After signing Hyun-Jin Ryu to a four-year deal and being linked to other high-priced players as well, has the reputation of the Blue Jays’ front office just changed?
I can’t help but laugh at the way the narrative has changed about the Blue Jays’ off-season over the last few days. That’ll happen when you sign a high-priced free agent target, as the Blue Jays did when they landed Hyun-Jin Ryu to head their starting rotation.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was critical of Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro, and with every difference maker that came off of the free agent board, I started to worry that they’d be left empty-handed. There were a pile of rumours of course, but just as we’ve gotten used to over the years, the Blue Jays were always the bridesmaid and never the bride with free agent pursuits.
Signing Ryu isn’t just a win for the Blue Jays roster in 2020 and beyond. His contract is the biggest free agent deal since Russell Martin signed his five-year, 82 million pact prior to the 2015 season. Ryu’s contract also beats A.J. Burnett‘s five year, 55 million dollar free agent contract signed in 2005 as the largest given to a pitcher in franchise history.
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For Atkins and Shapiro, signing Ryu is a big deal for a number of reasons. It definitely changes the way the fan base views them, at least for the time being. That doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, however, it should certainly help when it comes to ticket sales. Offering the type of money that Ryu agreed to is a show of faith in their young roster, and it gives the fans a reason to believe in the direction of the franchise.
Speaking of the young roster, I believe that Ryu’s presence will go a long way for them as well. The Blue Jays want to build the culture of a winning club, and that will be increasingly important as Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and more gain experience and add to their MLB resumes. You want potential impact players like them to buy in and maybe even stick around for the long-term, and spending to get them a needed rotation talent like Ryu sends a very positive message.
If signing Ryu came as a surprise to many of us, the gossip gloating around on Thursday was even more of a shock. According to chatter on Sportsnet’s the Fan 590 from Joey Vendetta, the Blue Jays may have even gone as far as offering Gerrit Cole 300 million before he signed a nine-year, 324 million contract with the Yankees. I have no reason to call Vendetta a liar, but that’s a shocking piece of gossip to me if it’s true.
If signing Ryu sent ripples throughout the fan base and parts of baseball, just imagine what kind of message the Blue Jays would have sent the league if they had signed Cole. Sure, they still came up short of the Yankees’ offer, but 300 million is a staggering amount to offer, especially from the Blue Jays. MLBTR projected that Cole would get eight years and 256 million, and the Blue Jays might have blown that out of the water with their offer. Even though they ultimately failed to get free agency’s top target, that’s the kind of effort I can definitely respect.
For a front office that has had the reputation of being very frugal, things have certainly changed over the last few weeks. It’s now a lot easier to believe that they outbid the Rangers for Kyle Gibson, and I didn’t immediately scoff when I read about the Cole offer. That’s what signing someone like Ryu does for the reputation of a front office, with the fans, with player agents (even Scott Boras, and most importantly with the players.
As the Blue Jays proceed from here, the front office can breathe a small sigh of relief knowing that they’ve vastly improved the starting rotation, The work is far from done, but the team is moving in the right direction and the general feeling around the team is positive. What a difference a week makes.