With the Blue Jays in the midst of a rebuild, there’s a lot of talk about the “right time” to supplement the big league roster. Looking ahead, the icing on the cake for this team could be waiting in the 2022 free agent market.
I consider myself to be on the more optimistic side of the Blue Jays’ fanbase, but even I’ll admit that I don’t expect this team to compete for a playoff spot in 2020. I think shooting for a .500 record is a feasible and reasonable goal, but I expect it’ll be at least 2021 before we see the Blue Jays with a realistic shot at qualifying for the postseason.
Because they are still in the relatively early stages of the rebuild, there hasn’t been much of an emphasis on improving the team in the immediate term, which is something we saw in particular with the starting rotation during this past season. Charlie Montoyo and the rest of the coaching staff had to make do with what they had, but that strategy isn’t going to hold up over the long-term. Eventually the front office is going to have to add some outside pieces to help complete this team, and most of us expect that it’ll be a year or even two before they really spend in free agency, or make a major splash on the trade market.
With that in mind, I can’t help but look ahead at who might be available when that time comes, and I found that the free agent market could line up very well for the Blue Jays around the time they’re expected to contend again. The greatest area of need in Toronto is in the starting rotation, and I expect that will be the case in the future as well. Turns out that’s a good thing, because the 2022 starting pitching market could be loaded with veterans, assuming things don’t drastically change before then.
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Two years from now I suspect the Blue Jays’ starting rotation will feature some or all of Nate Pearson, Ryan Borucki, Alek Manoah, Trent Thornton, Anthony Kay, and more, with another wave of talent that should be close to MLB ready by then. If you were going to supplement that group to help them get over the top, what would you be looking for? If it were up to me, I’d want an experienced veteran, and there could be plenty of them available that off-season.
According to www.spotrac.com, that veteran group could include: Max Scherzer (37), Clayton Kershaw (34), Justin Verlander (39), Zack Greinke (38), Noah Syndergaard (29), Jon Lester (38), Stephen Strasburg (33- player option), Yu Darvish (35- player option), Corey Kluber (36), and several more. That’s a long list of Cy Young winners, All-Stars, and veteran talent, and one or more of them could be exactly what a young and talented Blue Jay rotation needs when that time comes around.
Counting on any of the above names would be foolish of course, as any of their contracts could be extended before then, they could retire, have no interest in leaving their team or playing north of the border, or maybe they won’t be very productive two seasons from now. Syndergaard would be the only one there that would require a long-term contract, as the rest would probably settle for a 1-3 year deal, depending on which one you’re negotiating with. That said, the timing, level of commitment, and potential veteran contribution may all work very well in the Blue Jays’ master plan if the cards fall the right way.
I don’t know that the Blue Jays are going to want to commit to many established pitchers before 2022, which is why the short-term veterans could work beautifully. The reason I say that is I expect that three years from now, some or all of Eric Pardinho, Simeon Woods Richardson, Adam Kloffenstein, Kendall Williams and more will have reached the highest level. They’re not exactly going to save them a spot, but planning for the next wave of homegrown talent is definitely part of the plan, at least in theory.
All of that adds up to a scenario where a short-term veteran, even a high-priced one, should line up very well in Toronto. As I mentioned above, a lot could change in two years, but I’m sure the front office is well aware of this potential scenario and will be keeping a close eye on how the market develops going forward. It’s quite a while before this all rolls around, but it could be a lot of fun and well worth the wait.