MLB Free Agency began nearly one month ago on November 1st, but the dominos for big-ticket items have still yet to fall with December knocking at the door.
The Blue Jays made the postseason for the first time since 2016 in a 2020’s shortened 60-game season, but management, players, and fans are certainly hoping that was just the beginning. Last offseason, the team bolstered their starting pitching by signing former Dodgers’ LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu to a four-year, $80 million contract. The move paid off well for the Jays as Ryu went on to post a 5-2 record with a 2.69 ERA in 12 games, good enough for a third-place finish in AL Cy Young voting.
This offseason, the Blue Jays seem to have their eyes set on improving defensively up the middle of the field while adding some more offensive punch to their lineup in the process. The team has been linked to high-profile names like CF George Springer (Astros), CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (Red Sox), 2B DJ Lemahieu (Yankees), and 2B Kolten Wong (Cardinals).
At the moment it seems like Lemahieu will find his way back to the Yankees, clearing the path for a Kolten Wong signing if both sides can find some common ground. He certainly won’t dazzle you at the plate with a career .261 batting average and 53 home runs in 852 career games, but he also won’t be a hindrance to the lineup. More importantly, he’s coming off his second straight Gold Glove victory thanks to his stellar play at second base. This is where the Blue Jays can really use his help, as the club finished in the bottom third of the league for errors committed in 2020. Having the 30-year-old Wong between young infielders Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Rowdy Tellez will help bring some stability to the Toronto infield.
Beyond the infield, the Blue Jays do have a solid outfield trio in Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Randal Grichuk, each of which are under club control until at least 2024, so the team won’t be completely lost if they fail to land a big-ticket item like George Springer. Hernandez had a terrific year offensively last season, blasting 16 home runs and 34 RBIs in just 50 games played, while Gurriel Jr. posted similar numbers at the plate (11 HR, 33 RBI, 57 GP) and was named a Gold Glove finalist in left field for his tremendous defensive play. Grichuk had himself a fine season offensively as well with 12 homers and 35 RBIs in 55 games played, but his defensive play has been below average since joining the Blue Jays in 2018, making him the most likely candidate to be moved to DH or dealt away via trade if a big free-agent comes in.
At this point, rumours are just that. Until pen meets paper and the figures are reported, nothing is guaranteed. But it seems like Toronto is attracting mutual interest as well. According to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, George Springer has given playing for Toronto some “serious thought.”
Springer is a three-time All-Star that would bring a career. 270/.361/.491 slash line along with 174 home runs and 458 RBIs to the Blue Jays, instantly improving the top-end of their lineup. He was also named World Series MVP in 2017 when the Astros defeated the Dodgers, although that might be less of a talking point for the Springer camp in his negotiations given that accusations of sign-stealing and cheating have since made that the most controversial World Series in history.
Still, there’s no doubt that Springer would make the Blue Jays a better team in 2021. If they end up losing out on him, look for them to be all-in on Jackie Bradley Jr. who has proven to be one of the best defensive centerfielders in the game. He doesn’t have the same offensive pedigree as Springer, but he’ll certainly be a cheaper option while still bolstering Toronto’s defense.
Toronto has also been linked to names like left-handed relief pitcher Brad Hand, as reported by Jon Morosi, and veteran catcher J.T. Realmuto, per Craig Mish.
It could still be a while yet before any of these rumours play out, if at all, however. As R.J. Anderson and Mike Axisa have noted, “MLB free agency is a marathon, not a sprint.”