3 free agents we’re thankful the Blue Jays didn’t sign this past offseason
By Edward Eng
With the Blue Jays’ hot start to the season, both Chris Bassitt and Kevin Kiermaier have been key contributors to the success of the ballclub. Both players were signed through free agency by the Jays this past offseason to help bolster their pitching and outfield respectively. At the time, the Jays also had other free agent targets they were going after, but looking back, we should be thankful that those didn’t come to fruition. Here, we take a look at three of those presumed targets and how they are faring this year with their new teams.
With the Jays looking for outfield help and lefty bats for much of the past offseason, Michael Conforto was a name that was linked to the Jays, as he would have met both of those needs. In addition, he had a great career resume prior to his shoulder injury that put him out all of last season. Conforto eventually signed a two-year, $36M deal with the San Francisco Giants.
So far, Conforto has had an underwhelming start to the 2023 season, hitting .168 with four home runs and 10 RBI and 17 runs scored. In particular, his OPS of .597 and OPS+ of 66 were way below his career standards accumulated during his time with the New York Mets at .824 and 124 respectively. The Jays are definitely happier to have Kiermaier currently instead, as he has become a fan favourite and has been providing steady defence to go along with surprise offensive output.
Andrew Heaney was a pitching target in particular that the Jays actually had a strong interest in during the offseason. He was coming off an impressive season with the Los Angeles Dodgers where he posted career best numbers in ERA (3.10), ERA+ (134), WHIP (1.09) and K/9 rate (13.6 per nine innings). It was reported that the Jays had made an actual offer to Heaney just days before their eventual signing of Bassitt. In the end, Heaney agreed to two-year, $25M contract with the Texas Rangers.
In 2023, Heaney has gotten off to a rough start with the Rangers, going 2-3 in seven games with a 5.25 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, ERA+ of only 84, and K/9 of 9.5. It appeared that his impressive numbers from 2022 was more an anomaly, as he has now reverted back closer to his career numbers after moving away from the pitching haven in Los Angeles. The Jays certainly dodged a bullet there as with those gaudy numbers, he definitely wouldn’t even fit in the Jays’ current rotation.
Even though people were expecting that Ross Stripling wasn’t going to resign with the Jays during the offseason, reports had indicated that there was mutual interest in bringing him back. However, Stripling indicated that what ultimately led to his final decision was the offer he received from the Giants that he could not turn down. The Giants gave him a two-year, $25M deal with an opt-out after one year, which was the key sweetener for Stripling. Knowing that both Heaney and Stripling were off the table, the Jays were eventually able to secure Bassitt with a three-year, $63M contract.
Unfortunately for Stripling, he has been off to a miserable start to the season with the Giants. Not only has he lost his full-time hold as a starter in the Giants’ rotation and have now become a swingman, Stripling has posted some of his worst numbers in his career with an ERA of 6.66, WHIP of 1.52, and ERA+ of 65 in just seven games (with four starts). In hindsight, it might have been a better move for him to stay with the Jays with the success he had built up with them, along with the support of the fanbase, but Jays’ fans are likely more than satisfied with Bassitt thus far as his replacement.
But of course, you can’t win them all, as Brandon Belt, another free agent signing by the Jays in the 2022-23 offseason, has struggled out of the gate. However, he has shown signs of turning it around the past few games, unlike the unfortunate three that we have on the list above. Nevertheless, we should at least be grateful with the moves the Jays made in the offseason, as one could see, it could have been a lot worse.