With only 53 days until pitchers and catchers report to Dunedin, it may seem early to consider potential Blue Jays free agent targets for next offseason. But with some big names likely available, its never too early to dream!
The 2023-24 free agent class is headed by 2021 AL MVP Shohei Ohtani, sweet lefty-swinging 3B Rafael Devers, current Blue Jays 3B Matt Chapman, Dodgers ace Julio Urías, as well as stars with player options for 2024 like Mets ace Max Scherzer, Padres 3B Manny Machado and Tigers SS Javier Báez.
MLB Trade Rumors has compiled an early list sorted by position here. There is also a searchable screening tool from Spotrac here. The list will change as these players and clubs negotiate extensions or excercise player, mutual or club options before free agency starts.
Given how targeted recent free agent additions to the Blue Jays have been in their current competitive window, it’s probably unlikely they’ll splurge in free agency like the Mets, Yankees and Rangers. The Mets have spent $717.2M so far and counting, taking their projected 2023 competitive balance tax (CBT) payroll to $390M before any luxury tax penalties as per RosterResource!
The Yankees aren’t far behind, adding $573.5M in free agency, including 2022 AL MVP Aaron Judge and co-ace Carlos Ródon, which takes their 2023 CBT payroll to the $292M range before taxes, just below the top luxury tax penalty tier of $293M this year. The Rangers have added $264M in free agent contracts, including new ace Jacob deGrom for five years/$185M.
The Blue Jays haven’t been wallflowers, spending $72M to take their projected 2023 CBT payroll to the $233M luxury tax threshold. They’ve added starter Chris Bassitt on a three-year/$63M deal, as well as CF Kevin Kiermaier on a one-year/$9M deal.
Potential Blue Jays Free Agent Targets Next Offseason
With some big names in their final contract year with Toronto, the Blue Jays will surely have some needs to fill again next offseason. LHP Hyun Jin Ryu, 3B Matt Chapman, CF Kevin Kiermaier, 2B/OF Whit Merrifield, and relievers Yimi García ($6M club option for 2024 if he pitches in 49 games or 49 innings this year) and Anthony Bass are all pending free agents after the 2023 season.
With potentially sixteen arbitration-eligible Blue Jays next year, including core stars Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Alek Manoah, Daulton Varsho, Alejandro Kirk, Danny Jansen and Jordan Romano, it’s likely their payroll will exceed the $237M CBT threshold in 2024 even before any long term extensions for those players.
Combine that with the largest free agent contracts in Blue Jays history, like 6 years/$150M ($25M average annual value or AAV) for George Springer and 5 years/$110M for Kevin Gausman ($22M AAV), and there’s no reason to believe the Jays won’t continue spending big to address needs.
With internal options already on the 40-man roster to replace many of their pending free agents, the Jays don’t necessarily have to chase big names. Flamethrowing, ‘swing and miss’ relievers like Yosver Zulueta and Nate Pearson could replace Bass and García. The 2B platoon of Santiago Espinal and Cavan Biggio, plus emerging prospects Addison Barger and 3B/SS Orelvis Martinez are up next if the Jays decide against the $18M mutual option on Merrifield. Ryu could be replaced by top Blue Jays prospect Ricky Tiedemann if he continues his meteoric rise through the minors.