The Blue Jays often have an uphill battle trying to convince free agents to join them, but heading into a new offseason that may no longer be the case.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still a few hurdles that will always have to be navigated, like the minor inconvenience of crossing an International border to get into Canada on a regular basis, or the fact that the Jays play in the tough AL East. However, the Blue Jays have entered a new era with their exciting young core, and it should be a fair bit easier for Ross Atkins to supplement the roster through free agency rather than having to rely so heavily on the trade market.
One of the important factors is recent history, and the Atkins-led front office has turned over a new leaf in that regard, even being praised by super-agent Scott Boras last winter for their aggressive approach. After a relatively short rebuild the Blue Jays went from being very conservative to now spending some serious money in free agency. They handed Hyun Jin Ryu a four-year, 80 million dollar contract ahead of the 2020 season, and signed George Springer for six years and 150 million before the 2021 campaign. Players and agents now see the Blue Jays as a team that’s willing to spend, both for long-term deals like Ryu and Springer’s, or even on a big dollar, one-year pact like the 18 million they gave Marcus Semien last winter.
I don’t anticipate that the Blue Jays will spend recklessly this offseason, but I do expect them to make serious offers to their own pending free agents in Semien and Robbie Ray, and failing that I’m confident that they’d open their chequebooks to replace them if necessary. After the way the 2021 season ended for this group, taking a step back really isn’t an option.
On top of a willingness to spend money, the Blue Jays are going to be seen as an exciting place to play for at least the next 4-5 years, and likely longer. That’s because of the presence of their homegrown stars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Alek Manoah, and others that are yet to surface much (I still believe in Nate Pearson’s potential, for example). At the end of the day, free agents are going to look at all kinds of variables before they make their decision, but it usually comes down to three things: money, a chance to win, and geographic location.
There will be a handful of players that won’t care for that third one, but the Blue Jays certainly have the ability to offer the first two. Other free agents also take notice when a veteran like Springer joins the Blue Jays, and based on what we witnessed this season when he was healthy enough to play, it looks like the former Houston Astro is really enjoying his experience in Toronto.
Just like we saw in the 90’s when the Blue Jays were winning World Series championships, I believe that this organization has entered an era where they will be able to convince free agents to join them, and might even be able to avoid paying their usual premium too. As disappointing as the ending to the 2021 season was, it’s pretty exciting to think about the future what this core group can do, especially if they get a little more help.