Blue Jays: Two chess moves down, Atkins may have to act quickly

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 26: General manager Ross Atkins of the Toronto Blue Jays speaks to the media before introducing Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 before his MLB debut later tonight against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre on April 26, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 26: General manager Ross Atkins of the Toronto Blue Jays speaks to the media before introducing Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 before his MLB debut later tonight against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre on April 26, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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With Jake Odorizzi accepting his qualifying offer and the Braves signing a closer on Thursday, the Blue Jays were reminded of how quickly options can disappear.

The start of a new off-season brings nearly countless possibilities, especially for a team with the payroll flexibility that the Blue Jays should have at their disposal right now.

A young and inexpensive core means that the Blue Jay have a pretty cheap roster at the moment, and that also means that they should have some money to spend over the winter in order to improve the 2020 version of the club. By all accounts, it sounds like they’re looking to do just that so far this off-season, reportedly among the more aggressive teams in pursuing free agents.

While it’s encouraging to hear that Ross Atkins and the rest of the front office aren’t sitting back and waiting to see how the market is going to develop this year, Thursday brought a pretty good reminder of how quickly things can change. It’s hard to say what Atkins and company were hoping to accomplish, but two of their potential options were taken off the table when Jake Odorizzi accepted his qualifying offer to stay in Minnesota, and the Atlanta Braves signed Will Smith to a three year deal to be their new closer.

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The Blue Jays were reportedly very interested in signing Odorizzi even with the draft pick compensation attached, but obviously the talks between them and his agent weren’t inspiring enough for him to turn down the one year offer of nearly 18 million. To be fair, that qualifying offer can only be attached to a player once in their career, so Odorizzi may be banking on himself to be in a similar position next off-season, but without the QO hanging around his neck and limiting his market.

In the case of the Braves, Atlanta should be seen as a true contender in 2020, and it was pretty widely assumed that they would be in the market for a new closer. With Atlanta employing Alex Anthopoulos as their executive vice president and GM, there were plenty of reasons to think that a deal could be reached to send Ken Giles to Atlanta, especially because Anthopoulos would still be familiar with some of the minor league system. Giles is entering the final year of his contract before he’ll be a free agent, and it’s not yet known whether the Blue Jays will trade him or keep him around and possibly try to extend his contract, but the option to trade him to Atlanta is now off the table.

I’m not suggesting the Blue Jays should panic and make their big roster decisions by the end of the week or anything, but if they are truly interested in making an impactful improvement to the roster they might have to act early in order to get it done. Based on the way the last two off-seasons have slowly played out that might sound a little crazy, but I have a feeling that the more higher-end options are going to jump off the board pretty quickly.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg wait out the market a bit, but I don’t think the Blue Jays will get on the short list for either pitcher this year anyway. In the second tier are guys like Zack Wheeler, Dallas Keuchel, and a handful of others, but that group has already been weakened by Odorizzi staying in Minnesota.

Blue Jays and Pre-Rule 5 opportunities. dark. Next

It’s still very early, but Thursday showed that there’s no guarantee that the market will last like it has the last couple of years. With that in mind, hopefully the Blue Jays are ready to make a move when the time comes, because it could be just around the corner.

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