The Blue Jays struck early in free agency, bringing in Kendrys Morales shortly after the market opened. Since then, patience has largely paid off for the front office.
It’s been an interesting offseason for the Blue Jays, in that it hasn’t played out likely many (myself included) expected it would.
When it began, I predicted the Jays would bring back Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Cecil, and let the rest of their free agents walk, including Jose Bautista. I may have been correct on Michael Saunders and possibly on Dioner Navarro, but I clearly didn’t envision things playing out the way they did. And that’s not necessarily all bad.
The Blue Jays have employed a largely patient strategy to their offseason, and we’ve seen it start to pay off for the front office more recently. Without re-hashing the Encarnacion contract situation, the Morales signing was the only one the front office seemed to be in a hurry to get done. Steve Pearce was also signed before the calendar flipped to 2017, but the Blue Jays entered the new year with many unanswered questions.
For their patience, the Jays have been rewarded with a few contracts that have been signed below market expectations. Regardless of how you feel about the return of Bautista, it’s indisputable that a 1 year, 18 million contract is below what he and his agent were shooting for. Yes, the Jays also lose a potential extra draft pick, but Bautista returns on a relative bargain, both in dollars and term. That doesn’t happen without patience, and of course, a little luck with the way his market played out.
Beyond Bautista, the Blue Jays were able to sign left-handed reliever, J.P. Howell on Tuesday. Like “Joey Bats”, Howell agreed to a 1 year deal, and just 3 million dollars. The former Los Angeles Dodger struggled a bit in 2016, but had a 1.97 ERA from 2013-15 over 200 innings pitched. When you compare his minimal commitment to what Brett Cecil received from the St. Louis Cardinals, it’s hard to argue with the strategy.
The Jays also shored up their back-up catcher position last week, signing Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a minor league contract. “Salty” will earn just 1.25 million if he earns a big league job, and could potentially add a significant piece on a minor league contract. The back-up catching position has been occupied by Josh Thole and his “knuckleball specialist” skill set for the last couple of years, so it’s hard to imagine the former Tiger can’t meet or beat Thole’s production.
While it’s been frustrating for many Jays fans to sit back and watch the Red Sox add the likes of Chris Sale through trade, and free agents signing elsewhere, there has been value added to the roster late in the offseason.
And with a little less than two weeks before pitchers and catchers report, time remains for Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins to add to the roster, with several potentially useful options left on the market.
As teams finalize their rosters and remaining free agents look for jobs, don’t be surprised to see the Blue Jays continue to add.