They may have lost a Cy Young award winner and an MVP candidate already this offseason, but the Blue Jays are doing far more than their AL East rivals so far.
We knew there was a good chance that the Jays wouldn’t be able to retain one or both of Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien, but thankfully they addressed Ray’s loss by bringing in a comparable high-end starter in Kevin Gausman, who was also a coveted free agent. Ray is off to the Seattle Mariners for five years and 115 million, and Semien inked a seven-year pact with the Rangers for 175 million.
Gausman wasn’t the only player the Blue Jays have added to the roster so far either, as they also signed veteran reliever Yimi Garcia to a two-year contract. The right-hander spent time as the closer for the Miami Marlins last season before he was traded to Houston to join the Astros’ playoff run and help set-up Ryan Pressley.
There’s no doubt that Ross Atkins and the front office team still have plenty of work to do, but they’re off to a strong start to their strange offseason. Things are complicated this time around because of the pending expiry of the current CBA, which will take place on Tuesday. Unless a miracle happens it doesn’t look like the league and the Player’s Association are going to hammer out a deal before then, which means we’re headed for a lockout of a yet to be determined length. That also means that teams won’t be able to sign free agents, or make any official trades while things are frozen.
Since players have to go through the process of getting medicals done before making any deal official, it’s possible that we’re now done seeing teams making roster moves until after a new CBA is in place. With that in mind, you have to like how things have gone for the Blue Jays so far, especially when you compare what’s happened to their AL East Rivals in the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays.
The Red Sox really haven’t gotten involved in the free agent market yet at all, and they’re already lost a rotation fixture in Eduardo Rodriguez, who signed a five-year contract with the Detroit Tigers. They also enjoyed the services of Kyle Schwarber after they acquired him from Washington last summer, but he remains on the free agent market as well. The Sox have been linked to a few free agents, but it’s been very quiet in Boston so far.
The Rays are doing their usual thing now that we’ve had some time to get over the surprise of the Wander Franco mega-deal. Not that it’s surprising that Franco was offered such a contract, it’s just not the type of thing that Rays usually do. Then again, it worked out well when they agreed to a team-friendly deal with Evan Longoria all those years ago.
Otherwise the Rays are also doing their usual thing as far as letting veterans go. Joey Wendle was just traded to the Marlins for a minor leaguer after quietly putting up a 3.8 bWAR season in 2021. They also dealt Jordan Luplow for a minor league player, and both felt like familiar cost cutting measures for the Rays. There have also been rumours that they could look to trade Tyler Glasnow over the winter, but that could be complicated with the CBA situation, and his current recovery from Tommy John surgery. All that being said, I’m sure they’ll continue to find a way to win, which is just so annoying.
Last we come to the Yankees (sorry Orioles, you’re not quite in the conversation yet), who have been very quiet thus far. It was expected that they’d be in on several of the top free agents available, but they’re pretty much in the same spot they were when the season ended other than losing a few rental pieces like Anthony Rizzo, for instance. The Yankees have a few clear needs including in the rotation, at shortstop, and likely in centre field. It was expected that they’d pursue the majority of the free agent starters that have already signed, and would be hard after guys like Corey Seager or Marcus Semien to fill the hole at shortstop, or Starling Marte to play in centre. So far their most notable transactions are releasing Clint Frazier and Rougned Odor, and trading Tyler Wade to the Angels for a player to be named later.
It’s far too early to say that the Blue Jays have won the offseason compared to the rest of the AL East, but fans can take comfort in knowing that they’re off to a much stronger start than their competition. That could prove to be significant, especially in what will likely be a very chaotic post-lockdown market for free agents and trades.