Before the MLB lockout ground things to a halt the last previous few days were all about stars. Teams spent big money on big-name players in order to win the ultimate prize, a World Series. The Blue Jays were one of these teams as they added Kevin Gausman on a five-year deal.
But another element of team building is to get value out of guys picked up off the scrap heap. Players non-tendered contributed to teams going all the way, including Adam Duvall and Eddie Rosario for the Atlanta Braves last season.
A new group of players joined the free-agent pool this week. While there are obvious reasons why the individuals weren’t retained, that doesn’t mean they can’t be productive players next season. Here are some that could potentially help the Blue Jays, once teams are able to sign players again, that is.
Matthew Boyd, SP (Non-tendered by Tigers)
Boyd’s Blue Jays’ career ended unceremoniously after giving up seven earned runs and failing to record an out in his second career start against the Boston Red Sox.
Since then Boyd has been able to improve his stock although not enough for the Tigers to want to include him in their ascending pitching staff. He led the American League in home runs allowed in both 2019 and 2020 although that shouldn’t scare the Jays brass.
Players non-tendered contributed to teams going all the way and this could benefit the Blue Jays once there is a new CBA in place.
Pitching coach Pete Walker has a history of turning guys around who previously had trouble with the long ball. Marco Estrada led the NL in HR’s allowed in 2014 before his Toronto debut. Robbie Ray also surrendered 30 homers in 2019 and was leading the NL in walks when the Blue Jays acquired him in 2020.
Richard Rodriguez, RP (Non-tendered by Atlanta)
Rodriguez was linked to the Jays around trade deadline time but the Braves swooped in and got him from the Pirates. Although he pitched to a 3.12 ERA in 26 innings down the stretch, he was notably left off the playoff roster of the eventual World Series champs.
It may have had something to do with a steep decline in RPM on his four-seam fastball starting in early June. There’s an obvious connection between the timing of this drop and MLB’s crackdown on foreign substances.
If he was using “sticky stuff”, he’s had some time to adapt and adjust. Maybe, just maybe Major League Baseball will approve some substance pitchers could use to get a better grip on the ball. But they have bigger problems to solve right now.
Daniel Vogelbach, 1B/DH (Non-tendered by Brewers)
For some reason, Toronto traded for the big lefty in 2020. After a bizarre two-game cameo, he was gone. It seems like a lifetime ago but in his last full season, Vogelbach hit 30 home runs and was an All-Star in 2019. He also had a sneaky decent 2021 campaign with a .349 OBP and nine homers in 215 at-bats.
The Jays could use a first base/DH/power bat off the bench type-of -guy, especially on the cheap. The move sure makes a lot more sense now than it did last time.
Will any of these players be brought in once teams are (hopefully) able to “make contact” again? Who knows, but they’re the best options out of the pack that just became available.