At 11:59 pm yesterday evening, the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and the players union expired, which triggered a lockout from the owners minutes later and now puts the offseason on hold until a new agreement is in place. This means that teams across the league like the Toronto Blue Jays will not be able to sign any free agents and no trades will be processed, hence the flurry of activity and transactions over the past few days.
With free agency beginning a day after the conclusion of the World Series, the Blue Jays have produced a pretty productive offseason so far, highlighted by a series of acquisitions as well as an extension for one of the club’s starting pitchers.
Things were kicked off by the seven-year contract extension for right-hander Jose Berrios who was acquired from the Minnesota Twins at the 2021 trade deadline in exchange for top prospects Austin Martin and Simeon Woods-Richardson. Berrios was eligible for free agency after this upcoming season but will now be in Toronto for at least the next five campaigns (player option after the fifth year). The Puerto Rican product amassed a 3.58 ERA through 12 starts with the club last year and currently owns a career 4.08 ERA with 857 strikeouts and a 1.221 WHIP through 148 appearances.
The Blue Jays then added reliever Yimi Garcia to the bullpen on a two-year deal and also landed starter Kevin Gausman on a five-year, $110 million dollar contract, one of the bigger names on the free-agent market this offseason. Garcia adds depth and experience to the relief corps with his career 3.60 ERA while Gausman helps create one of the strongest rotations in the American League, joining a crew already boasting the likes of Berrios, Hyun Jin Ryu, and Alek Manoah.
With the CBA now expired and the lockout in place, the Blue Jays exciting start to the offseason comes to a halt alongside all the other MLB teams.
The former Giants starter has been solid over the past two seasons in the Bay Area, posting a 3.00 ERA with 306 strikeouts through 251.2 innings of work on his way to an All-Star nomination last season. The Blue Jays front office had been trying to land Gausman over the past two seasons.
The club also made seven minor-league signings prior to the CBA expiration, highlighted by the return of reliever David Phelps and Canadian product Kellin Deglan.
While the Blue Jays were active early this offseason, the roster also took a big hit with the recent departures of southpaws Robbie Ray, Steven Matz, and infielder Marcus Semien. All three players had a great impact on the 2021 campaign, with Ray taking home the Cy Young award and Semien landing numerous accolades like a Gold Glove Award, a Silver Slugger Award, and the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award. While it may be tough to replace all three of them, adding Gausman does help with the departure of Ray and the Blue Jays gain two draft picks as compensation for both he and Semien rejecting the qualifying offer.
The club also released infielder Breyvic Valera while also sending pitcher Shaun Anderson to AAA after he cleared waivers, opening up two spots on the 40-man roster. The front office also tendered contracts to each unsigned player on the roster, leaving no player to be non-tendered and heading to free agency.
With the CBA now expired and the two sides indicating that no new agreement is in sight to go along with the lockout, it appears that the news front is going to be non-existent over the next little bit. It is predicted that the negotiations will most likely move into next year and while it could impact Spring Training or the start of the regular season, one would hope that both sides are able to come to some sort of agreement before any games are missed.
There is a long list of demands from both sides of the table in regards to issues like free agency, the universal DH, salary cap, etc and it could be a month or two before a new CBA is in place (or potentially even longer). Until then, the trade and free agent news will have to wait and it will most likely produce a new frenzy when clubs and players are allowed to negotiate again, which could see the Blue Jays pick up right where they left off to help improve the 2022 roster and beyond.