Blue Jays: 2021 off-season targets and how they’ve fared early this year
This past off-season the Toronto Blue Jays appeared to be interested in almost every high-profile free agent that was available. While the team would walk away with the likes of George Springer, Marcus Semien, Tyler Chatwood, and Kirby Yates, there are a few players that Blue Jays management had their sights on and weren’t able to bring to Toronto.
Not every free agent the Blue Jays express interest in will sign with the team (even though fans may want them to), and this article is going to examine how some of the players who didn’t end up in a Jays uniform are faring early in the 2021 season.
I plan on doing an update on the players mentioned below throughout the season at various intervals, just to see how they are faring and if the Blue Jays might have regretted signing/not signing certain players (I.e. I know it’s early in the season, let’s just call this a baseline).
Even though the Blue Jays reportedly offered the right-hander a three-year deal in the $40 million range, Kevin Gausman decided to return to the San Francisco Giants and accept the $18.9 million qualifying offer. While the Blue Jays deal was for more guaranteed years, Gausman appears to be betting on himself to try and secure a more lucrative payday this upcoming off-season.
Gausman would make the Opening Day start for the Giants against the Seattle Mariners on April 1st, going 6.2 innings. He would finish the day with one earned run, two walks, and six strikeouts, starting the season with a 1.35 ERA and finishing the game with 90 pitches. The Giants would go on to lose the game 8-7, but Gausman did not earn the loss. A good start to trying to earn more money this upcoming off-season.
One of the biggest free-agent pitchers on the market this off-season, Trevor Bauer was linked to the Blue Jays before signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers (the Jays jersey even appeared in his awkward Lebron styled announcement video). The California native did report that he was in talks with the Blue Jays staff throughout the Winter, but there has been no information as to whether the Jays offered the right-hander a contract before he signed with the Dodgers.
Bauer would pitch against the Colorado Rockies to begin the season, throwing a no-hitter until the seventh inning before surrendering two home runs and finishing his outing with four earned runs on record. The Dodgers would end up winning the game 11-6, with Bauer throwing 96 pitches on route to 6.1 innings of work with two walks and ten strikeouts. His ERA currently stands at 5.68.
Taijuan Walker was one pitcher Blue Jays fans were hopeful to see back with the team (at least on Twitter) but the stars wouldn’t align and the right-hander would go on to sign a multi-year deal with the New York Mets.
The Mets were supposed to begin the season against the Washington Nationals but the MLB has postponed the series due to multiple players on the Nationals being diagnosed with COVID-19. The Mets will now begin the season on the road against the Philadelphia Phillies but manager Luis Rojas has stated that Walker will be getting the home opener on April 8th against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field.
One of the last free-agent pitchers off the board, Jake Odorizzi would sign a two-year, $20.25 million contract on March 8th with the Houston Astros, two weeks into Spring Training.
For conditioning reasons, Odorizzi is not slated to make a start for the Astros until possibly next week but no firm date has been set for his debut.
A former Blue Jay, right-hander Liam Hendriks was one of the most coveted relievers this off-season. After spending the past five years with the Oakland Athletics, Hendriks was looking to cash in and the Blue Jays were interested in a reunion. While the Australian-born reliever would be seen visiting the Dunedin complex earlier in the year, he would eventually sign a contract with the Chicago White Sox, a three-year deal worth $54 million.
As of the writing of this article, Hendriks has appeared in one game so far for the White Sox, facing the Los Angeles Angels on April 2. The closer would pitch come in during the eighth inning and threw 1.1 innings on route to surrendering one home run and two earned runs while walking one batter and striking out two. He collected the save as the White Sox would go on to win the game and his ERA currently stands at 13.50.
A native of Lander, British Columbia, left-hander James Paxton was on the Blue Jays radar for quite some time this off-season. When the dust settled, Paxton would eventually sign with the Seattle Mariners, the team that drafted him back in 2010. Even though the Jays were interested, there was apparently no formal contract offer for the southpaw’s services.
Paxton has not yet made his 2021 debut and is currently slated to start against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, April 6th in Seattle.