Toronto Blue Jays: Free agent market is sizzling, who’s left for the Jays?

Wild Card Series - San Diego Padres v New York Mets - Game One
Wild Card Series - San Diego Padres v New York Mets - Game One / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages
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High Leverage Bullpen Arms

As the 2022 playoffs showed, hard throwing, swing-and-miss high leverage relievers are a key ingredient in the World Series-winning recipe. Lockdown relievers Bryan Abreu, Héctor Neris and Rafael Montero were all hard throwing setup men for Houston closer Ryan Pressly. Philadelphia countered with Seranthony Domínguez, Andrew Bellatti and José Alvarado setting up their closer David Robertson.

The free agent market for relievers has been scorching hot this offseason, with closer Edwin Díaz agreeing to a five-year, $102 million deal to return to the Mets. The Boston Red Sox have already spent $49.5 million adding two such free agent arms this week in Kenley Jansen and Chris Martin, both signed to two year deals.

Remaining names of interest include lefties Taylor Rogers, Zack Britton, Andrew Chafin, Will Smith, Matt Moore and Aroldis Chapman. Right-handed relievers include Craig Kimbrel, Corey Knebel, Trevor May, Mychal Givens, Michael Fulmer, David Robertson, Seth Lugo and Adam Ottavino.

The Jays have also been linked to former Cardinals Closer Alex Reyes, who spent all of 2022 on the IL and then was non-tendered after the season. He’s had multiple structural issues with his arm, including Tommy John surgery in 2017, and shoulder surgeries in both 2020 and 2022. While GM Ross Atkins has never shied away from rebound candidates, he may want to avoid any further comparisons with the failed Kirby Yates signing.

Additional trades for high leverage relievers are also available, with Atlanta acquiring hard throwing set-up man Joe Jiménez from the Tigers for two prospects. Certainly the Teoscar
Hernández trade should give the Blue Jays more payroll flexibility to add players.

With such clearly defined needs and increasingly limited options, Jays fans are understandably disappointed with each player of interest dropping off the free agent and trade boards. Team president Mark Shapiro stated unequivocally at the Winter Meetings that the Blue Jays were ready to spend this offseason, saying, “It’s not an obstacle for us. It’s not what will limit us. We’ll budget and we’ll have a budget that we limit to. But the CBT is not going to be what sets our budget.”

With more than two months left before spring training and nearly four months before Opening Day next March 30th, there is lots of time to address the team’s needs. As assistant GM Joe Sheehan said Wednesday at the Winter Meetings on the team's lack of moves so far. “I think there’s a lot of good players that are still free agents. There’s a lot of good players that are available in trade. I think we’re in a fortunate position where we don’t have 16 holes to fill."

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