Blue Jays: Players who’ve already moved on to free agency for 2018

DETROIT, MI - JULY 15: Mike Bolsinger
DETROIT, MI - JULY 15: Mike Bolsinger /

The Blue Jays had a number players officially move on to free agency on Sunday, mostly consisting of depth pitching from the Buffalo Bisons in 2017.

Now that the World Series contenders have been officially decided, baseball is one step closer to the offseason officially starting, and to when free agency begins. As things stand right now, the only teams that pending free agents can discuss a contract with are their last employer, which will be the case until five days after the World Series has concluded.

The Blue Jays will have plenty of decisions to make, and likely several replacements to make as well. The greatest volume of need could come in their depth pitching department, especially after several arms became free agents on Sunday.

The list includes mostly pitchers who threw with the Buffalo Bisons in Triple A this season, but also has a few names that made major league appearances this season. According to Baseball America, the following players from the 2017 Blue Jays’ organization are now free agents:

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Mike Ohlman is the lone position player of the group, and each name above spent at least a game with the Blue Jays in 2017 with the exception of T.J. House and Brett Oberholtzer.

While none of the above names are crucial to the 2018 season, it does mean the Blue Jays will have to replace the depth that they’re losing. Replacing arms in the minor league system is a fairly routine task for front offices in the offseason, and this year will be no different for Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins.

This sort of task is a bit of a crapshoot, but it’s also an important element of every organization. The Blue Jays were a prime example of a need for depth in the rotation in 2017, as they used 14 different starters to get through the season. For a rotation that was supposed to be among the best in baseball, this past season was a tremendous disappointment, both in terms of health and performance. Marcus Stroman and Marco Estrada were the only two starters to stay healthy all year, and the latter had a couple disastrous months. And when you compare it to the only seven they needed in 2016, it exposed the need for depth in a significant way.

The Blue Jays could elect to bring back some of the names from the above list, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they did just that. Both Beliveau and Bolsinger showed some promise, especially as relievers, as could be candidates to return in that role. Bolsinger has struggled to perform consistently as a starter, and has even expressed a desire to move to the bullpen, where he’s seen an uptick in velocity and performance. And with Beliveau being a left-hander, he’s gotten added value simply from being a southpaw.

The Blue Jays are expected to enter the season with the top four spots occupied by Stroman, Estrada, J.A. Happ, and a hopefully healthy Aaron Sanchez. It remains to be seen who will take the 5th starter’s role, and whether we like it or not, it could be Joe Biagini‘s job to lose. Ross Atkins has mentioned a desire to find another arm for the rotation, but that’s always easier said than done in free agency. The front office should have some money to spend, but they’ve got other holes to fill as well, so we’ll see how they maneuver from here.

Next: Are two Sanchez's better than one for the Blue Jays?

It should be an interesting offseason for the 76-86 Blue Jays, and I would fully expect the front office to be among the early movers just as they were last offseason. It remains to be seen if any of their new free agents will return, but with all due respect, I don’t anticipate any of them to be significant MLB players in 2018, in Toronto or elsewhere.