The best of the rest of the free agents
I wouldn’t say that it’s time to panic by any means, but I will acknowledge that several solid starters have already signed their next contracts. That includes Noah Syndergaard (Angels), Justin Verlander (Astros), Eduardo Rodriguez (Tigers), Anthony DeSclafani (Giants), and former Blue Jay Steve Matz (Cardinals). To me it’s not so much about who has already come off of the board, it’s about the shrinking market in general. The less available starters there are, the more aggressive the needy clubs will become.
Thankfully there is still a fair bit of value on the free agent market beyond Ray, Gausman, and Stroman. There is a trio of former Cy Young veterans in Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, and Zack Greinke, although I wouldn’t expect any of them to become Blue Jays, unfortunately. Carlos Rodon is an intriguing candidate, especially if he can be had on a short-term deal, but I haven’t come across any reports linking the Blue Jays to the southpaw just yet.
My guess it the Jays would be more interested in the next tier of arms that could include the likes of Jon Gray, Yusei Kikuchi, and maybe even Danny Duffy. None of those pitchers would match the top-of-the-rotation stuff of a guy like Ray, but there are only so many of those available. Berrios does give them a strong candidate to lead the rotation in a worst case, and Manoah and Ryu both have the upside of a #2 starter if all goes according to plan.
With Matz having signed with the Cardinals, it’s possible the Jays look for a free agent to fill out the back of their rotation. I imagine they’ll let Pearson and Stripling battle for that job as well, but it wouldn’t shock me if they signed a low-cost veteran to come to spring training and compete for a job. There are all kinds of candidates that could fit that description, and we likely won’t see that kind of deal signed until sometime in early 2022 once the market has sorted itself out a bit.
For now my expectation is that the Blue Jays are very much in on the talks with both Ray and Gausman, and likely have discussions started with other free agents as well. Ross Atkins will have more than one way of going about filling out the rotation, so we’ll see how the dominoes fall as the offseason continues. We may get some of the significant answers before Dec 2nd.