After being eliminated from the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, the Toronto Blue Jays can move on with a clear focus
The Toronto Blue Jays found themselves eliminated from the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes on Sunday evening. And, that’s OK. I’m not going to pretend like landing the two way star wouldn’t have been amazing. It would have. I’m not going to pretend that landing him wouldn’t have made the Blue Jays better. It would have. But, I am also not going to pretend that Toronto had any kind of guarantee or an expectation to sign Ohtani, unlike a certain other AL East team.
The Blue Jays being eliminated from the running means that we no longer have to sit on the edge of our seats awaiting a decision. I mean, you can, if you wish, but it will no longer have bearing on the Blue Jays moving forward. Before Sunday’s news, Ross Atkins, like every other GM who was in pursuit of Ohtani, couldn’t really go all in on their offseason moves until they knew what was happening. They could lay groundwork, as the saying goes, but that is all it is. Now, they can focus their energy on filling their obvious needs. And, as we saw last offseason, they may act with urgency if the right deal presents itself. They may not rush into a Kendrys Morales type deal again, but now that they aren’t waiting on Ohtani, they can move at will, so to speak.
Pursuing Ohtani would have been an example of finding a once in a blue moon player and figuring out where he fits in later. They would slide him in to the rotation, sure, but how to work his bat in is something that wasn’t immediately clear. Rather than signing the player and figuring out where he fits, the Blue Jays can now pursue players to match their needs.
Adding Ohtani most likely would have meant that Atkins found at least a part time outfielder. With the DH spot pretty full, there really wasn’t a whole lot of space. Instead of a part timer, now the Blue Jays can look to find a full time answer. Lorenzo Cain remains a preferred answer. He could take over in a corner outfield spot, or even move Kevin Pillar to one of those spots, if it encourages him to put his name to paper. Either way, there is an everyday job for Cain in Toronto. Will Atkins jump on a guy who will be 32 when the 2018 season starts? That’s a fair question, but if there is a free agent to jump on, Cain might be it.
MLBTR has him projected to sign for 4yrs and $70M. They thought he’d sign with the Giants, but if they land Ohtani AND Giancarlo Stanton, it would be tough to imagine them getting Cain too. The Blue Jays might want to jump in – assuming he’s what they want – while everyone’s eyes are elsewhere and try to lock him up. For his part, Cain might want to wait, but as we saw last offseason, waiting might not be a good strategy.
After trading for Aledmys Diaz, would the Blue Jays be content with their infield situation? Likely not. At Blue Jays Nation, Andrew Stoeten wrote that the addition of Diaz shouldn’t change the Blue Jays’ approach. And, he’s right. All adding Diaz does is raise the floor of talent on this team, and not by a great deal. He’s not the everyday day answer. Stoeten suggests that a lefty bat like Dee Gordon would be more like it. That’s something that I’ve mentioned before HERE. Yes, it would cost, but the Blue Jays haven’t really spent anything this winter. There is room to do something like this.
Both Cain and Gordon would be pricey alternatives for Toronto’s limited resources. They are looking for an impact bat as well as an impact arm. Perhaps, there is a pitcher out there they feel is more deserving of said resources. It might be tempting to dream on Yu Darvish or even a Jake Arrieta. Certainly adding this kind of arm to their current rotation would provide quite a boost for a 2018 run. You have to think that they would only do this, though, if they feel the arm would provide more impact than upgrading the outfield and/or infield.
Of course, they could look for an impact arm for the bullpen and still address the outfield and infield, which is precisely the point. There are several ways the offseason can unfold now. Ross Atkins can go about improving his team without having to wait on the decision of one player. Instead, he can get busy working phones and trying to influence multiple decisions of multiple players and GMs.
Now that the Blue Jays are out of the Ohtani race, they can move on with a more clear sense of direction. It says here that they should do so with a sense of urgency. That is not the same thing as panic, mind you. Instead, if they are going to close the gap in 2018, they can’t be cautious. Moving on from Ohtani allows them to get down to it.
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