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Blue Jays Could Benefit From Post Lockout Chaos

The end of the lockout (fingers crossed!) might create opportunities for the Blue Jays with high-tier free agents


Featured Images Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase


 


Hopefully the lockout will end soon, with the signing of a new CBA.  When that happens, there will be a rush to get spring training started to preserve as much of the regular season as possible.   That rush – and the likely abbreviated spring training – will almost certainly also create pressure on free agent player signings.  Teams will want to sign free agents as quickly as possible, to ensure that the players are ready for opening day.

 

This may benefit lower-tier free agents, in that they will receive a brief but potentially intense bidding war.  But what of the major unsigned free agents – like Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant, Trevor Story and Freddie Freeman?

 

Each of those players is expecting (with justification) a mega-contract that will cover a large part of their remaining career.  But contracts in the deep 9 digits take time, and agents like Scott Boras are expert at playing one team off against another to maximize the benefit to their clients.  Will that be possible in the limited time available between a handshake and “play ball”?  And what are the implications if it is not?

 

Consider one possible scenario.  Kris Bryant is expected to be looking for a contract in the 6 years / $160 million range.  But teams might be reluctant to go that high, given his poor 2020, unfavourable Statcast x-stats in 2021, and apparently declining defense.  In a normal year, his agent (that Boras fellow I mentioned earlier) might be able to convince teams to overcome their concerns.  But this is anything but a normal year.  Suppose that, despite Scott’s best efforts, an offer in that range is not forthcoming.  What would Sparkles do?

 

It would make sense, in that scenario, for Bryant to “pull a Semien” – to sign a one-year pillow contract, and wait until the upcoming offseason to maximize his mega-deal.  But where would he go?  Bryant’s main selling point is his bat, so he would likely want to play for a team whose ballpark was hitter friendly (like Toronto – ranked 7th friendliest in 2021) and who played in a division that had other hitter-friendly parks (like Boston’s #4 and Baltimore’s #5).  He would like to be surrounded by other good hitters, to inflate his RBI and runs scored stats (Toronto’s 2021 wRC+ of 116 was second in MLB) and to ensure he got good pitches to hit.  Ideally, the team would be a legitimate World Series contender – nothing like a good playoff run to enhance a pending free agent’s visibility! (Depth Charts projects the 2022 Jays to have the highest win percentage in the AL)  And of course, it would help if the team had previous experience in signing one-year deals that worked out.

 

So imagine that a Bryant (or Story, or Correa, or Freeman) were to come available on a one-year pillow deal.  Should the Jays be interested?  Many writers have pointed out that the Jays might still have money left to spend in 2022, but they need to be careful about signing long-term deals as the cost of their existing players might go up in a hurry over the next few years.  But the rebuilding years are (hopefully!) over, and the Jays are currently in go-for-it mode.  So a one-year deal for an established star in a position of need would feed their bulldog very nicely.

 

The bottom line

It is entirely possible that team are sitting on small mountains of cash, and are only waiting for the lockout to end so they can throw it at the remaining free agent uberstars.  But it is also possible that one or more of those stars will be unable to find the deals that they want in such a limited timeframe, and that they will be looking for one-year deals.  I strongly suspect that the Jays recognize this, and that they have their pillows ready and waiting.

 

 

 

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

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Jim Scott

A Jays fan since pre-Series, Jim’s biggest baseball regret is that he did not play hooky with his buddies on 7 Apr 77. But hearing “Fanfare For The Common Man” played from a rooftop on 24 Oct 92 helped him atone.