According to Sean McAdam of the Boston Sports Journal, the Blue Jays were reported to be one of the teams interested in Seiya Suzuki before the lockout went into place, which is an interesting piece of news for a few reasons.
It’s no surprise that the Jays are looking to improve the roster in a number of ways, and they’ve certainly been open to being creative in order to achieve that goal. Ross Atkins and his front office team have also shown that they rarely leave a stone unturned in free agency or with the trade market, but it sounds like they’re pretty serious about talks with Suzuki.
It’s a bit of a strange fit given the roster pieces they already have in place. Suzuki does have some experience around the diamond earlier in this career, but he’s been a corner outfielder for a while now. According to his Baseball Reference page it looks like he last appeared in the infield back in 2014 when he was only 19 years old. With that in mind, it’s highly unlikely that now 27 year old will slide into Marcus Semien’s old spot in the infield either at second or third base. There’s a chance that he could help cover for the offensive loss if the Jays were to sign him, but he wouldn’t address their most glaring need at the moment.
As for the outfield, the Blue Jays have a strong starting trio in George Springer, Teoscar Hernandez, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Randal Grichuk remains under contract for two more seasons. It’s possible that the Jays move on from Grichuk at some point after a new CBA is in place, and it sounds like they at least considered a chance to move the veteran last week. They don’t really have a designated hitter in place, so right now you could consider Grichuk as one of the starting outfielders and maybe Gurriel Jr. as the DH, so you could argue that Suzuki could still fit if Grichuk were moved.
Still, this feels like a bit of a stretch as far as the fit goes, especially when you consider what the Blue Jays have left to spend with their payroll. They’ve already invested 110 million over five years for Kevin Gausman, and that was after handing a seven year extension to Jose Berrios for at least 131 million. I believe that they’ll still have money to spend on an infielder, and likely to add to their pitching staff in the form of a #5 starter and/or additional relief help, but I’m sure there’s some sort of limit in place.
To me, the idea of acquiring Suzuki would make a lot more sense if they planned to make a trade, which is entirely possible. Last month we learned that Lourdes Gurriel Jr. only has two years of club control left on his contract rather than the previously thought three years, and that changes things for the outfield a bit. Teoscar Hernandez only has two more seasons before he’ll become a free agent as well, so they might be thinking more long-term in this case.
This is nothing but pure speculation on my part, but it’s possible that the Blue Jays would actually consider trading one of the Gurriel Jr. or Hernandez if they were to acquire Suzuki. My guess is the former would be far more likely to go, but either player would have a fair bit of a value if they were dangled as a trade chip. Hernandez has won back to back Silver Slugger awards over the last two seasons, and Gurriel Jr. is on a very team-friendly contract and just keeps improving every season.
For what it’s worth, I don’t really think the Blue Jays will trade either of their corner outfielders, unless the right opportunity comes along of course. For examples, if the Cleveland Guardians were willing to trade Jose Ramirez and insisted that Gurriel Jr. be part of the deal, then I could see it happening. Short of that, I’m not sure that I would expect the outfield to get broken up at all, other than Grichuk finding a new home where he can fill a bigger role.
All that is to say, I’m not really buying the rumours of the Blue Jays being too heavily involved in the talks for Suzuki. Perhaps they’re just looking to drive up the value a bit for the Yankees and Red Sox, who are both also reportedly involved, or maybe they really are looking for creative ways to push this group to the level of being a legitimate contender.
Unfortunately it’ll be a while until we find out, as Suzuki’s 30-day window for teams to bid on his services has been frozen along with the lockout. Once things are “active” again, there will be 20 more days before that window will close, which could be very complicated, especially depending on how long it takes before there is a new CBA in place. For that reason and several others I’ve discussed here, I’d be pretty surprised to see Suzuki in a Blue Jays uniform next season, but stranger things have happened.