce the cost to acquire talent, or increase the amount of talent coming back in return at a reduced asset cost.
The Atkins and Shapiro leadership team have already shown a penchant for targeting players with inflated contracts on teams looking to shed payroll in order to maximize the return coming back. The Francisco Liriano trade was an example of this, as they took on Liriano’s entire payroll commitment in order to get prospects Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez in the deal.
The Upton trade is also an example of them targeting a bad contract, but that was a different situation because the Padres ate most of the remaining money owed to Upton; nonetheless, it’s a noteworthy trade due to the contractual implications involved.
Why do I think this a good idea to pursue? I believe the the combination of the thin FA market, expensive trade landscape, amount of payroll remaining, and the Jays willingness to hold onto near MLB ready prospects makes this scenario one an inviting for the Jays brass. They have money, and don’t seem encouraged to spend it through free agency, but if they can get talent they need in a deal where they use that payroll space to absorb a contract, I’m all for it.
This would allow them to acquire talent without having to give up assets that are usually associated to acquire such players, meaning they can keep their prospect pool strong while filling major league needs.
These type of deals have a ton of moving parts and unpredictable conditions due to the financial aspect of such a trade; therefore, guessing on what the potential cost for these packages frivolous process. Instead, I’ll just go through situations where I think a deal has the potential to take place, not where these deals have been discussed or speculated upon so far this offseason.