Blue Jays: Dominoes need to fall for Ross Atkins to complete offseason

BALTIMORE, MD - JULY 10: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals and Manny Machado #13 of the Baltimore Orioles talk during their game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 10, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - JULY 10: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals and Manny Machado #13 of the Baltimore Orioles talk during their game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 10, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

While the Blue Jays aren’t expected to pursue the major available assets on the market, it does affect their ability to finish their offseason checklist.

We’re nearing the end of the second week of January, and yet just like last offseason, some of the top free agent targets are still waiting on their next contract. It’s been a strange trend in baseball the last two years, especially when you contrast it to the free agent frenzies of a decade or so ago.

For the Blue Jays, they’re really not factoring into the conversation on any of the major free agent pieces like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, or significant trade targets like J.T. Realmuto. As a rebuilding team they’re just not at the stage where they’re ready to make that kind of commitment to one player, as they really don’t know where the “icing on the cake” needs to go with this roster build yet. That doesn’t mean those superstars aren’t having an effect on the Blue Jays this winter though.

Take Realmuto for example, he’s been the prize of the available catchers this winter, although he would have to be acquired through a trade with the Miami Marlins rather than a free agent signing. He’s been viewed as the top catching option and rightfully so, but so far the Marlins haven’t received an offer to their liking and he remains in Miami. Yasmani Grandal just signed a one year deal with the Brewers on Wednesday, so it’s possible that Realmuto’s market finally gets moving in the next week or two and a decision is made one way or another.

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How does all of that effect the Blue Jays? Well, they have a catcher that’s also available on the trade market in their own Russell Martin. While the veteran isn’t the asset that Realmuto would be these days, he should still be viewed as someone who has the ability to be the majority starter for a big league club, and probably even still a contender. His numbers were down last year, but quality catching is hard to find and the peripherals were better than what you see at first glance.

The Blue Jays are going to have to eat the majority of his 20 million dollar contract for 2019 if they intend on trading him, but there’s a good chance that ownership will be willing to do just that, unless they view the Troy Tulowizki release as enough “dead money”. That said, it didn’t matter how much he was owed for many of the catching-needy teams, at least not until higher-value options like Realmuto and Grandal were off the market. It’s possible that Atkins finds a trade partner who doesn’t want to pay the Marlins’ asking price and still needs a catching solution, but it’s also equally possible the Blue Jays will have to wait until Realmuto is dealt before being able to move Martin elsewhere.

The same situation could be playing out in the outfield to a lesser degree, and I’m not talking even talking about anything to do with Bryce Harper. Earlier in the offseason we heard trade rumours around Kevin Pillar as well, but nothing has come to fruition thus far. That could be for a variety of reasons, but it doesn’t help that a better option like A.J. Pollock is still waiting for his next contract on the free agent market.

We’ve heard plenty of rumours about Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez as well, with the former being the subject of several specific rumours, including being tied to interest from the Reds and Padres. Things have significantly quieted down on this front, and a large reason for that could be because other available free agents like Dallas Keuchel are still unsigned, and rumoured trade options like Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Noah Syndergaard and more remain where they started at last season’s end.

Lastly, the Blue Jays have expressed an interest in bringing in more help for their pitching staff, and likely specifically for their bullpen. It’s expected that Atkins will wait out the market and look for some bargains like he got from Seunghwan Oh, Tyler Clippard, and John Axford last year, and there’s a good chance that similar talent will be looking for a job before Opening Day. Guys in that tier may not sign in the next few weeks either, or may wait until more expensive options like Craig Kimbrel and Cody Allen have been taken off the market.

At some point needy GM’s around the league are going to blink and more of the available stars around the game will find their 2019 home, but for now things are still pretty quiet. That likely leaves the Blue Jays left in a waiting pattern for the most part, especially if they are indeed looking to deal some of their remaining veterans this winter.

Next. Absolving Marcus Stroman's 2018 numbers. dark

After what’s been a pretty quiet winter, and with roughly five weeks until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, things are bound to liven up a little more sooner or later.