Blue Jays: Is this the offseason they begin really spending?
The Blue Jays signed a few key free agents last winter, but will they up their game and really open their wallets to help finish off the rebuild?
One of the many positives for an organization that’s beginning to see the light at the end of a rebuild, is the fact that young players often times cost a fraction of their worth, leaving money to spend on experienced and proven veterans.
The Blue Jays currently find themselves in that situation looking ahead to 2021 as their core four youngsters in Nate Pearson, Bo Bichette, Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio are all pre-arbitration and their contracts won’t even make a dent in the team’s payroll next year.
The $14-million the team was paying now retired Troy Tulowitzki will drop to just $4-million and the team only has five “significant” contracts on the books and they are as follows, excluding the $9.5-million team option on Chase Anderson and $1.5-million option on Rafael Dolis:
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Hyun-Jin Ryu, $20-million
Tanner Roark, $12-million
Randal Grichuk, $10.3-million
Lourdes Gurriel Jr., $3.9-million
Shun Yamaguchi, $3.17-million
Add up those contracts and you get roughly $49.4-million and looking at the roster, there aren’t any arbitration eligible players that will command a significant salary. The Blue Jays will have to make decisions on Matt Shoemaker and Ken Giles, who are both eligible for free agency following the current campaign.
The last season the Blue Jays truly “went for it” was back in 2016 and their opening day payroll was roughly $145 million, which sat around the middle of the league. The Blue Jays likely won’t be prepared to reach that number heading into 2021, but there’s some thought that they are prepared to add some more pieces to the puzzle as soon as this offseason, and they certainly have the money to go out and acquire some pieces of value.
The organizational needs are in the outfield, more specifically centre field, as well as the pitching staff, whether that be the rotation or bullpen. Adding to the bullpen should come at a relatively cheap cost compared to the other two, and is an area they can look to further add depth to as the team begins to prove they are ready to compete in the AL East.
The search for a centre fielder will depend on where the club sees top prospect Austin Martin down the road, whether that be on the infield or in the outfield. With that being said, the top free agent outfielder this offseason will be George Springer, barring an agreement with the Astros, who was one of the top all-around outfielders in 2019. This would definitely be a fit, but it still seems unlikely the Jays would be able to compete with some high-market teams to pull this one off.
Another outfield option this offseason is veteran left fielder Michael Brantley, who doesn’t quite come with the defensive pedigree of Springer, but he’s as consistent as they come at the plate and likely wouldn’t command as lengthy a contract.
The free agent outfielders somewhat thin out after these two and with that kind of market it may force the Blue Jays to wait for the right fit going forward, but it’s a real interesting class on starting pitching front.
Names like Trevor Bauer, Robbie Ray, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and Jose Quintana should be hitting the open market, and some of these arms would definitely be in their price range. Some of these veterans come with question marks, but the opportunity will be there this offseason should the Jays choose to bolster a rotation which already has two bona-fide starters at the top with Hyun-Jin Ryu and rookie Pearson.
There are still lots of things to play out for the club, but the areas they need to improve on are clear at the moment. It’s a young, talented roster as already shown by the constant competitive games they find themselves in, however, the holes are there.
Whether this is the offseason that Shapiro and Atkins decide to pull the trigger, it shouldn’t be too long before they feel the pressure to field a roster that will be able to compete with the big boys in the American League, especially as the clock has already began ticking on all the young star’s service time.