Don’t despair, Blue Jays fans; there’s still time to add bats this offseason

With a few weeks until spring training and two months to Opening Day, deals can still happen late Jays fans, have faith!

Toronto Blue Jays Workout
Toronto Blue Jays Workout / Elsa/GettyImages
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As Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra once said, “It gets late early out here.” As a return to baseball nears, Blue Jays fans might be feeling anxious about the team not adding more offence ahead of pitchers and catchers reporting officially on February 15. However, while it may feel like it’s getting late to add some bats, there’s reason not to despair just yet.

Opening Day for Toronto is on March 28 at Tampa Bay. That leaves two months of offseason to still improve this ball club with additions before they break camp. In recent years, Ross Stripling was acquired from the Dodgers on February 23, 2021. Yusei Kikuchi was signed as a free agent on March 14, 2022 and Matt Chapman was acquired in a trade with Oakland on March 16th that year after the lockout ended ahead of the 2022 season.

As Darragh McDonald of MLB Trade Rumors notes, “[16] of MLBTR’s Top 50 Free Agents still don’t have agreements in place for 2024, along with many players who weren’t on that list.” Five of those remaining free agents are Scott Boras’ clients, including Cody Bellinger, Matt Chapman, Blake Snell and J.D. Martinez, all who have been linked to the Blue Jays at different stages this offseason.

As McDonald points out, while “Boras has signed some notable deals towards the end of January”, he has also shown “an unusual willingness to wait for the right deal, even if that means it doesn’t come together until very late”, including Kikuchi’s deal after the lockout in March 2022.

Bryce Harper waited until March 1, 2019 before signing with the Phillies for 13 years and $330M. The Red Sox didn’t officially sign J.D. Martinez to a five-year, $110M deal until February 26, 2018, after months of negotiations.

Boras’ clients who have recently signed free agent deals already this year include Rhys Hoskins, Joey Gallo and James Paxton.

Another complicating factor is the emergence of Diamond (Bally) Sports from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. As Evan Drellich and Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic (subscription required) reported, “Pending the approval of a federal bankruptcy judge], many of the long-term broadcast contracts Diamond has in place with various teams and leagues would stay intact — but not necessarily all.”

Indeed, they note that “Questions still loom about three baseball teams in particular: the Cleveland Guardians, Texas Rangers and Minnesota Twins”. Answers are expected by February 1st, said Andrew Goldman, a lawyer for Diamond. However, Alden Gonzalez of ESPN notes, decisions “will have to come before a predetermined March 22 deadline to provide specifics of [Diamond’s] restructuring plan in bankruptcy court.’ In other words, those answers might not come until March.

Joe Reedy of AP Sports writes that “Diamond has not reached amended terms [yet with those teams].” Last season, MLB had to take over broadcasts for Padres and Diamondbacks games after Diamond let rights payments to the Padres lapse and was unable to agree to an amended deal with the Diamondbacks.

What that means is that Cleveland, Texas and Minnesota remain in discussions with Diamond about restructured broadcast contracts for 2024 and beyond, and don’t yet have certainty or clarity on potential broadcast revenues. Given the Rangers were paid $111M by Diamond in 2023, with the Twins and Guardians both receiving $55M, these teams likely cannot commit to free agents until a deal is in place. That’s definitely holding up the market, and could be acting a bit like the lockout ahead of 2022.

So deals can still happen late, Blue Jays fans; and we need to have faith. There are two months until Opening Day, and there are still lots of power bats available to improve upon a Jays offence that only scored 746 runs last season to rank 14th in the league.

Bo Bichette recently mentioned J.D. Martinez and Justin Turner as “veteran bats that can really help out, not just on the field but off the field as well.” Despite missing out most recently on Rhys Hoskins and Joc Pederson, power bats like Jorge Soler, Matt Chapman and Cody Bellinger are still on the board, or perhaps even 40-year-old Joey Votto? Maybe Brandon Belt if he decides to play for another season?

With some internal improvement from players like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., George Springer, Alejandro Kirk and Daulton Varsho rebounding back towards their career averages, and some added reinforcements, this could still be a much improved team.