Blue Jays: How would a potential work stoppage hinder offseason plans?
With MLB and the Player’s Association potentially headed for a work stoppage in December, there’s a decent chance it could affect the Blue Jays’ plans.
I believe that will likely be the case for nearly every team across baseball, which could very well lead to a slow start to the offseason, and free agency in particular. In some ways it may not be that different from how things went a year ago across the league, but the circumstances are certainly a lot different.
Instead of dealing with losing more than 100 regular season games as they did in 2020, thankfully MLB was able to have a full 162 game season in 2021, and that obviously makes a pretty big difference as far as budgets go. Some teams had reduced capacity throughout the year, and the Blue Jays didn’t get to return to the Rogers Centre until September, but the prospects look a lot more promising going forward as far as putting the Covid-19 pandemic behind us (at least in terms of limiting availability to sporting events).
The bigger issue in baseball this offseason is the potential for a work stoppage as the League/Owners and the Player’s Association try to hammer out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, as the current deal is set to expire. I’m of the opinion that the two sides will be able to come to an agreement at some point, and that the pandemic may have even helped a bit in that regard. We’ve already had a taste of life without baseball as recently as last year, and I’m sure that adds motivation for both sides going forward.
Assuming that things eventually get worked out, it’ll be interesting to see how the process affects the Blue Jays, if at all.
One of the major issues on the table for a new CBA will be the luxury tax ceiling, as well as the potential for a “salary floor”. While these variables could affect teams that spend right to the threshold, like the Yankees and Dodgers, it really shouldn’t impact the Blue Jays all that much. I expect that the Jays will work with a generous budget in 2022, but chances are it will still fall into the 150-160 million range to start the year, so I doubt that any potential floor or ceiling would have any impact on their plans.
How it could affect them is in pursuing the players that they decide to target this offseason. For example, let’s use Robbie Ray as a hypothetical to illustrate my point. The Blue Jays almost certainly have the budget space to retain the likely 2021 AL Cy Young award winner should they choose, but it remains to be seen how aggressive they’ll get with their bid. Whether Ray wants to return to Toronto or not, it could be wise for he and his agent to wait until the luxury tax situation is resolved. What I mean by that is, if enough room is added at the top, then that could bring in additional bidders for Ray’s services, and raise the value of his next contract overall.
For high-end free agents like Ray and Marcus Semien, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they waited until a new CBA is in place, assuming that they believe it will work in their favour. The Blue Jays or another team could always change their minds with an aggressive enough bid, but that hasn’t been Ross Atkins’ way very often. This is a front office that exercises patience and has yet to really set the bar in free agency. In this scenario in particular, I don’t expect that trend to change.
With that in mind, my expectation is that the offseason will get off to a slow start, for the Blue Jays and likely pretty much all of baseball. That said, when they do get things worked out, it could be total madness for a few weeks, and that might be a lot of fun too.