Toronto Blue Jays: GM for a day, how I’d improve the Jays
With the Blue Jays expected to have around 74 million committed to the 2021 payroll, how would you spend roughly 30 million more to improve the roster?
It’s really hard to say how much the Blue Jays will spend to improve their roster this offseason, but they’re expected to be one of the more aggressive spenders.
It’s a tricky winter after a season that was shortened to 60 games because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and one that was played without fans in the stands or any gate revenue to be had. That will leave a lot of teams on the sidelines when it comes to spending money over the next couple of months, which could give the Blue Jays a real opportunity to improve.
Working in their favour is the fact that they have a young and talented roster, and as things stand, have around 74 million in payroll for next season. That figure could shrink some more if they decide to move on from Travis Shaw and/or try to trade Tanner Roark, but that’s still an enviable place to start. In fact, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the Blue Jays to spend 30 million or more to improve the team. With that in mind, what do you think the best way to spend it would be?
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I could make an argument that trading for someone like Francisco Lindor and his roughly 20 million dollar salary is the best move, and that may well be the case. However, for the purposes of this exercise, I’m going to look at just the free agents that are available as of right now. In order to help bring this all together, I’ll use the predicted salaries that were published earlier this week by MLBtraderumors.com.
The most obvious need is in the starting rotation, and that’s where I’ll begin. I believe the Blue Jays will start the regular season with Hyun Jin Ryu, Nate Pearson, and Ross Stripling in the rotation, and Roark will be there as well if he’s not traded. However, I’d still like to see two starters added to the picture, and I’m sure the Blue Jays would agree.
I’d start with a familiar face in Taijuan Walker, who MLBTR has down for two years and 16 million to sign with the Washington Nationals. I personally think he’ll receive more than that, and I think the Blue Jays would be willing to give him a little more as well, so I’ll re-sign him at that rate in a heartbeat. And since this is nothing more than an exercise, I’ve filled one need for eight million, which is fantastic.
From there I’d roll the dice on a reclamation project, although my strategy would change if Roark were traded. Since I’m operating like he’ll stick around, I’d let him battle it out for the fifth starter’s role with Chris Archer, who MLBTR has signing for one year and four million with the Cubs. He’s coming off of Thoracic Outlet surgery and it’s hard to say what he’ll be able to contribute next season, but it could be a high-risk, high-reward scenario worth looking at. If you could trade Roark and even save another 5-8 million of his 12 million dollar salary for next year, I’d likely look at James Paxton at one year and 10 million instead, or maybe Corey Kluber at 12 million. Charlie Morton at eight million is by far the no-brainer on this list in my eyes, but I think he’l re-sign in Tampa Bay or retire.
With Walker and Archer on board we’ve only spent 12 million, which means there’s room to improve the bullpen. This is where Atkins and the front office look smart for passing on Brad Hand on waivers for 10 million last week, as now he can be had for two years and 14 million. He adds an important southpaw to the back end of the bullpen, and some important insurance in case Jordan Romano and/or Rafael Dolis can’t handle closing duties in 2021. That brings us to 19 million. I’d also re-sign Anthony Bass, and while he’s not on MLBTR’s list, let’s give him a raise to four million for his efforts in 2020, bringing us to 23 million.
I really think the Blue Jays will need to execute a trade or two to make for their best possible roster this offseason, and that becomes apparent to me again here. If I look at the remaining options on the free agent market, I’d likely go with Kolton Wong for two years and 12 million, sliding Cavan Biggio to third base and adding Wong’s Gold Glove defence at second. There are other intriguing possibilities like Jackie Bradley Jr. in centre field, however, it would likely require the Jays to trade Randal Grichuk or someone else.
Again, this was strictly looking at the free agent market, but for 30 million we were able to get Taijuan Walker, Chris Archer, Brad Hand, Anthony Bass, and Kolton Wong. Those players may not top your wish lists, but that would be a pretty good way to spend that amount of money, and in theory you’d have plenty of tradable assets to work with too.
There should be all kinds of options on the table for Atkins and his staff this winter, and with a young team on the rise and the expectation of a boost in payroll, it’s going to be fun to keep track of as we progress through the offseason.