The free agent market has been unkind to most of it’s occupants this winter, but it’s been particularly harsh to the former Blue Jays looking for new jobs.
We’re a week away from pitchers and catchers starting to report to spring training, and there are still a TON of free agents available. I know you’re aware of this, as it’s been the central theme of the offseason across the MLB, and a major talking point lately. It’s not common to get to February and still have some of the best available players looking for contracts, but here we are.
The trickle down effect has been evident as always, as it’s not just the top ranked free agents looking for their next gig. Lower tiered players are in the same boat, and in many cases are starting to get nervous about the prospect of opening the season without a place to play. Guys like Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez, Jake Arrieta and more will eventually find employment one way or another, unless they choose to hold out for more money. The same can’t be said for every free agent, though.
Some of the stronger cases of this are all too familiar to the Blue Jays and their fan base. My colleague Clayton Richer wrote about the former Jays still looking for employment about a week ago, and not much has changed on that front. Despite the fact that Jose Bautista has reportedly had his eyes checked, and also found an issue with his swing from last year, he’s still waiting for an opportunity. Miguel Montero picked up a MiLB contract last week but looks to be a long shot to make the Washington Nationals, and Brett Anderson is still waiting for an offer to his liking.
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Two other Blue Jays hit the market this winter and it didn’t go according to plan at all, which has to come as a disappointment for both Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney. The utility men were thrust into regular roles last season when Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis couldn’t stay healthy, and both were looking for new jobs when the calendar turned to 2018.
Goins agreed to a minor league pact with the Kansas City Royals on January 24th that includes an invite to spring training. He could have a pretty solid chance to break camp with the depleted Royals, who have lost several key pieces of their roster this offseason. Barney finally signed a deal on Monday night with the Texas Rangers, which was also a minor league pact that included an invite to spring training. Barney made $2,887,500 last season, and Goins was projected to receive 1.9 million in arbitration before he was non-tendered.
I realize this has been an anomaly of an offseason across baseball, but the status of the Blue Jay free agents got me thinking about the 2017 season, and the role these former players had in it. By no means am I picking on them or over-blaming them for the troubles of the team last year, but what has the market just taught us about their value? On the majority of any given days last season, John Gibbons was slotting all three of Bautista, Goins, and Barney into the lineup. Bautista generally hit higher, but even Goins and Barney were frequently in the 6th or 7th spot depending on who else was playing that day.
Again it’s not this simple, but the Blue Jays were essentially employing three starters last year that are now incapable of getting a major league contract (maybe Bautista changes that, but it’s looking sketchy). That’s one third of their lineup, and that doesn’t include others who struggled as well. Having to rely on depth to play on a regular basis is difficult at the best of times, but it was magnified with the rough seasons of the now departed trio.
I genuinely wish each of them well, but the way this offseason has worked out has been fuel to the fire of Blue Jays’ trolls who picked on guys like Bautista and Goins on a near daily basis. It’s not exactly fair to pick on the utility guys who were stretched, as neither was supposed to be a starter, but now that they’ve gone through the free agency process I’m sure it’s been a humbling experience. It also explains even more about why the Blue Jays had such a rocky 2017 campaign.