I’m confident the Blue Jays will aggressively move to improve their roster over the winter, but one of the biggest questions of the offseason is out of their hands.
Ross Atkins and his front office team can do everything in their power to prepare the Blue Jays for the 2022 season and beyond, but one of the harsh realities of their situation is the strength of the AL East. Look no further than the Blue Jays winning 91 games in 2021, only to finish in 4th place in their own division and outside of the playoff picture. The Atlanta Braves won the NL East with 88 games, and we all know how that’s worked out for them.
The fact is, the Blue Jays are always going to have a tough road in the AL East as long as they share a division with the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Tampa Bay Rays. That said, this winter will be a very interesting one and the Jays should keep an even closer eye on their division rivals than they usually do.
With the looming CBA negotiations there are still a lot of questions to be answered, and that could impact all three of the Jays division rivals. For the Yankees and Red Sox, any discussion around the luxury tax threshold and/or penalties for exceeding it could significantly affect how they go about their business this winter and beyond.
My guess is that the Rex Sox will look to add a significant piece or two, even if they haven’t really been talked about much as a potential big spender in free agency. Their total payroll was a little over 186 million in 2021 according to Spotrac.com, so they won’t really have to worry about luxury tax penalties as a repeat offender. They could make some more room by declining their 10 million dollar option on Garrett Richards that comes with a 1.5 million buyout, and the same on Martin Perez’s 6.0 million owed for 2022 that comes with a 500k buyout. J.D. Martinez has one more player option on his deal for next season, and chances are he’ll take the 19.35 million and return.
The Yankees are in a tougher spot, especially when they look ahead beyond the 2022 campaign. Last season Spotrac.com had them at a total payroll of 231 million, and there are plenty of reports that they’ll look to add a shortstop this offseason, and probably some additional help for the rotation. With the pending free agency of Aaron Judge after next season, the Yankees might be crossing their fingers harder than any team in baseball when it comes to future luxury tax penalties. They really can’t afford (no pun intended) to see the luxury tax ceiling drop, which is one rumoured proposal, nor would they be fans of the penalties increasing. I’m sure the Yankees will look to move some salary in the trade market, but it’s tough to imagine them signing a big free agent and lowering their payroll at the same time. Brian Cashman and his front office team are going to have their work cut out for them.
For the Rays the issue could be a possible salary floor, which sounds ridiculous for a team that has consistently been among the best in baseball. However, spotrac.com had them at a total payroll just under 90 million this past season, which is borderline insulting when you consider how good they are. At one point there were rumours that MLB would propose a salary floor of 100 million, and if something like that came to fruition then the Rays might have to spend a little more. I’m not sure I like that part.
I’m sure the Blue Jays are going to focus on what they can control, which is entering next season with the best roster they can put together. As for the rest of their division rivals, it remains to be seen how they will go about their offseason, or how much a new CBA will affect their plans. Thankfully the Jays should be in a strong position either way, but without a Collective Bargaining Agreement in place this year’s free agency has an extra layer of intrigue.