How do you replace an ace?
Like many Blue Jays fans, I’ve spent far too much time thinking about how this team can replace Marcus Semien, but I’ve also done the same for Robbie Ray. If the hard-throwing southpaw signs elsewhere, how can the Jays replace someone like that?
There are a handful of starters who might be able to pitch at the same level and could agree to a similar contract, such as Kevin Gausman. That said, I believe there’s a way for the Blue Jays to get the high-end starting pitching they need without making a long-term commitment that could hamper their other plans. How do they do that? Convince Justin Verlander to sign in Toronto.
It sounds like a bit of a far-fetched idea, but I don’t know that it is anymore. Things change when the Blue Jays prove that they are a legitimate playoff contender, and I think they did exactly that over the last two seasons. Ownership has also shown more of a willingness to invest in the roster, and that’s been proven with big dollar contracts for guys like Hyun Jin Ryu in 2020, and last year for George Springer.
Verlander might be the best of both worlds, even if he comes with some risk. At 39 years old and coming off of Tommy John surgery, he doesn’t really fit the profile of a top-shelf free agent target. That said, the future Hall of Famer has to be viewed through a different lens, and I’m willing to bet there are plenty of teams that will offer him a significant one-year contract for 2021.
Will there be teams willing to go to two years, and just as important, would Verlander want a multi-year contract? Based on previous statements from Verlander, he’s mentioned a desire to pitch until he’s in his mid-forties, so I’m guessing that means he’ll be looking for more than just one season.
It’s a move that comes with some risk because of his age and recent injury history, but there’s a lot to like about the idea both in the short and long term. Signing Verlander would give the Blue Jays another ace-level performer to pair with Jose Berrios at the top of their rotation, and would really help make up for the loss of Ray if he leaves in free agency. In the longer term, Verlander would give the Blue Jays more flexibility than signing Ray would, who is likely looking for a 4-6 year contract. With a shorter deal for Verlander, it’s a lot more feasible for the Blue Jays to try to re-sign Berrios, as well as their other talented young hitters who will be free agents over the next few years.
As I mentioned before, I’m confident that Verlander will have plenty of suitors this offseason. However, I hope the Blue Jays are among them, and maybe George Springer can even put in a good word with his old teammate. There’s something special brewing with the Blue Jays these days, and it might be a great team for a veteran like Verlander to join.
So what will the Blue Jays do this offseason? As I mentioned before, one move could really set some dominoes off in other direction, so it’s a tough one to predict. That said, they have some options, and don’t be surprised if Ross Atkins and the Blue Jays are scouring the market for the next great deal that could outperform their contract.