Blue Jays: Who could be non-tendered this offseason?
The Toronto Blue Jays have some decisions to make about several players on their roster in regard to salary arbitration and who will be offered a contract.
Some could be extended to a long-term contract, whether it be to bridge past arbitration years or make players Blue Jays for life, others will receive a one-year deal that could involve a third party arbitrator should the player and club not agree, and a third group will be set free or non-tendered.
Choosing to forego arbitration and letting some of this group continue their respective careers elsewhere will allow for some roster flexibility and, ideally improvement. Here are some players that could be in a new uniform next season.
Blue Jays: Non-tender Candidates
Raimel Tapia enjoyed a decent first season in Toronto after being acquired in a trade with Colorado. He was used as a rotational outfielder and hit .265 with 20 doubles and a career-best 52 RBI in just over 400 at-bats.
Tapia was acquired, along with minor-league infielder Adrian Pinto, in exchange for Randal Grichuk just before the start of last season. Grichuk was a big part of the team from 2018-2021 so although getting rid of the main return in his trade seems counterproductive, upgrades can be made via the free agent market.
Joc Pederson or Brandon Nimmo could be signed and would add a bit more thump to the lineup and both are left-handed bats, something the Jays are woefully short on. Tapia brings speed, hustle, and a different look than many of the team’s other hitters. But with a projected salary of just over $5 million, that may be a little high for a fourth outfielder with little power.
Trevor Richards has been a trusted and vital member of the Jays’ bullpen since being added midway through the 2021 season. However, his numbers were considerably worse in a few key categories.
Richards’ ERA went up two full runs from 3.31 (over 32.2 innings last year) to 5.34 in 2022. His WHIP also almost doubled from 0.79 to 1.43 and his BB/9 went from 2.8 to 4.9. Richards’ HR% decreased by 2.5 despite his BAbip going from .132 to .314.
If Richards can regain his 2021 form, he could be a bargain at approximately $1.5 million. But his inconsistencies suggest the Blue Jays may be better off exploring for relief help via the trade market. If they explore free agency to upgrade this spot, Michael Fulmer, Trevor Williams, or Chad Green could be options.
Bradley Zimmer joined the Blue Jays just prior to the 2022 campaign and came with a reputation as a defensive specialist. Zimmer did flash the leather in limited opportunities but was so unproductive with the bat (.101 BA/19 OPS+ in 89 ABs) that he was eventually used strictly as a late-inning defensive replacement.
Zimmer was serviceable for Cleveland in 2021, hitting .227 with 18 extra-base hits and 15 stolen bases in 299 at-bats. According to FanGraphs, his elite speed and defensive prowess would be a worthy gamble at a projected salary of $1.3 million. Still, the outfield seems destined for a shakeup that Zimmer won’t survive.
If the Jays do sign a guy like Nimmo, his reputation as an above-average defender in centrefield will allow the team to use George Springer in that role less often. If an end-of-roster, outfield depth piece is desired, they could do a lot worse than bringing in someone like Lewis Brinson or Billy Hamilton. Toronto did DFA Zimmer earlier this year but he rejoined the squad when the Phillies picked him up and designated him shortly after.
Trent Thornton has experienced his fair share of ups and downs over his four seasons with the club. He made 29 starts in 2019, suffered through injuries and periods of ineffectiveness over the next couple of years, and looked improved and refreshed for much of last season.
Thornton’s ERA, HR%, and WHIP all went down in 2022 and he displayed renewed confidence on the mound. This will be his first year of arbitration and although bringing him back requires little risk, it’s obvious that the bullpen needs to be upgraded, and Thornton may not be a part of that.
The Jays could try kicking the tires on pitchers like John Curtiss, Sean Doolittle, or Jimmy Nelson as an alternative to retaining Thornton, whose career may be better off with a change in scenery.