The Toronto Blue Jays are among teams on the bubble of playoff projections. Because of that, they cannot be cautious in their offseason dealings.
The Toronto Blue Jays won 76 games in 2017. They finished 10 games under .500, 17 games back of the division lead and didn’t get out of last place until the very last day of the season. They were far from the postseason glory many of us expected. It is assumed that a team hoping to make the postseason needs somewhere around 86 or so wins. The Blue Jays could make that up with any combination of health from the likes of Aaron Sanchez, Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis and continued performances from Josh Donaldson and Justin Smoak.
But, they won’t go into the 2018 season hoping for status quo to work. Our Catherine Stem looked at what would happen if the Blue Jays did nothing this winter and the thought is a tad scary. Realistically, no one expects Ross Atkins and co to sit on their hands and hope for the best. Instead, they’ll look to build on their 2017 win total. To better understand just how much urgency there might be in this regard, Eno Sarris of Fangraphs has a rather interesting look at teams that need to add wins the most.
In a nutshell, teams that look to be sure fire postseason squads like the Houston Astros don’t need to add much impact to their roster. Likewise, teams that are so far away from postseason contention don’t either. Instead, there is a group of teams that are close, but need to make an extra push toward being one of those ~86 win teams. If you can get to that point, your playoff chances increase greatly. Think of that adage: Just Get In. In order to achieve that, some teams need to be more aggressive in their pursuits than others. What the Astros need to do to ‘just get in’ is significantly less than say your Toronto Blue Jays. Keep this in mind.
That means that they need to look at how they can add a few more wins. The trade route has some interesting options. I’ve argued that Josh Harrison (HERE) and Dee Gordon (HERE) or even Randal Grichuk (HERE) would be good trade targets. These guys would add varying amounts of wins as they’re projected at ~1.5 fWAR, ~1.5 fWAR and ~0.6 fWAR respectively. A trade for either of these, or anyone else for that matter, is dependent on how each side values their future contributions. Do the Blue Jays feel that 1.5 wins is enough to fork over whatever their counterparts are demanding?
A lot of work has been put into determining the monetary value of prospects. Specifically, have come up with a fairly intricate formula. They say: “So if a team is assessing how much a prospect is worth when discussing him in a trade, they have to calculate what value that player may contribute to the team for his six seasons of control in the future. Teams are employing some type of financial analysis to do this.” We know that the Toronto Blue Jays place a value of $9M on a win. The club needs to ask itself if it is willing to give up future wins – wins that are in their pocket – to pick up present wins. Is it worth the gamble?
For a Gordon, the Blue Jays are not going to give up a Bo Bichette who could produce if he continues on his path. But, you have to give something to get something. It is difficult to imagine a world where the Blue Jays pull of a trade significant enough to add more than 1.5 wins without giving up some kind of value, though. In short, if they are going to pull of a deal, one that gives them more wins, they’re going to have to be aggressive enough to make it worthwhile.
If Atkins goes the free agency route, he will have to spend money to add more wins. Remember that $9M value this club places on a win? Well, in the context of the 2018 season, they may have to pay more per win; it means more to them. Essentially, they need to make up more wins than the top tier teams, therefore will need to spend more to get them. If the Astros only need a bullpen piece here and there, they will spend less than the Blue Jays who need much more. That could adjust the value Toronto puts on a win. Basically, they need it more, so they will have to pay more.
When looking into free agency, spending can take multiple forms. It could mean spending a lot on one piece and hoping it gives you four or five wins, or it could mean you spend on a few pieces in the hopes that they combine for the desired win total. Do they consider spending money on a Yu Darvish, who is projected to see 3.6 fWAR in 2018? If so, as with any free agent, you will also be paying for several years of potentially declining win totals, which could make any player seem that much more expensive. Obviously, banners change the perception of just how cumbersome a contract looks, so it could be worth the gamble for the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays will need to add about 10 more wins to their total next season. With a combination of health from Sanchez, Tulo and Travis, it is not hard to envision half of that coming without any additions. But, that isn’t a sure thing. That’s a gutsy bet to place. Instead, they will look to better situate themselves to make the postseason. In order to do that, they’ll have to be aggressive in their pursuits. Even making up just 5 wins will cost in one way or another, even if they happen to find an international free agent who could possibly come close to that while pitching and hitting.
Whether it is via trade or free agency, this offseason is going to have to be an aggressive one for the Blue Jays if they are going to make good on their stated goal of playoff baseball. They’re close. They may be even closer than 10 wins may suggest. In order to put themselves in a position to make this a reality, though, they are going to need to spend. Whether it is prospect value, which this front office may be loathe to do, or financially, which ownership may be loathe to do, there is no way the Blue Jays can make up the much needed wins by being cautious.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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