Since the lockout ended the hot stove has been quieter than most of us expected, but that should change this week, including for the Blue Jays.
The good news for Blue Jays fans is that the team continues to be linked to the top of the market, both when it comes to free agency and potential trades. Some of the big names still available in free agency include Carlos Correa, Freddie Freeman, Kris Bryant, and more, and potential trade options like Jose Ramirez and Ketel Marte won’t go away until the regular season begins.
It’s clear that the Jays are ready to spend to push themselves toward to the top of the pack of contenders, and that even includes being linked to guys like Correa and Freeman. Many rumours are suggesting that Correa and his camp are looking to best the 10-year, 325 million dollar pact that Corey Seager signed with the Rangers, and Freeman is likely going to get a 5-6 year deal for something between 25-30 million per year.
If the Jays are truly ready to add that kind of money to the payroll, I’d like to suggest that they’d be better off trying to do a two for one, at least in terms of the money. In a perfect world that could include the ridiculous bargain of 12 million that Jose Ramirez will make in 2022, but I want to look outside of the ideal scenario.
In my eyes, I think the best play for the Blue Jays could be the trade for Matt Chapman of the Oakland A’s, and sign Kyle Schwarber in free agency. Chapman is due to make roughly 9.5 million during his third trip through arbitration, with one more year of control after 2022 before hitting free agency. As for Schwarber, he’ll certainly make more than that, and to give you a ballpark I’ll point to the four years, 70 million predicted for him by MLBtraderumors.com back at the beginning of the offseason. For the pair you’d be looking at something in the neighbour of 27 million per year, or less than what it’s going to cost to sign a guy like Correa, or maybe even Freeman.
That would also give you a lineup that looks something like this:
1- Springer (CF)
2- Schwarber (DH)
3- Guerrero Jr. (1B)
4- Bichette (SS)
5- Hernandez (RF)
6- Gurriel Jr. (LF)
7- Chapman (3B)
8- Jansen/Kirk (C)
9- Biggio/Espinal (2B)
You could play with several different lineup combinations, but I really like the way this looks for a number of reasons. The infield defence vastly improves with Chapman’s presence, and the combination of Biggio and Espinal at second would have the potential to be above-average on both sides of the ball. Schwarber could spend time in left field, back up Vlad Jr. at first base, and most importantly, provide an impact left-handed bat to bring some balance to the order.
On top of liking the depth of getting two for one, this makes me sense to me with a long-term lens as well. Chapman has two years before he’ll be a free agent, and in theory, that could buy time for one of the homegrown infielders to get ready to take over, including Orelvis Martinez and/Jordan Groshans. That gives the Blue Jays some extra payroll flexibility now, and also in the future if they’re ready to hand the reigns to one of the youngsters. You could make the argument that Jose Ramirez gives you the same scenario for just three million more for year, but the cost to acquire him would be significantly higher.
As for Schwarber, I think there’s a lot of value in signing him over a guy like Freeman, even if the latter is clearly the better hitter. His ability to play left field would be helpful, and not having to commit to what I predict will be a six-year deal for Freeman, would help with the long-term goals. Not only would it give the Jays a greater chance to extend guys like Guerrero Jr., Bichette, or even Hernandez, but it could give them some extra room to add pieces over the next few years. Schwarber is anything but a consolation prize either, as he slashed .266/.374/.554 with 32 home runs and 71 RBI over just 399 at-bats in 2021 between his time spent in Washington and then with Boston.
It’ll be interesting to see what direction the Blue Jays ultimately decide to go, or what options end up being available to Ross Atkins and his crew. As much fun as it would be to sign one of the best players left in the free agent pool, I think they can bring even more value to the roster by looking to add two impact players for the same price. By no means am I suggesting that they cheap out here, I just think there’s a lot of talent beyond the very top of what’s left in this winter’s market.