The Toronto Blue Jays are finally in a position to take on more risk since the core is set and rather good
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The Toronto Blue Jays finished 20 games above .500 on their way to missing the playoffs, but proving that their 2020 appearance was no fluke. Now, they are about to head into the offseason in a position to take a step forward, a step toward challenging for the division title and a playoff run. After a few years of retooling, they are finally in a position to take on more risk.
When the playoff years of 2015 and 2016 were over, the front office was left with aging players and a farm system that had been emptied. As angry as it made some fans, the Shaprio/Atkins regime had to rebuild the organization and they approached losing 100 games. From the beginning of that era, we heard the expression “tolerance for risk” and it left a sour taste in a lot of mouths because the subtext was that we shouldn’t expect big deals or trades. But, times have changed.
Now, the Blue Jays find themselves with a core group of players that are overflowing with talent. Thanks to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Bo Bichette and others, the Blue Jays are a fearsome team. They have one of the best offenses in baseball and saw their pitching improve over the last 6 months. In most other divisions in baseball, their 91-71 record would have been good enough for a playoff spot. But, the AL East is what it is and while they were good, they weren’t quite good enough. It was an exciting season, but we want more. Fans want more, players want more and one has to think the front office wants more.
In order to reach ‘more’, they may have to take on risk like never before. The argument can be made that they started taking on risk when they signed Hyun Jin Ryu for 4 yrs/$80M and followed it up with George Springer at 6 yrs/$150M. Ryu started to show the risks as the season went on and Springer missed so much time. How effective will each be in a few years from now? In two years, Ryu could be rather mediocre and Springer could find himself a corner outfielder/DH soon after that. There is definite risk there. For a front office, large contracts can also tie your hands later on.
With that in min, the Blue Jays will enter the offseason looking for more. That means, there very well could be more risk in their future. Signing Robbie Ray, while a priority, doesn’t come risk free. He will be 30 when the 2022 season starts and is a hard throwing lefty. Having multiple seasons like 2021 are not likely and will become less and less so as he ages. Steven Matz is also a risk, even though many fans want to see him back.
Beyond that, the free agent pitching market is full of big names who will seek big money. Obviously, the CBA situation could impact everything and could cause some delay in the offseason, or even some change of direction for some clubs. But, setting that aside, Spotrac has 37 year old Max Scherzer getting $35M AAV and 34 year old Clayton Kershaw getting $30M AAV. Sure, these are extreme examples and Ray, Matz and guys like Marcus Stroman, Carlos Rodon and Kevin Gausman will likely not reach those salaries, but should land around $20M AAV. Heck, even dependable relievers could see $15M AAV, which is the definition of risk. From year to year, bullpen arms are the least consistent.
On the offensive side of things, the short stop market will be insane, which is fine since Toronto has Bichette. However, could they look to keep a high caliber offense and move someone to third? They did so last winter, so it isn’t out of the realm of possibility. That comes with risk, just ask Cavan Biggio. However, setting that aside, even if they do land a big bat, the aging factor will continue to be there.
Of course, we’re only talking about financial risk, but it has to be front and center since in a little while, the Blue Jays will need to figure out how to keep Bo and Vlad in uniform for longer. That will be incredibly expensive and any signings now will have an impact later on.
If Toronto wants to keep its money situation loose for those future years, or use its financial freedom in another way, they can look to pull off a big trade to address their needs. However, that will also come with risk. This past July, the Blue Jays parted ways with Austin Martin and Simeon Woods-Richardson for Jose Berrios, which is no small pkg. How much tolerance will Atkins & Co have for trading more prospect capital? They did attempt to land Jose Ramirez and Robbie Grossman last July, so maybe there is some tolerance there. That said, it isn’t clear whether the deal for Berrios would have happened if either of the above bats came to Toronto. But, what this does do is provide us with insight into the tolerance level of the front office.
Whether it is via free agency, or trade, what is apparent is that the Toronto Blue Jays are in a position to take on more risk than they have since the current management took office. They won’t go full Alex Anthopoulos this winter, but they will be leaning a little more toward the ‘flags fly forever’ side of things and that means an exciting offseason and maybe a longer season in 2022.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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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.