With changes to the collective bargaining agreement, and a perfect storm of MLB roster constructions, this year’s trade deadline could be especially busy.
We’re at that point in the off-season where most of us would like to see a completed roster, ready to compete on opening day. With less than a month before pitchers and catchers report, the Blue Jays are among a group of several teams that have yet to “fulfill their shopping needs” in free agency, and yet there doesn’t seem to be a great urgency.
While there is still plenty of time and many serviceable options remaining on the free agent market, the Blue Jays could be looking at a different strategy as they enter a new season. There is an argument to be made that the Blue Jays should stand pat, and save their resources.
Before you scream at me through your computer screens, take a look at this relevant point that MLB on FOX’s Ken Rosenthal made Thursday morning about the potential mid-season market.
Rosenthal makes some strong points as to why this year’s trade deadline crop could be ripe for the picking.
1. The new Qualifying Offer rules
In year’s past, if a team had a pending star free agent there was a temptation to hold on to them in order to gain a draft pick when they eventually signed with another team. Without the draft pick, teams will likely be more willing to talk trade at the deadline.
2. Many players who have been “on the block” remain with their teams
Anyone from Brian Dozier, Yasiel Puig, Sonny Gray, Jose Quintana, and many more have been thrown around in trade discussions this offseason. Obviously the offers haven’t been right for the trading teams, or more of these deals would have come to fruition.
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Fast forward to the deadline, and the temptation to give up prospects for immediate help is much greater than in the offseason. There could be several stars on the move, and several trade packages that have already been halfway set-up through the winter.
3. Teams that could fall out of contention with expiring players
The Kansas City Royals are set to lose several impact free agents after the 2017 season, and will need to be in the thick of the race come July, or they’ll be forced to sell. There are several others like the Detroit Tigers who could be in a similar situation, and… yes, even the Blue Jays.
If Toronto is completely out of the race by July, there is a strong possibility that guys like Jose Bautista (one year deal), Marco Estrada (expiring contract), and others could be discussed. Josh Donaldson and J.A. Happ are both free agents after 2018 as well, so a lot could be riding on the first half of the season. Let’s try not to think about that scenario too much.
4. Lots of one-year deals signed this offseason
One of the oldest strategies in the book for a non-contending team, is to sign a solid veteran and hope to flip them for value at the deadline. There could be several candidates for this type of scenario, including former Blue Jay R.A. Dickey, who signed a one-year contract with the Braves.
5. Plenty of motivated buyers
And finally, we get to the point of the article and how it pertains to the Blue Jays.
With the veteran presence in the clubhouse and exciting, young pitching talent, the Blue Jays are in a position to contend for the next couple of years, assuming things don’t implode. They aren’t without their weaknesses (see: bullpen), but they could be a couple moves away from being a legitimate contender again in 2017, and could already be there if some youngsters outperform expectations.
It’s pretty clear at this stage that Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins aren’t enamoured by the prices on the free agent and trade markets, at least not at the moment. It seems odd to most of us Jays fans, as there should be money to spend in the budget and there are obvious holes.
But perhaps they’re not just waiting for a bargain this offseason, but instead are looking ahead to mid-season, when the player pool is vastly expanded and the prices could be more to their liking. Right now, if the Blue Jays want to upgrade in LF their choices are players like Brandon Moss or Angel Pagan. If they wait until the trade deadline, those choices could expand greatly. Stars like Andrew McCutchen, and Ryan Braun will likely be available again. or cheaper options like Michael Saunders, Melky Cabrera and more could be found in the discount bin on expiring contracts.
Bottom line? There are a lot of ways to build a roster, and sometimes saving a little money for a better opportunity down the road can pay off. It may not be a popular strategy, but looking ahead to July, it could be an intelligent one.