Blue Jays: To wait on the trade market, or to pounce now?

TORONTO, CANADA - DECEMBER 4: President Mark Shapiro looks on as Ross Atkins speaks to the media as Atkins is introduced as the new general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays during a press conference on December 4, 2015 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, CANADA - DECEMBER 4: President Mark Shapiro looks on as Ross Atkins speaks to the media as Atkins is introduced as the new general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays during a press conference on December 4, 2015 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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If the Blue Jays are serious about swinging a big trade this winter, then timing could be everything, especially with the unique circumstances at play.

The offseason can be a lot of fun when your favourite team is genuinely looking to improve, and thankfully that appears to be the case for the Toronto Blue Jays this winter.

They struck early by re-signing Robbie Ray to a one-year, eight million dollar pact, and the expectation is that they’re just getting started adding roster reinforcements. A good chunk of that work will be done through free agency, but the Blue Jays are also going to be linked to the trade market fairly frequently. They have a strong minor league system to deal from, available payroll space, and a young team on the rise.

One of the most important questions for Ross Atkins and the front office this winter may be when to pull the trigger on a major acquisition, regardless of the avenue. That will be the case in free agency, as it’s hard to say how many teams will invest serious money to improve this winter, but it’s also a relevant point to consider on the trade market.

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Take Francisco Lindor for example, who is on an expiring contract in Cleveland and is one of the top names being discussed as a potential trade piece right now. The Blue Jays are known to be interested, and I’m sure there will be others, but his approximately 20 million dollar salary for 2021 will limit the list of potential trade partners. To that end, the Blue Jays might be wise to make a significant offer before the market for his services really develops.

As things stands right now, it sounds like Cleveland would like to see the interest grow quite a bit, and they may have to wait a month or two for that to happen while we see if the Covid-19 pandemic is going to have drastic effects on next season as well. According to the MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, Cleveland is hoping to see the Mets get involved in trade talks as a potential trade partner. That could be because they like some players in the Mets’ minor league system, believe that Lindor would consider an extension there (driving up his trade value), or simply to just add more bidders to the party.

On one hand the Blue Jays could choose to be aggressive and make a competitive offer now before teams like the Mets or others come into the picture. There likely wouldn’t be a lot of challengers at this stage, and if Cleveland likes the Jays’ offer they could be persuaded to take it now for fear that a better offer may not materialize. Things could improve for the baseball world over the next few months, and that might open up more spending around the game.

On the other though, maybe it’s a better idea to let Cleveland wait and see that the market is likely going to be very limited. You run the risk of Lindor or another target getting traded elsewhere first, but if they don’t, that could drop the asking price. In Lindor’s case, we know that Cleveland would like to get his salary off the books, even as one of the premier players in the world. If he’s still there in February, would they feel a sense of urgency to get his salary off the books? They did let Brad Hand walk for nothing, so you know there’s pressure from ownership to slash salary.

Realistically, the biggest variable at play with roster building this winter is the pandemic. If rival GM’s could count on gate revenue and a normal 162-game season in 2021, there would be all kinds of teams calling to ask about Lindor, and other expensive players around the game. However, until more is known to that end, I imagine we’re going to see some fairly conservative behaviour.

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As one of the teams that’s reportedly ready to spend this offseason, that gives the Blue Jays two options. Pounce now before others are ready, and hopefully beat your competitors to the punch. Or, you could wait on things to develop, and in that case, you may be able to improve the roster even more for the same amount of money by being patient. I’d say I wouldn’t want to be is Ross Atkins’ shoes right now, but that’s not true. It’s an enviable position to be in as a baseball executive, and I expect that the Blue Jays will improve this winter. It’s just a matter of when.

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