JFtC Blue Jays Hot Stove

Spending Blue Jays’ “Aggressive” Money

The Blue Jays are rumoured to be aggressive in how they approach this offseason and it could be fun to predict how they spend their money


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The Toronto Blue Jays are in a unique position heading into this offseason. Apparently, MLB teams are cutting costs and blaming it on the pandemic, which isn’t far fetched, but for fans, disappointment could be the name of the game this winter if that is the case. However, Toronto could be different. According to Joel Sherman, Toronto’s ownership group hasn’t suffered as much from Covid and could take advantage of the market. That would be supported by the front office already touching base with free agents.

 

Of course, we know Toronto’s front office does an obscene amount of homework before it makes offers and whatnot. So, we probably shouldn’t get too excited over this. But, if other teams are slashing payroll and maybe taking a bit of a ‘wait and see’ approach, Toronto could swoop in and grab some key names early…and maybe even at a lesser rate.

 

According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Toronto projects to have an Opening Day payroll of $73M (40 man roster: $90M). No one knows how much the front office will look to increase that number by and/or how much ownership will approve, but we have bene told that the resources to add will be there moving forward. It’s not like the club would say that and set up false expectations. It’s not their style. So, let’s see if we can spend some money and make a push for more playoffs in 2021.

 

It is reasonable to expect that the Blue Jays need (in order of priority) at least one quality starting pitcher (maybe two) in their rotation, an infield upgrade (one that provides improved defense AND stretches out the lineup), a back end reliever and maybe an upgrade in CF. *Individual wish lists may vary*

 

Having one of the better minor league systems in baseball, Toronto could explore the trade route for upgrades, since the free agent class is somewhat…meh, but when you have money to spend, it makes sense to try and look to free agency and keep your cupboards full. This is a smart strategy, especially at the beginning of the process so that if you have to pivot to trades, you have a sense what the market looks like. Given this, and the finite nature of the free agent class, we’ll look at how Toronto could spend on the open market.

 

All discussion on spending has to be preempted by the obvious idea of trading for Francisco Lindor. Sure it could be a pipe dream, but if you’re going to talk about spending on impact upgrades, working out a trade and extension for Lindor has to at least be discussed. This would put limitations on how much is left to spend on other areas, of course. Previously, it was rumoured that he would be interested in a Christian Yelich type deal (7yrs/$188.5M). Whether that remains in the current climate is anyone’s guess, but given his age (he’ll be 27 in a couple weeks) and he’s put up anywhere from 4-7.6 fWAR over his career (2020’s 1.7 notwithstanding), it would be reasonable to expect $25-$30M AAV offer. That could put Toronto’s 26 player payroll at ~ $100M. That leaves money to spend, so Lindor is where I’d start spending money. Moving Bo Bichette to third or second is A-OK with me.

 

 

After that, the club should focus on the starting rotation. MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince suggests that the Blue Jays are a landing spot for Trevor Bauer (he also suggests Lindor), but anyone who follows the team knows they put a premium on having quality human beings and Bauer doesn’t seem to fit their criteria. I’ll pass on that idea, thanks.

 

Instead, let’s look at some more reasonable ideas. We know Toronto has some rotation depth with guys like Thomas Hatch, Anthony Kay and Trent Thornton who could see some time in the rotation, joining Hyun Jin Ryu Tanner Roark and likely Nate Pearson. Ryan Borucki is another option, but may have found a home in the bullpen. However talented these names may be, they are not going to be the upgrades that lead to a championship. They also have guys like Alek Manoah, Simeon Woods-Richardson who will be ready in a couple of years, so shorter terms additions are likely in order. I already looked at the possibility of adding Marco Gonzales and our Jim Scott looked at adding Corey Kluber. Both of these may very well be viable options, but what fun is there in repeating ideas?

 

Instead, let’s take a look at Fangraphs’ list of Top 50 Free Agents (with projected deals). Bauer is the top free agent starter on the list, so we’ll move past that. As well, teams may still add players to this list by not picking up options, etc. That said, the next top starter is 32 yr old Masahiro Tanaka. It is difficult to imagine the Yankees letting him go without at least a qualifying offer. His age may force him to look for more years than one, though. It’s just tough to see him leaving New York. So, we move on. Marcus Stroman is the next starter on the list, but I think we all know this front office is not going to go there again.

 

13th on the list is James Paxton. The 32 yr old has seen his share of injuries over the last little while, seeing just 20 innings in 2020 and it is doubtful that the Yankees extend a QO. Fangraphs has him getting a one year, $15M deal. The market for him could be rather thin given his back surgery and subsequent lack of effectiveness, teams may shy away from him. However, his previous 4 seasons saw him produce at least 3+ fWAR, so Toronto could bring the Canadian boy home and hope for some effectiveness. A deal that has a year or two guaranteed and an option for the third would be interesting. He won’t be available at a heavily discounted rate, but given the league crying poor and his injury history, maybe something like a $10-$12M AAV offer could work. That would put 2021 26 player salary at ~ $112M.

 

The rotation would consist of Ryu, Paxton, Pearson, Roark and a competition for the 5th spot. Or, Toronto could look to be even more aggressive and bring back Taijuan Walker. Fangraphs projects him to get 2yrs/ $19M, which would absolutely fit into the club’s plans and would allow them to not need to rely on Hatch, Thornton, Kay et al. On paper, that would be a vastly improved rotation and the depth would remain.

 

Again, we need to state that this whole thing could be tantamount to a fool’s errand as there’s no guarantee that Toronto will add even this much in the offseason. But, where is the fun in holding back? To complete their shopping list, let’s add solid utility guy Tommy La Stella, a 32 yr old upgrade replacement for Travis Shaw at the suggested 2yrs/$17M ($8.5M AAV) and high strike out guy Trevor May at 2yrs/ $12M for the back end of the bullpen to complete the shopping. This plan would give a 2021 Opening Day 26 man payroll of  ~$126M.

 

With the exception of the Lindor idea, which would provide quite a hit, all of this would leave the Blue Jays’ system in tact, which is important to having a sustainable winner. Admittedly, this is a greedy list of shopping and one that would be considered to be somewhat unlikely…maybe. That said, it would be aggressive, which Toronto is said to be. It would provide several upgrades and would have to make Toronto a very popular choice for a deep playoff run in 2021.

 

I love spending other people’s money, but I also recognize that there as many ways for the Blue Jays to spend money as there are readers of this post. I am willing to spend this offseason since most of the league looks to be choosing to sit on the sidelines. Now I throw it to you, dear reader. How would you spend Toronto’s money?

 

 

 

*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.

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Shaun Doyle

Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.