One of the earliest known targets of the Toronto Blue Jays this offseason was corner infielder Jeimer Candelario. With Matt Chapman hitting the open market, the Jays cast a wide net early on in their search for a new starter over at third base.
Other names have popped up along the way, like Isaac Paredes of the Rays, but no move has officially been made.
Late on Wednesday night, the Cincinnati Reds made their move on Candelario that will now make the Blue Jays' third base decision a bit easier. According to MLB insider Mike Rodriguez, the Reds signed Candelario to a three-year contract. The deal is reportedly going to include an option for a fourth season.
In a fairly weak free agent market, the 30-year-old Candelario stood out above the rest (minus Chapman, of course), mostly because of a lack of competition. He's a switch-hitter that has been up and down offensively throughout his career but is coming of of a strong campaign in 2023.
Last year, the eight-year veteran split his time between the Nationals and Cubs. In 140 games, he hit 39 doubles with 22 home runs, 70 runs driven in, an .807 OPS and an OPS+ of 119. Not too shabby. This offensive output did more than enough to earn him a payday in free agency, even if the numbers didn't necessarily scream "superstar" at you at first glance.
The Reds have long been known as a team that has a seemingly endless supply of infielders. Noelvi Marte, Jonathan India, Spencer Steer, Matt McLain, Elly De La Cruz and Christian Encarnacion-Strand are all projected to be on the 26-man roster next year. Obviously, there are more names than positions to go around. This is purely speculation, but the addition of yet another infielder in Candelario could mean that Cincinnati is set to move on from another one in a trade, perhaps for Dylan Cease?
For the Blue Jays, Candelario's signing does nothing more than push Chapman even more towards a reunion in Toronto. The client of the Boras Corporation is sure to command a hefty payday, but the Jays have the financial room to pony up and meet the requests. In two full seasons as a Jay prior to his hitting the open market, Chapman had a combined 112 OPS+ in 295 games while winning a Gold Glove for his defense at the hot corner. All told, the club could do much worse than bring him back for another go.