With the 2023 MLB season to an end with the World Series champions being crowned, free agency season officially begins. For the Toronto Blue Jays, they have a fair number of their players entering the 2023-24 free agent pool. But for a few of those players, they currently have a small window in which they could extend a qualifying offer to. Who are those candidates, should the Jays make an offer to them, and will they accept it?
First of all, let’s take a look at the players who won’t be receiving a QO. In Brandon Belt and Hyun Jin Ryu's cases, both players have received QOs in the past, so they will be ineligible to receive one again. For Jordan Hicks, he was obtained by the Jays at the trade deadline, so he did not spend the entire season with the ballclub. In the case for both Whit Merrifield and Chad Green, they both have options. Merrifield and the Jays declined his mutual option and has become a free agent, whereas the option situation for Green is a little slightly more complex in nature.
That leaves us with two impact players that had made significant contributions to the ballclub both offensively and defensively in Matt Chapman and Kevin Kiermaier.
After being acquired by the Jays in a big trade with the Oakland Athletics during the 2021-22 offseason, Chapman had a strong 2022 debut season with his new ballclub. Not only was he a force offensively, with 83 runs scored, 27 doubles, 27 home runs and 76 RBI, but he helped stabilize the Jays’ infield defence by committing only five errors all season for a stellar .988 fielding percentage at the hot corner.
However, 2023 was quite the disappointment for Chapman, as other than a torrid start in April, he struggled mightily for the rest of the season in terms of his overall offensive production. He finished with just 66 runs scored, 17 home runs and 54 RBI in 140 games played and failed to produce in many clutch situations throughout the year. Nevertheless, he still managed a strong season defensively with 12 DRS, despite an uncharacteristic 12 errors committed in the process.
With the free agent market being devoid of quality third basemen, along with the fact that the Jays are uncertain what version of Chapman they may get in the long run, it is high likely that they will make a qualifying offer to him. By extending him just one year, they can get a better picture of what they have in him before potentially committing long-term. However, in the case for Chapman, entering free agency couldn’t have come at a better time for him due to the weak free agent pool of third basemen. As a result, he will most likely reject the qualifying offer in an attempt to land a big, long-term contract that will likely give him financial stability right up until his eventual retirement.
For Kiermaier, he had been everything the Jays hoped for after signing a one-year, $9 million deal this past offseason to bolster their outfield defence. Not only did he provide exactly that, but he also gave the Jays some solid supplemental offence at the bottom of their batting order throughout the season. More importantly, he became a favourite among the Jays’ faithful, along with being a welcoming voice in the clubhouse as well.
For the 2023 season, Kiermaier hit .265 with a .741 OPS, along with 58 runs scored, six triples, eight home runs, 36 RBI and 14 stolen bases. At the same time, he provided Gold Glove-calibre defence with 18 DRS, five outfield assists, while committing only three errors all season for a .989 fielding percentage.
He definitely enjoyed his time playing in Toronto and would definitely consider accepting a qualifying offer from the ballclub if given one. However, he was somewhat susceptible to injuries this past season, as he ended up missing some games on three different occasions during 2023. On top of that, with Kiermaier also having a prior injury history from previous seasons, the Jays will certainly need to consider if it is worth giving him a qualifying offer worth north of $20 million on just a one-year deal. If they really have full intentions of keeping Kiermaier beyond 2024, they should actually consider pursuing him with a short-term, multi-year deal at a better AAV instead and have him locked in to their outfield defence for the near future.
In either case for both Chapman and Kiermaier, the most likely end result will be they will head into free agency to explore the market to see their true value and where they may fit best.