Blue Jays: What they can do with their extra draft picks
Because the Blue Jays lost both Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien as free agents, they’ll receive draft pick compensation in 2022. While it won’t take all of the sting out the pair of losses, that compensation will certainly help.
The Jays managed to “replace” Robbie Ray by signing Kevin Gausman to a five-year, 110 million dollar contract before the last CBA expired, so they’re off to a good start with improving the roster this winter. On top of being an elite arm to help front the rotation, Gausman’s signing came with the added bonus that he was not attached to a Qualifying Offer from the Giants, meaning the Jays didn’t have to give up a pick in order to sign him. That happened because his former team had given him the QO in 2020 as well, and no player can receive it twice.
It’s possible that the Jays could use the two extra draft picks that they will receive in a number of different ways. For starters, I’m sure they won’t let a QO scare them off of pursuing another available free agent this offseason, should they decide to go that route. That scenario applies to a limited few at this stage, including Carlos Correa, Freddie Freeman, Trevor Story, Nick Castellanos, and Michael Conforto. I’m not sure how likely it is that the Blue Jays sign any of those five players, but they were linked to Freeman a bit before the lockout began, and both Story and Conforto could make some sense as free agents as well, depending on the term.
More likely, the Blue Jays might be able to operate a little more aggressively with the prospects that they already have. No, I’m not talking about the top-tier guys like Gabriel Moreno or Orelvis Martinez, as I’ve written many times that I don’t think those two players will end up traded. That said, the Jays still have plenty of other talent in their system, and the extra draft picks could make Ross Atkins and company feel better about using it to their advantage in the near term.
As an example, would the Blue Jays consider including Gunnar Hoglund in a trade offer ahead of the 2022 season? The right-hander was their first-round selection in the 2021 draft, and immediately shot into the top five on most of the organizational prospect lists. His presence could be especially important because their pitching ranks have thinned out a bit more recently, with MLB graduations for guys like Alek Manoah and Nate Pearson, and with Simeon Woods Richardson being dealt to Minnesota last July in the Berrios trade.
With that in mind, typically I would expect the Jays to hang on to an arm like Hoglund’s and hope that they could develop him to be part of one of their next waves of talent. However, knowing that they’ll have two extra draft picks to work with might give the front office a bit more flexibility, especially because their rotation is in such good shape over the next few years.
To that point, Atkins and company have to feel good about the future they’re set up in the rotation. Jose Berrios signed a seven-year extension in November that will keep him in a Blue Jays uniform through the 2028 season. Gausman’s new five-year pact will see him in Toronto through the 2026 season. We don’t know how long they’ll have control of Manoah’s contract until a new CBA is in place, but he just finished his rookie season, and Pearson has limited service time as well. Even Hyun Jin Ryu has two more years on his deal, so the urgency in the rotation isn’t the same as it has been in years past.
Having said all of that, I’m not necessarily suggesting that Hoglund will or even should be traded this offseason, just that the Blue Jays could decide to go that route if the right opportunity presents itself. It’s a bummer that we won’t get to watch Ray and Semien play another season in Toronto, but at least they left another parting gift, and one that could help the Blue Jays become even more dangerous that they already are.