Tuesday saw a couple of established MLB veterans sign for relative bargains, and it might be a signal that the Blue Jays should start some late offseason shopping.
We’ve heard a lot about how weak the free agent market has been for the past couple of seasons, and Tuesday provided two more examples for the MLBPA to bring up in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement discussions.
On a day that Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are still looking for their next contract, Nick Markakis agreed to a one year, six million dollar deal (salary of four million, and two million more if his option isn’t picked up) to return to the Atlanta Braves. It sounds like a bargain, but when you consider that he made 10.5 million last season and put up some quietly excellent numbers, it’s a shame that he’s being rewarded with a pay cheque that’s worth almost half as much as he made in 2018. That’s not supposed to be how things work.
The Texas Rangers also took advantage of the slow moving market, signing Asdrubal Cabrera to a modest one year, 3.5 million dollar deal. One might think of him as a bit of a utility type at this stage of his career, but he did managed to put up 23 home runs and 75 RBI last year, with a slash line of .262/.316/.458, and you’d think that would net him more than 3.5 million.
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However, that’s just the state of the market right now, and if the Blue Jays are paying attention (and I’m sure they are), then they should probably have another look at which free agents are left, and how desperate those players may be getting for a job next season.
I’m not talking about the high-end options like Harper or Machado, or even guys like Dallas Keuchel, A.J. Pollock, or Craig Kimbrel. However, there are still several other useful and available players who rank in the top 50 free agents, and a handful of them could still fit in Toronto. For example, starting pitchers like Gio Gonzalez, Wade Miley, and Ervin Santana are all waiting on their next contracts, and could likely be had for a discount as the calendar nears closer to February.
There’s another tier of starting pitchers below that, which is a group we haven’t heard a whole lot about this winter. Experienced veterans like James Shields, Jason Hammel, or former Blue Jay Marco Estrada are still waiting for their next job. There are useful outfielders like Curtis Granderson, Carlos Gomez, Carlos Gonzalez, and utility men a plenty.
While the Blue Jays should potentially look at adding another starting pitcher or an extra outfielder, the bullpen might be the place with the most deals. It’s a situation that Ross Atkins has been waiting out all winter, and I’m sure he knew that there would still be useful arms on the market at this stage of the offseason, however, I doubt that he saw there being this much talent remaining. Most of the top options are off the board, but there are still plenty of useful arms out there, and the closer we get to spring training the more desperate these players and their agents will become.
I’m sure the Blue Jays aren’t the only team that will be aware of this as they approach Spring Training, but it’s a situation that Ross Atkins will want to monitor, and even capitalize on in the right situations. The franchise may not intend on competing for a playoff spot in 2019, but every MLB team can use a good veteran player at the right price, and it looks like the opportunity is ripe for the picking again this winter.