With just 37 days until pitchers and catchers report to spring training on Feb 14th, the Blue Jays front office still has some work to do
It’s been a relatively quiet offseason for the Blue Jays so far, other than a few early moves. In case you missed it, the Jays pounced quickly and signed Kendrys Morales on Nov 18th to fill their DH position, and Steve Pearce on Dec 5th. They also made an early move to bring in Lourdes Gourriel Jr. to a seven-year, $22 million dollar pact, but he’s not expected to open the season with the big league club.
Other than those moves, Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro have slowly added names like Gavin Floyd and T.J. House, among others, to potentially battle for a position in the bullpen. Otherwise, the well-documented holes remain on the roster: the need for at least one outfielder, bullpen help, and likely a back-up catcher.
While it’s been frustrating for many Blue Jays fans to sit back and wait for news, it’s getting to the point where patience could very well pay off for the Blue Jays front office. With a little over five weeks before players start to report, remaining free agents and their representatives are no doubt starting to get a little nervous about how things have played out.
Using Jose Bautista as an example, it’s hard to tell if there’s any market at all for the six-time All-Star. The Blue Jays remain in contact and there have been other minor reports, but he remains on the market without a whole lot of leverage. Granted, he has the qualifying offer attached to him, but for a player who was hoping for a deal in excess of $100 million last offseason, things couldn’t be going much worse.
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Bautista is hardly the only example though, and that’s where it may start to play in the Blue Jays’ favour. Other outfielders such as Mark Trumbo, Brandon Moss, Michael Saunders are still waiting to sign their next contract after 47, 28, and 24 home runs hit last season. In another tier, Colby Rasmus, Angel Pagan, Alejandro de Aza, and Coco Crisp could be had on the cheap as they look for a gig. On the trade market, it sounds like the Mets are finally considering eating salary in order to trade Jay Bruce as well.
The Blue Jays had also hoped to bring in a strong back-up catcher to alleviate the workload on Russell Martin next year as well. While Matt Wieters isn’t likely to join the Blue Jays, there are strong potential back-up options in Dioner Navarro, Kurt Suzuki, Chris Iannetta and others, if they choose to spend on that area. Longtime prospect A.J. Jimenez would be the back-up if the season started today, but he’s not expected to contribute a lot offensively at the highest level.
While the above list may not be terribly inspiring, “value” is a pretty important term at this stage of the offseason. Again using Bautista as an example, it was reported a few weeks ago that he was willing to explore a one year deal, but with the caveat that it had to beat the qualifying offer of more than $17.2 million. The Jays obviously haven’t budged, and it doesn’t appear there are many suitors at that price. There are some calling for Bautista to sit out until June in order to rid himself of the qualifying offer, which goes to show how far his market has dropped.
There have been memes and gifs galore on Twitter for weeks, begging the Atkins and Shapiro to bring back “Joey Bats”.
If the front office had jumped earlier in the offseason, they were likely looking at an AAV of 17-8 million, on a 1-3 year deal. Now? The 36 year old slugger made 14 million in 2016, so it’s hard to imagine him accepting less than that, but who knows? Even if the Blue Jays signed him for 1 year at 14 million (out of respect), there’s a lot of value in saving 3-4 million. That could bring in another reliever.
Speaking of the reliever market, it’s quieted down pretty significantly since the likes of Brett Cecil, and the marquee closer trio went off the board. Options such as J.P. Howell, Travis Wood, Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan remain available from the left side, where the Jays arguably need the most help. From the right side, Neftali Feliz, Sergio Romo, Luke Hochevar and several more are looking for a contract, and might be getting cheaper by the day.
It’s not quite panic time for free agents, but many teams are starting to round out their rosters, and the landing spots are going to dwindle fast.
After missing out on top targets like Edwin Encarnacion and Dexter Fowler, the slow play by the Blue Jays front office may work out in the long run. It could result in an extra bullpen arm being added (with money saved on discounts in other areas), which could be significant as the season wears on. It might result in a stronger back-up catcher than they could have otherwise afforded, or maybe the Jays’ bring in two outfielders to the fold.
However it plays out, we continue to wait and hope that somehow, patience is a virtue.