Toronto Blue Jays: One decision changes everything

It’s been a frustrating winter for Blue Jays, but we learned last offseason that the decision of one player can change things in a hurry.

Granted, the good news came a lot earlier a year ago when Hyun Jin Ryu agreed to a four-year contract to join the Blue Jays, officially joining them on Dec 27th. Like this offseason, the Blue Jays took a while to get their man, and things worked out beautifully for Ryu in year one in Toronto (or rather, Buffalo), finishing 3rd in AL Cy Young voting for the shortened 2020 season.

It’s now January 19th, and while the free agent market still has most of the premium options available, it feels like time is running out for Ross Atkins and his staff. That’s obviously not the case just yet, as they still have more than two months until the regular season should get started, but some of the best options are starting to come off the board even if the movement has mostly been on the trade market. As more names like Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, Yu Darvish, Ha-Seong Kim, and more come off the board, the pressure feels like it’s cranking up another notch. As we watched the Padres add Joe Musgrove to their treasure trove of starting pitching on Sunday through another big trade with the Pirates, now we’re starting to see the B-tier targets heading elsewhere too.

It’s enough to stress out the majority of Blue Jays fans, but for now I’m going to try to remember the lesson I learned last winter. The decision of one player can change the story of an offseason, and the Blue Jays still have an opportunity to make that kind of acquisition. In fact, if the MLB Network’s Jon Morosi’s latest tweet proves correct, George Springer could change that narrative as soon as this week.

As we’ve heard for a while now, the Blue Jays and the Mets remain as the frontrunners for Springer’s services, and it doesn’t sound like that’s changed. The Mets have added some significant payroll when they traded for Lindor and Carrasco, and that could make it more difficult to afford to meet the demands from Springer’s camp. That said, we’ve already seen one premium free agent sign a flexible deal to head elsewhere, with DJ LeMajieu giving the Yankees a pretty decent discount to return on a six-year deal. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Springer could do something similar, or even agree to backload his contract a bit if he prefers the Mets, who are closer to his hometown in Connecticut.

On the bright side, there has been no indication that Springer is using the Blue Jays for leverage, as may have been the case with LeMahieu and the Yankees. My guess is it’s more about trying to get the best contract possible, and it doesn’t sound like the Jays or Mets have offered enough for his liking just yet. There have been rumours of an ask in the 150 million dollar range or more, and I sincerely doubt that Atkins and company have come even close to that range. I’m not sure I want them to sign him to a contract big or for that likely length of term (six years?), but I’m guessing there is an aggressive offer that could work for both sides. There’s always the possibility that a late bidder enters the fold too, but offseason isn’t getting any younger either.

George Springer isn’t the only option

I don’t mean to paint the picture that everything hinges on Springer’s decision either, as there there are other potential outcomes that would be just as good or even better. Trevor Bauer and JT Realmuto remain free agents, as do secondary options like Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, Jackie Bradley Jr., Kolton Wong, and more. Despite the fact that the trade market is dwindling, there are still solid names floating around like Kris Bryant, or maybe Sonny Gray and/or Luis Castillo in Cincinnati. As we saw when the Blue Jays acquired Josh Donaldson from Oakland before the 2015 season, there’s always the possibility of a surprise too.

Few would move the needle like Springer or even Bauer, but the point is that it’s not too late for the Blue Jays to have a successful offseason. Granted, they need to make a significant move sooner than later, but there is still time. We saw it when the free agent market was quickly shrinking last winter when Ryu signed, and our frustration turned into excitement. Here’s hoping Atkins and the front office can deliver another late present.