It’s been a relatively quiet offseason for the Blue Jays so far, despite a couple early moves, with roster holes remaining as top each free agent option signs elsewhere
It’s no secret that the Blue Jays have work left to do this offseason. It’s been well documented that they need to add at least one outfielder, a back-up catcher, and bullpen help before the 2017 season begins. Despite their efforts to sign several free agents, those lineup holes remain.
They did shore up their 1B/DH positions with the signings of Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce, who will join Justin Smoak as well. They also signed Lourdes Gurriel Jr., but that move is more about the future than the 2017 season.
It hasn’t been for a lack of trying, despite the frustration from the Blue Jays fan base. They did make Edwin Encarnacion a reported four-year, $80 million dollar deal (potentially more), that he would surely like a mulligan on. They also reportedly offered Dexter Fowler a four-year deal, before he signed a five-year pact with the St. Louis Cardinals.
There’s no way to know the exact payroll number, but many reports have indicated the Blue Jays have approximately 25 million to play with before finalizing an opening day roster. There are plenty of options on the free agent market, but the amount of “upgrades” are starting to dwindle, and may shrink even more in the near future.
With that in mind, the Blue Jays’ front office is in a precarious position. They have a “win-now” team, will a few obvious holes to fill. They have some underwhelming internal options to fill those spots, but would prefer to strengthen several places on the depth chart, outside of the starting five in the rotation.
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However, is there a point to spending money for the sake of using up the payroll? In some respects, ownership may feel an obligation to its fan base after the rabid support in the last two seasons, and they likely should.
But does bringing in a couple free agent outfielders, who may or may not be better than what’s already in-house, actually help the club? Obviously depth is always a good thing, but I would argue the Blue Jays may want to explore another way to use their available funds.
If the Blue Jays couldn’t get Fowler, or find the right timing with Encarnacion, maybe they should explore avoiding that scenario down the line with their current stars. Donaldson has just two years of team control remaining, and will be a premium free agent in 2019 class if he gets there. He may not be willing to forego a look at the open market, but money talks and life has been good for JD since he arrived in Toronto.
All three of Sanchez, Stroman and Osuna won’t become free agents until 2021, and form the nucleus of the future in Toronto. They’re set to provide a great deal of value to the Blue Jays over the next four seasons, but obviously each will become more expensive as the years go by. Stroman for example, is expected to receive a raise to $3.5 million for next season (via mlbtraderumours.com).
If the Blue Jays can’t find a wise place to put their money in free agency, would it then be prudent to at least start the conversation with one, or all of these arms? Looking at a contract like what Chris Sale is currently pitching under, there’s potential upside to locking up frontline starters before they go through arbitration. Of course pitching is the most volatile asset, but when it pays off like it has with Sale, it’s certainly a tempting thought.
Personally, I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel completely on this offseason, but the viable options are dwindling quickly. In particular, there are several decent bullpen arms available, and the Blue Jays could likely spend there without harming their payroll projections past the next season or two.
Beyond that, it may be worth weighing how much “A mid-range outfielder would help the Jays now” vs. how much value the young pitching could offer down the road.