This Blue Jays find themselves in an odd spot this off season. It’s as if they have a delicious meal in the oven with their upcoming wave of prospects, but it’s not going to be ready for an hour … Or in baseball time-speak, a year. So should they just sit there and wait for their beautiful dinner to cook, or should they try and snack on some potato chips in the meantime?
For now, they’re left with three major contracts they’re still letting bleed off the the books from the last time they were trying to make a serious run at the pennant. They are:
Russell Martin: $20 million left in 2019, free agent after that.
Troy Tulowitzki: $20 million left in 2019, $14, million in 2020, a $4 million buyout / $15 million option choice in 2021.
Kendrys Morales: $12 million left in 2019, free agent after that.
Those are the biggest contracts for now. Everything else is under $10 million in commitment for the next three years. The only other somewhat large commitment for 2019 is Justin Smoak, who is owed $8 million but can then also become a free agent after that.
The rather obvious conclusion here is that other than Tulowitzki, the Blue Jays are going to have a wide open budget to play with following the 2019 season, and even Tulo’s contract starts to drop at that point. Between Martin, Morales, Smoak and the drop in Tulo’s contact, the Blue Jays will have $46 million more to play with for 2020 than they will for 2019, and it’s all going to happen at a point where they are flooding the system with talented prospects. In other words, despite the misery of the last two seasons, exciting times are ahead for this franchise.
But in the meantime, the front office is left with an interesting problem. Should it do anything of significance this winter, or should they just sit there letting the old contracts bleed out for one more year while the farm system starts to deliver its goods?
The problem that club faces is that with the Red Sox and Yankees both hitting high notes (and even the Rays to a degree for that matter), are they better off just tossing 2019 aside (as far as true contention is concerned) and focusing on the 2020’s, or is there some way to squeeze value out of both the present and the future. With the way the free agent market is currently constructed, the majority of the value you will get in any long-term deal is going to be front loaded, which is super problematic for the Blue Jays because they want any contract or situation they take on at this point to be back loaded in value when the likes of Vlad Jr. and Bo Bichette start to gain a foothold.
In many ways, the Blue Jays are the perfect example to a large scale example of how the current MLB free agent system is flawed. They reside in an American League where seven of their 14 competitors either stink or are in the process of tearing down the roster (Orioles, Tigers, Royals, White Sox, Twins, Rangers and Mariners). However, despite a very strong farm, you can make a serious argument they should do nothing of impact for the next few months (free agent wise) because they would be in such a good position to go nuts next winter with what will essentially amount to a clean slate to go along with all the young faces that will be graduating in 2019.
For now, I think most fans would agree that the best course of action is to bolster the clubs’ fortunes for 2020 and beyond, and that’s really, really hard to do when dabbling in the free agent market. Here is a link to the current free agents; do you see anybody there who is likely to be more valuable in 2020 something than in 2019? I guess you could try to find somebody who is a boom or bust guy on a one-year deal and then try to flip them at the deadline, but boy is that a meticulous exercise.
Perhaps if the Blue Jays were in the AL Central I would feel differently. Maybe if you tried to take their current team and add a few wins to it and you had four tomato cans to beat up on 19 times a year you would draw a path to competing with Cleveland next summer. But in the AL East, you need need to bring a canon to the gun fight, and it feels like the best chance Toronto will probably have to do that will be in 2020 and beyond. This division has taken a minimum of 93 games to win for 18 straight years, and with the current arrangement, that fact doesn’t appear likely to change anytime soon.
I don’t think the Blue Jays can realistically win 90 games in 2019 unless a million things go right, but in 2020, I don’t have to squint that hard to see the possibilities, and they are exciting. Especially if they have more resources to play with at that point …. Which brings us back to the major question: Should the Blue Jays make any major free agent investments this winter?
Should the Blue Jays make any major free agent investments this winter?
Yes, start trying to get better now and worry about the back end of the contracts later.
No, let the process play out for another year and maximum your financial flexibility for the early 2020’s.
326 votes total