Blue Jays: A few offseason options may already be off the board

TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 23: Breyvic Valera #74 of the Toronto Blue Jays scores the winning run on a wild pitch by Craig Kimbrel (R) #46 of the Chicago White Sox in the eighth inning during a MLB game at Rogers Centre on August 23, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 23: Breyvic Valera #74 of the Toronto Blue Jays scores the winning run on a wild pitch by Craig Kimbrel (R) #46 of the Chicago White Sox in the eighth inning during a MLB game at Rogers Centre on August 23, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /
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It’s going to be a busy offseason for the Blue Jays, and as transactions are already starting around the league, they may have lost a few potential targets.

That’s not to suggest that there’s any reason to panic or anything, but a few players that I had on my own possible free agent list for the Jays may never hit the market. In Toronto we saw Qualifying Offers extended to both Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien as expected, but it doesn’t appear the same will happen for Steven Matz ahead of Sunday’s deadline. It sounds like the Jays have made an effort to bring Matz back on a multi-year deal, but they wisely passed on offering him 18.4 million for one season.

As for the potential free agent targets that may never be, I’d start with the decisions made by the New York Mets. In the midst of some front office turmoil in New York it sounds like they’ve decided to make the Qualifying Offer to both starting pitch Noah Syndergaard, and left-handed hitting outfielder Michael Conforto. There’s no guarantee that either player would have been among the Blue Jays’ targets, but both made some degree of sense.

Conforto had a rough walk season prior to becoming a free agent, but heading into the 2021 campaign he looked like a player that could be a great fit as a Blue Jay. His lefty bat could have provided some nice balance to a right-handed heavy lineup, and he typically hits for power and produces an excellent on-base percentage, which was .412 during the shortened 2020 season.

After slashing just .232/.344/.384 with 15 home runs and 55 RBI over 125 games, I’d be really surprised if Conforto turned down the QO after such a rough walk year. That’s a bit of a shame even if there isn’t necessarily an opening in the outfield in Toronto with the presence of George Springer, Teoscar Hernandez, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., but the could rotate the trio through the DH spot again in 2022, or even consider a trade for the latter (although, I don’t think that’s gonna happen).

As for Syndergaard, his market is a lot more difficult to predict. In my mind, I still think the power-pitching righty will take the 18.4 million that is being put in front of him with the QO, but that could turn out to be a bargain for the Mets if he’s finally healthy. That’s been the biggest issue for the former Blue Jays prospect, who was traded to New York in the R.A. Dickey swap back in 2012, and his health makes him a fairly big gamble. He could choose to test the market based on his resume prior to his injury issues, but my guess is he’ll take the QO and try to re-establish his value in 2021 ahead of signing a long-term deal next winter. He’s still only 29 years old, so there is plenty of time to cash in a year from now after a “show me” season.

The third name that may or may not have been scratched off the list is Craig Kimbrel, whose contract option for 16 million in 2022 was picked up by the White Sox. According to MLB.com, it’s possible that the White Sox look to trade him after things didn’t go so well down the stretch this year, and likely to a team that plans to use the veteran as a closer where he has performed much better over the course of his career.

With that caveat it’s possible that the Blue Jays may not have been willing to remove Jordan Romano from the closer’s role. That said, I doubt that would stop the front office from adding an elite reliever to the back of the bullpen, and Romano has shown plenty of flexibility in the past. I’m sure the young closer wouldn’t want to lose his job after a fantastic 2021 season, but if it’s going to happen then it’s a lot easier to swallow when it’s for a borderline future Hall of Famer like Kimbrel.

If the White Sox do end up putting him on the trade market then it’s possible the Blue Jays kick the tires, but the fit feels a lot less natural than if he had become a free agent. It remains to be seen what kind of market Kimbrel can draw, but I’m sure the White Sox are going to want some legitimate assets in return even if he struggled down the stretch, especially after the high price they paid to acquire him from the Cubs.

dark. Next. How many teams will be bidding on a middle IFer?

As I said above, none of these names represent any reason for Blue Jays to worry, they’re just three players that I was curious to see what happened if they hit the open market. That won’t be the case, but on the bright side there were several other interesting names that are new free agents, and plenty of talent to target to improve the roster ahead of next season.