Blue Jays: Management will need to spend wisely this off-season

TORONTO, ON - JUNE 29: General manager Ross Atkins of the Toronto Blue Jays speaks to members of the media before the start of MLB game action against the Detroit Tigers at Rogers Centre on June 29, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JUNE 29: General manager Ross Atkins of the Toronto Blue Jays speaks to members of the media before the start of MLB game action against the Detroit Tigers at Rogers Centre on June 29, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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TORONTO, CANADA – NOVEMBER 2: Mark Shapiro speaks to the media as he is introduced as president of the Toronto Blue Jays during a press conference on November 2, 2015 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, CANADA – NOVEMBER 2: Mark Shapiro speaks to the media as he is introduced as president of the Toronto Blue Jays during a press conference on November 2, 2015 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

Off-season Plans

With the scenario and payroll schematics finally out of the way, we can get to the real nitty gritty of the article.

Regardless of whether my math is off by a few millions of dollars, the Blue Jays will head into the off-season with a significant amount of money to throw around if Rogers Communications has given them the go ahead to spend. Rogers has given the Blue Jays the green light in previous seasons to spend past $150 million on their payroll, but that may be a stretch in 2020 given how the team is still rebuilding and keeps dropping in attendance over the past three years. We as fans usually do not find out the exact number, just rumours from sources within the organization.

Even if Rogers was to give the Blue Jays a payroll commitment of $120-$150 million for the 2020 season, that is still a significant amount of money to use towards free agency or acquiring higher paid players in trades with other teams.

With this generous amount of playing room also comes a great deal of financial responsibility that needs to be exemplified by the front office. Just because Ross Atkins and co. have millions to play with doesn’t mean they need to go spending money on areas that don’t need improving, or overpaying for players designated for bench roles or a mid-summer release.

Every fan, scout, writer, and front office staff member knows that the Toronto Blue Jays need to improve their starting rotation, as well as taking a look at some established veteran options in centre field. There will most likely be some additions to the bullpen as well, with Elvis Luciano heading down to the minor leagues with his Rule 5 status over and some relief pitchers getting lost in the shuffle of spring training.

Free Agency

Some interesting candidates arise at starting pitching this offseason, with Gerrit Cole, Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner, and Hyun-Jin Ryu leading the free agency pack. I wouldn’t get your hopes up for Cole to join the Blue Jays, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jays went after Wheeler or other less flashy options like Jake Odorizzi (he may get a qualifying offer which would be a huge deterrent) or Dallas Kuechel.

They could kick the tires with the likes of Bumgarner and Ryu as well, but even if the Blue Jays are heavily interested in these pitchers, do they even want to play in Toronto? There is also possible options in Stephen Strasburg and Yu Darvish, but both players would have to exercise their opt outs to be free agents and want to play in T.O.

Heading to the outfield, there are a few options the Blue Jays could look at, but unfortunately, the best outfielders this offseason are corner options rather than established centre fielders. Starling Marte is the only centre fielder who really jumps off the page, but he has a club option that the Pittsburgh Pirates are most likely going to exercise rather than buy him out at $2.5 million.

This would require someone to move positions, which can lead to mix results depending on who moves over. Marcell Ozuna, Brett Gardner and Nicholas Castellanos are intriguing outfielder options, and the Blue Jays could go looking at some less sought after options like Yasiel Puig and Avisail Garcia as well. Someone would have to move to centre field for this to work (whether free agent or possibly Grichuk), but it’s something to look at. Ozuna and Castellanos will be in high demand this offseason given their 2019 performance, age, and stats, which is why I mention the possibility of Puig and Garcia as suitable alternatives for the Blue Jays.

Do Nothing

The organization could also sit on their hands this offseason and let some of the younger players fight it out over the 2020 seasons for major league positions, staying out of the free agent market.

Players like Derek Fisher and Anthony Alford are out of options and need to earn a roster spot next season without going through waivers, while others like Richard Urena, Jonathan Davis, and Billy McKinney have seen MLB action but have never cemented their spot on the roster. Teoscar Hernandez could see his starting role change to a bench position if a free agent outfielder is signed this offseason, or if one of the above mentioned players excels in spring training.

They could also let some of the prospects fight for full time in the major leagues like Jacob Waguespack, T.J. Zeuch, Sean Reid-Foley and Anthony Kay, while also keeping top prospect Nate Pearson on the back-burner, fully aware that he will make an impact on the 2020 roster at some point in the season. This would kind of go against the scenario of “trying to improve the starting rotation”, but giving some internal options a deeper look given how the 2019 season played out is certainly not out of the question.

2021 Free Agency

The front office could also choose to forego 2020 free agency and go after free agents in 2021, a group that would include Masahiro Tanaka and possibly Jake Arrieta, but this free agent class is noticeably weaker than this year. I really don’t expect this to be a huge factor in decision making, but you never know.

Saving Money on Internal Future Players

By not spending any payroll money on frivolous and not needed players (which the Blue Jays have done before), the team could also look to be saving some money for when the future prospects reach arbitration in 2-3 years. When these players progress further along in their careers and reach arbitration and free agency, Blue Jays will require increased payroll flexibility to keep their star prospects around long term.

While this is quite a few years away, this is something that the front office will need to consider if the likes of Bo Bichette or Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are going to stay with the club past arbitration. If they do indeed keep improving and producing at the MLB level, they will be looking for serious money in the future.

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