It's no secret that the Toronto Blue Jays have been quiet this offseason and that fans aren't pleased about that. The club has re-signed Chad Green and Kevin Kiermaier and handed out short-term contracts to Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Justin Turner. A potential four-year deal with right-hander Yariel Rodriguez is also reportedly in the works, but nothing has been finalized.
Outside of these moves? Nothing. All has been silent on the trade and free agent front. It's been a frustrating winter, but there are still quality players on the open market that could fill a void here.
Two pitchers in particular stand out amongst the free agent pool: starter Brandon Woodruff and closer Liam Hendriks. The former has staff ace potential while the latter is a former Blue Jay and is one of the best relievers in the league.
Sure, on the surface, offense seems to be what the Jays need most. A look at the projections for the upcoming season, though, and it appears the Jays pitching staff is due for something of a regression. Last year, their starting rotation was dominant (outside of Alek Manoah) and their bullpen was one of the best in the game. Naturally, a bit of a regression is to be expected.
In Woodruff, the Jays would have to sign him to a low-cost, multi-year deal as he is expected to miss the vast majority of the 2024 campaign. The right-hander is a two-time All-Star and has a career ERA of 3.10 across 130 appearances. He is as dynamic as they come on the mound and is only a free agent because the Brewers non-tendered him due to health issues.
Last year alone, Woodruff struggled to stay healthy, but still managed to go 5-1 with a 2.28 ERA across 11 starts. If he can spend the 2024 season resting and recovering, he could come back in 2025 at full strength. It feels almost too obvious that the Blue Jays should sign him to a two-year deal perhaps with a third as a team option. Sign the man, because he's got "ace" stuff still and could be part of a seriously lethal rotation as soon as next season.
Hendriks, 35 next week, has 13 years in the big leagues and is just wrapping up a highly successful three-year stint on the White Sox. He, like Woodruff, struggled with durability last year and was limited to five games, but the track record is rather long. In a four-year stretch from 2019 to 2022, the right-hander had a 2.26 ERA across 226 outings, earning 114 saves and striking out 13.5 batters per nine innings along the way. He made three All-Star Game appearances in that stretch and earned Cy Young votes twice.
With Jordan Romano already on hand as the Blue Jays' closer, it's likely that Hendriks would function as more of a high-end setup man than a closer, which is fine. He has proven to be a dangerous reliever regardless of his role and would, again like Woodruff, be an excellent low-cost addition to this club. Hendriks, who only just recently became cancer-free after a rather serious health scare, would also warrant a multi-year pact, as he underwent Tommy John surgery late last year and is not projected to return to a big league mound until September of 2024.
Despite the fact that the Blue Jays have made a frustratingly small amount of roster moves this offseason, the upper management is not completely incompetent. There's little doubt that they're already keeping tabs on and monitoring the markets of both of these pitchers. The amount of upside and reward in handing even one of them a contract is immense, so the likelihood of something coming together may be more likely than you'd think.