Jays From the Couch looks at several decisions the Toronto Blue Jays have to make that would be considered “no brainers”
On Monday afternoon, Toronto Blue Jays GM, Ross Atkins spoke to the huddled masses regarding the direction in which the team will be moving as it proceeds over the coming months. Most of what he said was not overly shocking. In fact, several points he made were as expected as a 2 strike curve to Justin Smoak. The GM, himself called one of his talking points a “no brainer”. By the end of his presser, there were tidbits about a few decisions that shouldn’t be that difficult to make.
The “no brainer” Atkins specifically referred to was picking up the option on Jason Grilli. With a club option for $3M in question, and considering the return to form the reliever had after he was traded from Atlanta, this decision will likely be one of the easiest the Blue Jays have to make. Consider that, with Atlanta, Grilli was sporting a 5.29 ERA and a 1.706 WHIP. At age 39, he had given up 10 earned runs in 17 innings. But, the Blue Jays liked that he was throwing cheese. At his age, it is rather impressive that he can still throw 95 mph.
So, Toronto took a chance on him. At the time, things couldn’t really have gotten much worse for the Blue Jays’ bullpen, anyway. Regardless, the move paid off. With Toronto, Grilli put together a 6-4 season with a much more respectable ERA of 3.64 and a WHIP of 1.119. Not only did he help save the Blue Jays’ bullpen, in the process, he also saved what many thought would be his career. After major injuries and such a poor showing in Atlanta, many were ready to write him off.
Now, turning 40, Grilli looks to be returning to the team he cheered for as a kid, at least for one more year. And, for the Blue Jays, he represents a steal when you factor in what relief pitching will likely cost on the open market. Once again, in this postseason, we are seeing the evolution of philosophies around bullpens. Teams will be paying for effective relievers. The Blue Jays have a chance to grab one for a fraction of the price. They’re just banking on him having one more good season in him.
Another “no brainer” for the Blue Jays is presenting qualifying offers to Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. A club has to offer to these guys. If they accept, you get their services for another year. If they reject, you get the draft pick attached. You also can still negotiate with them in the offseason. It is harder to do with 29 other teams competing at that time, but it is still possible.
For Edwin, the decision is a simple one. You can rest easy knowing that his 2016 season is repeatable and his age isn’t so far advanced that you have to worry about him falling off that dramatically in one year. And, the cost for the qualifying offer ($17.2M) is right about what he would be making- a raise for him- on the open market anyway. Of course, he’ll likely be looking for what could be the final contract of his career (he’ll be 34 when the season starts) and will be after more of a commitment than one year. It is a win-win for the club.
For Bautista, the gamble is a bit less comfortable. He is a few years older and coming off a year that would be considered a disappointment by his standards. But, injuries- the kind that do not warrant an “injury prone” label- played a major factor in the struggles he suffered this year. That said, the argument can be made that retaining the player would be more about his legacy than actual performance. But, when it comes to the decision to offer the QO, the risk rests completely with Jose. The team wins whichever way it goes. If he accepts, they are paying him $17.2M. If he indeed is not declining, and can still play the field, as Atkins suggests, then it will represent another year of value for the Blue Jays. If he rejects it, believing strongly in his abilities and his chances, the club can take the draft pick and allow him to test the waters. Again, it’s win-win.
For the Toronto Blue Jays, there will be some heavy decision making to come this winter. But, they’ll start off rather easily by offering up qualifying offers to their slugging duo and picking up the team option on Grilli. It will be an easy start to what will be an interesting offseason. Ross Atkins had better enjoy it. Not everything will be a “no brainer” this winter.
*Featured Image Credit: Arturo Pardavila III UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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