After bringing in another solid price with a relatively low cost, the Blue Jays are set up to spend on their remaining areas of need, if they choose to.
The Blue Jays front office finally made an impact move on Saturday, swinging a trade for Yangervis Solarte in exchange for minor league outifielder Edward Olivares, and Jared Carkuff. The move has seemingly fully addressed the middle infield for the Blue Jays, who along with Troy Tulowitzki, Devon Travis, and their other offseason acquisition, Aledmys Diaz, are a lot deeper in their middle infielder picture than they were a year ago.
We’ll get into Solarte and what he brings to the table for the Blue Jays in another article, but for now I’d like to focus on what else his acquisition means for the Blue Jays front office. Adding him to the roster gives the team a lot of flexibility, as he has played all over the diamond, and has experience at the key positions of second base, shortstop, and third base. Add in a little pop, 18 home runs and 64 RBI in 500 plate appearances in 2017, and you’ve got a pretty valuable player.
But what he also brings to the fold is an affordable contract, something that no doubt attracted Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro to him in addition to the talent he brings to the diamond. He’s under contract for three more seasons, earning 4 million in 2018, and the Jays have club options for 5.5 million in 2019, and 8.5 million in 2020. In addition to Diaz, the Blue Jays have an enviable amount of depth on their roster, and can focus on adding to their pitching staff, and/or the outfield.
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Because Solarte is earning a modest four million in 2018, it should theoretically give Atkins and Shapiro a lot of freedom to pursue a starting pitcher, another impact outfielder, and maybe some bullpen help, and/or an upgrade for a back-up catcher. We don’t know for certain how much that ownership has green-lighted to be spent, but it’s expected that they had somewhere in the 25-30 million neighbourhood to play with before Saturday’s trade, at least according to speculation from several sources, and guessing based on last year’s payroll. Yes, I agree that they can and should spend more, but that’s not a debate that needs to break out here. I’m trying to be somewhat realistic, and hopefully we’ll all be pleasantly surprised.
For now let’s say that they had 25 million to spend before Solarte came along, staying on the conservative side. That would leave them with 21 million remaining, and a major need addressed with a single move. Given the plethora of available free agents as we near the second week of January, one has to think there are some significant upgrades to be had at this stage in the offseason. I understand that agents, players, and front offices have shown remarkable patience thus far, but it has to end at some point, right?
The reality is, there aren’t a lot of holes on the roster, at least as things stand right now. The front office has expressed confidence in their outfield picture with what’s already in house, but they could definitely stand to add a reliable option to the mix, especially with Aaron Sanchez‘s health still a big question mark. It would also be great to add some competition for Joe Biagini for the fifth starter’s job. It doesn’t have to be Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta to move the needle, but why not someone like Lance Lynn, or Alex Cobb? There are plenty of other options that would be very serviceable at the back of the rotation as well.
And they may be “comfortable” with some combination of Kevin Pillar, Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera, and Teoscar Hernandez in the outfield, but if the Blue Jays really want to contend in 2018, there are a lot of available upgrades. J.D. Martinez is probably out of reach and doesn’t make much sense anyway, but 20 or more million is room to bring in basically anyone else who is still available. Lorenzo Cain has been linked to the Blue Jays several times, and MLBTradeRumors has him at 4 years and 70 million as a contract projection, so the Blue Jays could theoretically fit that in and still have some money to take a few fliers on the rotation and/or bullpen.
They could also choose to use some of the money in a Josh Donaldson extension, or even look at early talks with someone like Marcus Stroman. Donaldson’s impending free agency could be a big turning point in the road for the future of the franchise, and there aren’t many ways the front office could show their commitment to now better than to extend the 2015 AL MVP.
Of course, it takes two parties to dance, but now that Solarte has seemingly ended the search for infield depth the Blue Jays can focus on the other areas of need in their free agency pursuits. How they choose to use the available money is a question that only Atkins and Shapiro will be able to answer for us, and now that the ball is rolling again hopefully things will come together sooner than later.
There’s one thing for sure though, they should have the money to make another impact addition or two. Neither Solarte or Diaz has cut into the budget too much, so there are no excuses other than a slow market. When the time comes that the dominoes start falling, the Blue Jays are set up to spend, if they choose to.