After putting up an impressive 91 win campaign in 2021, the Toronto Blue Jays are an exciting team that appears to be heading to calmer waters after a rocky and turbulent rebuilding phase. The young stars of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette now have a full season under their belts while the likes of Alek Manoah, Jordan Romano, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Teoscar Hernandez starting to find their strides, creating a pretty balanced lineup day in and day out. Factor in the veteran presence of George Springer, Hyun Jin Ryu, and Randal Grichuk, and the Blue Jays have a pretty good mix of players and depth heading into 2022.
Nobody could have expected the years that Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien would have produced with the Blue Jays after signing separate one-year “prove it” deals. Ray went on to lead the league in multiple pitching categories on the way to a Cy Young Award while Semien not only set a record for most home runs in a single season by a second baseman but also put together an MVP type season that saw him take home the Marvin Miller Award earlier this month. Both players are now looking to cash in this free agency, alongside southpaw Steven Matz, who also put up a strong 2021 season with Toronto.
This winter is shaping up to be one of the most interesting offseasons in recent memory. The free-agent class is easily one of the most potent and talented that baseball fans have seen over the past few years, featuring a great mix of middle-infield talent in their prime years but also veteran starters who can still handle their own on the big league stage. Not only is the free-agent class stacked but a pending lockout is on the horizon, with the CBA set to expire in early December and no new agreement looking like it is ready to take its place, only adding to the drama and flair that is the MLB offseason.
For the Blue Jays, there are quite a few different scenarios that are present early into the 2021/2022 offseason. The club already made headlines by extending pitcher Jose Berrios to a seven-year deal but fans are still clamouring at the front office to bring the band back together in Ray, Semien, and Matz, hoping that at least one or two of these players decide to return to don the Blue Jays uniform again. Depending on who you ask will yield a different answer when presented with, “well, which one of the three?” and with good reason, as each player has their own set of skills and pros/cons that make them valuable to the franchise stemming from performance to impact on the overall salary.
Then there is the open market, where a bounty of players are available who could make the club better next season and beyond. Starters like Kevin Gausman, who the Blue Jays were enamored with last offseason, is available once again while the possibility of bringing in bigger names like Max Scherzer or Kris Bryant seems more of a possibility compared to a few seasons ago when the club was trading away or letting go all their veteran players, which made sense at the time.
The MLB offseason is always an emotional time with all the deals and signings and for the Toronto Blue Jays fanbase, it is only just getting started.
Then there is the trade front, where the Blue Jays could look to trade some of their prospect depth to improve the team now in an effort to maximize and squeeze out as much potential to reach the playoffs out of this young core before they too reach free agency. Names like Jose Ramirez and Matt Chapman light up the Jays fan accounts while the organization keeps the fires stoked by “checking in” with the Miami Marlins and their plethora of controllable pitching talent. Rogers has the funds to improve the team and the front office appears to have enough confidence and backing to set these plans in motion, whether it be through trade or free agency.
The offseason is difficult to gauge as a fanbase because of the all potential deals and players available yet all the discussions remain behind closed doors until a source leaks information to one of the more renowned beat writers for the world to see. The reports and the leaks give Blue Jays fans enough information to keep everyone on their toes, with headlines like “Blue Jays are showing interest in free agent land Justin Verlander” or “Blue Jays are interested in Andrew Heaney” leaving the door open just enough to make it a possibility but also enough to potentially lead to heartbreak days or even hours later. Any news relating to the Jays being active in the offseason is indeed exciting but stressful all at the same time, keeping fans engaged but also aware that nothing is 100% certain until the press conference occurs (cue the Michael Brantley memories).
Especially with the potential lockout that is roughly a week away, everybody wants to see Ross Atkins and co. do something big like sign a free agent or trade for a player like Ramirez before the league and the players union start to wage war. What makes it even more tough is watching potential fits like Anthony DeSclafani re-sign with the San Francisco Giants or Noah Syndergaard take his talents to Los Angeles while the Blue Jays still remain in the interested in/checking in stage, although I am sure they are doing their due diligence behind closed doors. Players who sign the bigger contracts usually take their time in free agency before deciding on their future but that may not be the case this offseason with the pending CBA expiring, only adding fuel to the fire.
Is this necessarily a bad thing? Not really, as sometimes a quick trigger in the open market can lead to some regrettable deals (feel free to insert your favourite) but when a team like the Jays has former players like Ray and Semien out there for everyone to sign, you can see why fans get a little antsy. It’s a comforting feeling trying to bring back players who did so much for the team and putting in the hope that they can repeat the same stats year after year while also getting excited about potential new players who could join and make the team better.
Will the Blue Jays get some deals in place before the CBA expires? Will the franchise wait until a new one is in place to start putting its plans in motion? Will they bring back one or more of Ray, Semien, or Matz this offseason? Can they land a premium free agent or pull off a big trade?
So much excitement in such a short amount of time, before we know it, Spring Training will be right around the corner. Whether some familiar faces don the light blue jerseys or we see some new members on the mound in Dunedin, this offseason is already proving to be a nerve-wracking rollercoaster that has Blue Jays fans wanting something to happen, sooner rather than later.