With so many players left on the open market, the Blue Jays may want to strike soon as things are about to get busy in free agency.
The Blue Jays entered the offseason with several definable needs for their roster, especially if they intend on competing in 2018 as the front office has indicated several times. However, here we are post-Christmas and they’ve made only one significant move so far, trading for Aledmys Diaz of the Cardinals. GM Ross Atkins said he expected that something else would happen before Christmas, but the market has developed even slower than the front office anticipated.
The Blue Jays are hardly the only team taking their time this offseason, as most of the top free agents are still available. Pitchers like Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis and Greg Holland, and hitters like J.D. Martinez, Lorenzo Cain, Jay Bruce, and many more are still waiting for a contract offer that makes them commit to their 2018 destination. The hot stove has been as cold as I can ever remember, as most of the time there are a handful of key free agents available into the new year, not the vast majority.
There’s no denying that there’s been a shift in the way front offices are operating, as long term, big dollar contracts aren’t viewed the way they were even a few years ago. Add in the fact that many of the big players are trying to keep their payroll under the luxury tax mark of 197 million, and that’s how we’ve come to the place where many impact players are still waiting.
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Agents know this, and I’m sure most of the players that are waiting for an offer are seeing the trends as well. That said, you have to think that there will be some uneasy feelings at this stage, and they will only grow as spring trainings draws closer. For those reasons, “boxing week” could come to fruition in the MLB in much the same way that it does in departments stores across North America.
How does that affect the Blue Jays? Well, that depends. Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins have shown that they’re willing to be patient this year, which is a switch in philosophy from how they started out the offseason in 2016. They struck quickly to bring in players like Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce last year, but they’ve resisted the urge to do the same this offseason, much to the chagrin of many Blue Jays fans. We also know that despite the fact that there has been rampant interest in Josh Donaldson as a trade candidate, the front office has remained committed to hanging on to their best player and competing in 2018.
With that in mind, Atkins and Shapiro may want to prepare themselves to move quickly on their desired free agent options, or on trade talks with other teams. Free agency often acts like a domino effect, so once a few of the bigger names sign then we should fully expect to see names start flying off the board. In a year that’s not terribly deep on impact players, the opportunities they’ve been monitoring could disappear in a hurry, especially as desperation starts to creep into the minds of the players still looking for a home.
This offseason has been anything but normal, so perhaps this does carry on deeper into the New Year, but it would be foolish to assume as much. The conditions are ripe for a Boxing Week bonanza, so maybe we’ll finally get some substantial news about the Blue Jays, and a more defined direction for 2018 and beyond.