The Blue Jays are rebuilding, but they’re also looking to improve their current roster. Will they be buyers, sellers, or a bit of both this off-season?
It should be a very interesting winter for Blue Jays fans, especially compared to the last couple of off-seasons. It’s early, but it appears that Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro are a lot more serious about improving the roster in the immediate term than they have been since they arrived in Toronto a few years ago.
That could absolutely be the case, and it’s possible that the Blue Jays do some buying and also some selling on the market over the next few months. They traded many of their veteran pieces last year like Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, and many more, but there are still a handful of players that they could be looking to move right now, such as Ken Giles. With just one year remaining before he hits free agency, the Blue Jays might decide they’re better off dealing their closer now than they would be in July, or if they just keep him instead.
It’s a bit of an odd position to be in, but that could be the right path for Atkins and company to take while also simultaneously trying to improve the rest of the roster as well. The goal should be to improve next season over their 67 wins in 2019, but realistically the focus is still on the long-term, and there’s an argument that Giles may not be an ideal fit for 2021 and beyond, depending on what kind of contract he might be looking for. Overpaying for a closer can be just fine, but the bullpen is the most volatile position in baseball, and I can understand the reluctance to assume he’ll still be elite in a few years.
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That said, the Blue Jays absolutely should be acting like buyers this off-season, even if they might be also on the other side of the market as well. They need to upgrade their rotation depth, and this year’s free agent class offers enough talent to do that for the 2020 season and beyond. Ideally they would truly compete for someone like Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, but signing an arm from a group that includes Zack Wheeler, Jake Odorizzi, Dallas Keuchel, or maybe someone like a Kyle Gibson would be a big help and a step in the right direction.
The Blue Jays might not be ready to compete in 2020, but putting some building blocks in place now is necessary, and the market in 2021 and later may not offer the same opportunities. Take the San Diego Padres as an example, when they arguably signed Manny Machado a year or two earlier than they “should” in order to be ready to compete for a playoff spot. When the rest of the talented young roster is ready to take that step, he’ll be there ready to lead them, even if he’s been overpaid to wait it out.
The Blue Jays won’t be dipping into the 300 million dollar market like what the Padres paid for Machado, but the same school of thought should be used on a smaller scale. It’s okay if they overpay someone to join what could be no better than a .500 team next year, as long as the building block fits into the long-term plan. That pitcher could make the difference sometime in 2021-23, and it helps in other ways too. It sends the message to the young core that this organization is serious about building a winner around them, shows free agents that Toronto could be a desirable destination in the future, and for us fans, it gives us a reason to believe.
This rebuild purgatory means that the Blue Jays should be keeping all of their options open. Signing or trading for the right long-term piece, potentially trading veterans still on the team, and also signing a few “bargain bin” guys that could turn into trade chips in July, just like Daniel Hudson, David Phelps, and more did in 2019.
It’s an important point in the rebuild, and with all kinds of options on the table for Atkins, Shapiro, and the rest of the front office, it should be a very interesting off-season.