Looking ahead a few years in the Blue Jays rebuild, Ross Atkins and the front office should have the payroll space to do pretty much whatever they want.
The Blue Jays are going to be an interesting team to watch in 2019, but that doesn’t mean anyone should expect them to be contenders. Stranger things have happened of course, but it will likely be a year of watching minor leaguers get their feet wet, and an opportunity for many young ballplayers to earn a spot in Toronto going forward.
There are a few veteran names left on the 25 and 40 man rosters, but as the Blue Jays begin what will hopefully be a relatively short rebuild, it’s hard to say if there are any long-term pieces among them. Justin Smoak, Russell Martin, and Kendrys Morales are in the final years of their respective deals, and there are just two more years of contract control on guys like Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Randal Grichuk, Ken Giles, Devon Travis, and Kevin Pillar.
Add it all up and the Blue Jays could be a team that is made up of a completely youthful lineup in a couple years time. That doesn’t mean that Ross Atkins and the front office won’t supplement the roster when the need arises, but it’s pretty clear that they’re not looking to sign veterans this offseason unless it’s part of the big picture for the long run.
It’s really exciting to dream on a future in Toronto that includes names like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Danny Jansen, Cavan Biggio, Nate Pearson, and many more. What’s even more exciting is looking ahead to the Blue Jays payroll commitments a couple of years from now, and what it means for the franchise when they are ready to compete again.
Having a young foundation on rookie-contracts is a massive advantage for many front office, and that’s exactly where Atkins and company are already finding themselves, with the situation to only improve in a year or two. In fact, unless they sign one of their own guys to an extension or bring in a veteran on a multi-year contract, the Blue Jays will have less than 10 million in guaranteed contracts by 2021.
Yes, you read that right.
There will be plenty of players who will be arbitration eligible by then, and thus making seven figures and more. However, the only players that are guaranteed money at this stage are Gurriel Jr. at a probable bargain of 3.928,571 million, and then the four million dollar buyout on Tulowitzki’s contract.
The problem with having a boat load of young talent coming through the system at the same time is that you can’t keep them all together forever. We’re seeing this start to happen in places like Chicago with the Cubs, or even in Cleveland. For the Blue Jays though, they’ll have a solid window of 5-7 years with these young guys all together, and while they are still just prospects, it’s an exciting prospect to dream on.
The Blue Jays might not have 25 minor leaguers ready to be fully groomed by two years from now, but they won’t have to with this kind of potential payroll space. It would allow them the rare opportunity to overspend on a premium free agent if they choose, and the possible 2021 crop could have some spectacular options, pending extensions of course. I don’t think the Blue Jays are going to be able to lure Mike Trout to Toronto, and Mookie Betts seems like a good bet to be a lifer in Boston, but they would definitely have the money to offer a record-breaking contract if they felt it was the right thing to do.
In a more likely scenario, how about the Blue Jays throwing some major money at Jacob deGrom? James Paxton will be a 32 year old free agent by then, or there are high-end arms like Kyle Hendricks and Robbie Ray who are scheduled to be on the market. How about a 37 year old Jon Lester to guide the next generation of Blue Jay starters, or even a 35 year old Jake Arrieta?. There are several more options of course, including Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, but a lot could also change in two years time too, for the worse or the better of the market.
The point is, if the minor league pipeline provides the type of foundation it looks like it could, the Blue Jays are going to have a lot of financial freedom to supplement their home grown talent. That’s a wonderful recipe for success, and while the task is going to be difficult with the Red Sox and Yankees looking well set for the immediate and long term future as well, the Blue Jays should have every opportunity to be right there with them in a few years time. There’s no reason that money should hold them back.