Blue Jays well set up for a mad scramble to start the season

Feb 19, 2018; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins and president and CEO Mark Shapiro look on during batting practice at Bobby Mattick Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 19, 2018; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins and president and CEO Mark Shapiro look on during batting practice at Bobby Mattick Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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It’s hard to say when the next MLB season will begin, but if the lockout lingers and it happens on short notice, the Blue Jays are pretty well set up.

As of right now the Blue Jays offseason isn’t exactly complete, but they managed to get a fair bit done before the last CBA expired and the lockout began. The most notable addition would be signing Kevin Gausman to a five-year, 110 million dollar contract, who will essentially replace the departed Robbie Ray, who signed with the Mariners. They also made a move to solidify their bullpen with a two-year, 11 million dollar contract for Yimi Garcia.

With Marcus Semien also leaving after signing a seven-year, 175 million dollar contract with the Rangers, it’s expected that the Blue Jays will look to find an infielder to help soften the blow of the All-Star’s departure. They weren’t able to take care of that checklist item before the expiration of the CBA, but in theory they should still have some time if and when the lockout ends. My guess is they’ll also still look for some depth in the rotation and in the bullpen, and likely another candidate who could DH and play the outfield a few times a week.

Even if this whole thing drags out into the March or April, MLB will still have a Spring Training of some kind. In the case of a late start, that Spring Training period might be the short window that teams have to finish building their rosters for the 2022 season, and that would likely make for an intense few weeks of free agent signings and trades. My guess is that the Blue Jays would be as aggressive as they need to be during a small window like that, but taking the element of time out of the equation could make for a difficult situation.

The good news is, the Blue Jays are well set up for a potential gong show like this, which means that Ross Atkins and company don’t exactly have to panic. Yes, they absolutely do still need some upgrades for the roster, but they don’t have to make a franchise-shaping trade on short notice unless it makes sense. Instead, they could roll with their in-house options and wait for things to settle down a bit, especially if they’re more interested in the trade market rather than free agency.

If the season started tomorrow, the Blue Jays could roll out a lineup that looks like this, and even without Semien there is still a lot of firepower for opposing pitchers to deal with.

1- George Springer (CF)
2- Bo Bichette (SS)
3- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (1B)
4- Teoscar Hernandez (RF)
5- Alejandro Kirk (DH)
6- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (LF)
7- Cavan Biggio (2B)
8- Danny Jansen (C)
9- Santiago Espinal (3B)

Yes, the lineup would look a lot better with another top-shelf infielder, and I expect that the Jays will continue to look for upgrades in that area. That said, this is still an intimidating bunch, and one of the better ones in baseball even without Semien. That top six can stack up against pretty much anybody, and the bottom three has potential as well. Personally, I believe we’ll see a bounce-back season from Biggio in 2022, especially if he can return to second base. Jansen looked much better with the bat late in the season after coming back from the IL, and Espinal was a surprisingly solid hitter last year. There are always going to be complimentary pieces available in free agency at a reasonable price as well, such as a player like Corey Dickerson, for example.

If it’s going to require the Jays to drastically overpay to make an impact trade before Opening Day, they might be better off waiting things out a bit. I would also argue that they’re set up in a similar way as far as their pitching staff is concerned.

Rotation

1- Kevin Gausman
2- Jose Berrios
3- Hyun Jin Ryu
4- Alek Manoah
5- Nate Pearson/Ross Stripling/Thomas Hatch

Bullpen

1- Jordan Romano
2- Tim Mayza
3- Yimi Garcia
4- Adam Cimber
5- Trevor Richards
6- Julian Merryweather
7- Ryan Borucki
8- David Phelps
*- Stripling/Hatch/Pearson, etc

Again, I’ll openly admit that there still needs to be depth additions to the pitching staff, but overall they’re in a pretty solid starting place. The rotation is very strong through the top four, and I’m sure the Blue Jays would love to see Nate Pearson healthy and win the fifth starter’s job in an ideal world. In a worst case they do have some feasible options like Stripling or Hatch, as well as others like Anthony Kay or even Trent Thornton, so they won’t have to panic buy once the new CBA is in place. I do expect that Atkins and company will pad the depth as much as they can, but I imagine there will be several relievers looking for jobs on short notice as well, and likely some decent talent to be had on the cheap.

A second Jansen could be very valuable. dark. Next

I wouldn’t say that the Blue Jays have a championship-ready roster in place at the moment, but I do think they’re in a strong position, especially compared to their AL East rivals. That could be an important luxury for Atkins and the front office, and could keep them from feeling pressured into making a decision they’re not totally comfortable with. I expect that the Jays still have an impact move up their sleeve, but that doesn’t mean it has to come before Opening Day either.