The Toronto Blue Jays just can’t seem to catch a break on the red-hot free agent market.
The latest target who got away is outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who agreed to an eight-year, $162 million contract to return to the New York Mets on Thursday, a deal first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Nimmo was an ideal fit for a Blue Jays lineup looking to fill a gap in their outfield. He’d be a left-handed bat in a lineup that’s predominantly right-handed. He has some power, hitting 16 home runs last season. His .367 on-base percentage was seventh among all qualified outfielders. He consistently puts up a high average, batting .281 with a .827 OPS over the last three seasons.
Signing Nimmo to patrol center field would’ve allowed the Blue Jays to move George Springer over to right field and cut down on the rash of injuries that have plagued Springer’s tenure in Toronto. But, in a common theme so far this offseason, Nimmo chose to go elsewhere.
The Blue Jays targeted starting pitcher Andrew Heaney; he signed with the Rangers. Cody Bellinger, another outfielder linked with the Blue Jays, agreed to a deal with the Cubs. The Blue Jays even tried to sign reigning Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander before he signed with the Mets.
With Nimmo off the market, the top remaining free-agent outfielders on the market are Michael Brantley and Andrew Benintendi. The Blue Jays traded away Teoscar Hernández in November, leaving a gaping hole in right field that must be addressed. Neither Brantley nor Benintendi are ideal fits for that position; Benintendi has never played there in his career, while Brantley is coming off a shoulder injury that should limit how much he's able to play in the field.
General Manager Ross Atkins left the Winter Meetings empty-handed, insisting the team’s focus remains on starting pitching and adding outfielders. “We’ll acquire starting pitching. Certainly looking to offset the subtraction of Teoscar, thinking about the handedness. And it could be more than one player that helps us do that. But more focused on the run prevention, and we’ll be open-minded on the trading front,” he told MLB Network earlier this week.
There are still quality starters left on the market, including Carlos Rodón and Chris Bassitt. The Blue Jays will likely be in the mix for both of them.
But, first, their luck in getting players on the open market must change. Nimmo is just the latest free agent to get away in an offseason that's quickly becoming filled with frustration and disappointment.