Assessing whether the Blue Jays next move should come via trade or free agency

Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays
Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays / Cole Burston/GettyImages

There has been a bevy of speculation, with no action, by the Toronto Blue Jays so far this offseason. The lack of activity has caused unrest, and even panic, amongst the fan base, who have grown impatient and annoyed. 

Two of the marquee players linked to the team, Cody Bellinger and Matt Chapman, both make sense as free agent acquisitions, but the team would be wise to explore the trade market, which offers some valuable options. 

Former MVP Christian Yelich has come up in rumors around the club. The fit is obvious, and the value could be tremendous. The 32-year-old is coming off his best season in years and would be another veteran presence on a young team.

After a 99-win performance, the Tampa Bay Rays have subtracted from their roster this offseason. Already having traded Tyler Glasnow and Manuel Margot to the Los Angeles Dodgers, there are reports that Randy Arozarena and Isaac Paredes could be on the move.

Paredes is coming off a 31-homer breakout season in 2023 and is under team control until 2028. He achieved a similar bWAR to Chapman (4.2 to 4.4) and, despite being “Super 2” eligible in his first year of salary arbitration, would receive far less compensation than Chapman.

Most estimates on the future Bellinger deal have it as a six or seven-year term and one that could be well over $200M. If the Jays win the Belli sweepstakes, it would surpass George Springer as the largest contract in franchise history. The 28-year-old, who had a resurgent season with the Chicago Cubs in 2023, deserves a gigantic pact, but it’s more complicated than that. 

Bellinger has bounced back nicely, but not near the level of his 2019 season, and hit far below league average over the previous two years. He appears to be fully healthy and close to regaining full power, a good bet to be a terrific player for the next five to seven years. Is that worth $30M plus a season?

Paredes has established himself as one of the most dangerous third basemen in the American League. Over the last two seasons, the 24-year-old has crushed 51 home runs in only 823 at-bats. He was a run-of-the-mill defender at third (2 DRS, 0 OAA, 0.0 dWAR in 2023) and would be a downgrade from Chappy defensively. He hit 14 more homers, five more than any Blue Jays player, and would help address the glaring need for more power hitting. 

Bringing back Chapman makes sense if the money is right. Fans knew he wouldn’t sustain his torrid opening month (.384, 5 HR, 15 2B, 21 RBI through April 30), but seeing him slump to a .205 average with a .659 OPS the rest of the way was painful. The 30-year-old is an elite defender at the hot corner and has averaged a 5.3 bWAR over the last five full seasons, although his 4.4 in 2023 was his highest since a career-high 7.8 in 2019.

Making the move for any of these players would be pragmatic, but the trade market features pieces that could take this team over the top and at a lower price point. It’s easy to envision the Jays signing one of these players and trading for another, with Arozarena, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, and Adam Duvall being other possible targets.