Blue Jays are primed to spend another +$100 million on free agency in 2022

Feb 19, 2018; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins and president and CEO Mark Shapiro look on during batting practice at Bobby Mattick Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 19, 2018; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins and president and CEO Mark Shapiro look on during batting practice at Bobby Mattick Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

After a slew of one year deals that followed George Springer’s 6 year pact, the Blue Jays have set themselves up for another big free agent addition in 2022.

Now that the regular season is on the horizon and the front office seems to be content with what they have on the field, let’s take a look back at the Blue Jays offseason. At first, I was a little bit bewildered by all of the one year deals being signed. Naturally, when a team has more money to spend than others, they go after lucrative players that demand multi-year deals. Well to an extent, the Blue Jays did that by acquiring the most expensive free agent addition this offseason in George Springer.

However, virtually every other addition by the Jays, whether it be trade or free agency, was a one year acquisition. Between Kirby Yates, Marcus Semien, Tyler Chatwood, Steven Matz and Robbie Ray (all have one year of contractual control remaining), the Blue Jays are spending about $40 million that will be released from the books next year.

The current payroll is sitting at about $135 mil which is still about $40 million less than when player salaries peaked in 2017. When you consider all the contracts that are coming off the books next year mixed in with a couple of arbitration-eligible salary increases, you’d figure that the Jays will probably start next offseason with a payroll of about 105 million, which is still well below the peak. Considering the fact that Rogers has enjoyed significant success from the Blue Jays when they contended (see 2016 annual report, Rogers), the expectation should at least be that they will gradually spend more money.

Theoretically, if the Jays planned on getting back up to the $170 million threshold in payroll, then they could afford the AAV of two marquee free agents next year. I don’t see the Jays unloading all their eggs in one basket because that is how you hamstring a franchise, but I could definitely see one more big free agent coming, especially if Ryu continues to play well and Springer has the year that Blue Jays fans are looking for. In this scenario, the front office has a good case to make to the Rogers board to unload on another contract.

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In my view, if the Jays front office planned on putting a halt on massive offseason acquisitions, then they would’ve gotten a lot more aggressive this year with modest 2-3 year deals with the Taijuan Walker’s and Jake Odorizzi’s of the world. However, I think they realized that in order to extend the young stars while still adding marquee players, the payroll has got to be clean.

Starting pitching was the obvious need this offseason, but with most of the solid starters signing 2-3 year deals, it put the Jays front office in an uncomfortable situation where in order to sign those pitchers, they’d need to make significant compromises in the succeeding offseasons. Given that the Blue Jays are only getting better in terms of the aging curve, I think they had the right idea this winter. You are better off making compromises in an offseason before the club peaks performance-wise. I know many fans wanted a Jake Odorizzi or a Taijuan Walker, but consider what that would cost the Jays next offseason.

As it currently stands, the free agent class of 2022 contains an absolute treasure of talent that includes Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander, Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager and a lot more. Next year’s class is probably one of the best free agent classes of all time. In order to have a competitive offseason in 2022, the Jays front office made sure that they’d be in a competitive payroll situation for next year. You can make the argument that the Jays could’ve still done more to improve the rotation while still affording a top notch acquisition next year.

To that I say, consider the fact that salaries of young players are going up gradually through arbitration eligibility. If they overload on free agents in general, they’ll never be able to extend their young, homegrown stars. I really do think its a blessing in disguise that the Jays didn’t sign many multi-year deals this year.

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When you factor in the Blue Jays current payroll flexibility, past spending trends when they have contended, and the stacked class in 2022, it’d be very surprising if the Jays didn’t have another aggressive offseason next year. The days of leading the league in “interest” is over. It’s time to play with the big boys in free agency.