There’s one free agent left on the market that would work well with the Blue Jays roster, but there are a lot of complicated variables at play.
The player I’m talking about is former New York Met, Michael Conforto, who just happens to be the last player available in free agency that’s attached to a compensation pick. If the new Collective Bargaining Agreement goes through fully, this may be the last time the Blue Jays have to worry about draft pick compensation for signing an available free agent. As it stands, it’s hard to say whether the Jays are going to be willing to make that concession.
On the plus side, they managed to pick up two extra picks as a result of losing Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien to other teams in free agency. Semien signed a seven-year, 175 million dollar pact with the Rangers, and Ray agreed to a five-year term for 115 million with the Seattle Mariners. Because the Blue Jays had given each player the Qualifying Offer under the old system, that means they will be compensated in the draft.
As for their big additions to the roster, Kevin Gausman did not have a pick attached because he went through the QO process last winter with the Giants, and no player can receive the offer more than once. Otherwise they traded for Matt Chapman, and the rest of the pieces they’ve added thus far did not come with such a penalty. As a result, they’re ahead of the game in the draft pick department.
That said, the Blue Jays did just trade away their first round pick from last year in Gunnar Hoglund as part of the return package headed to Cleveland to acquire Chapman. They were able to make a move like that in part because they have the extra picks in place, and they’re able to replenish the minor league system a bit that way, at least in the early rounds. Some folks will say, “it’s just a second round pick”, but let’s not forget that Bo Bichette is a fine example of the kind of talent that can still be found in the second round.
While the draft pick compensation piece complicates things for Conforto, there may be another variable at play here when it comes to any potential interest from the Blue Jays. That’s the touchy subject of vaccination status, and while I’m not going to use this space to comment one way or another about that, it is relevant in a baseball sense. For the Blue Jays, who have to cross an international border in order to play their home games, signing unvaccinated players is pretty much a non-starter, and it’s been widely speculated that this status has played a big part in the team’s offseason pursuits.
I don’t know Conforto’s status in that regard, but there has been plenty of speculation online and on social media that he may not be vaccinated, and that could take him off the table for the Blue Jays as far as options. That would be a shame because his talented left-handed bat would play well in Toronto and could give the Blue Jays some badly needed balance in a righty dominant lineup. We don’t know that he would necessarily be interested in signing with the Blue Jays either way, but this whole issue is a factor for MLB’s only Canadian team. These border restrictions could change, and it might even happen in the near future, but for now it’s still a real consideration.
We’ll see if the Blue Jays find a way to add one more piece to the puzzle ahead of Opening Day, or if they wait to reevaluate their options in a few months. When it comes to Conforto, the last obvious upgrade available on the free agent market, it’s a complicated situation.