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Turning the attention to the free agent market

Now that the World Series is over and the Blue Jays have their new manager in place, it’s time for Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro to turn their attention to the free agent market.

Since I’d rather do anything than talk about the Boston Red Sox winning a World Series, let’s focus on what the official end of the season means for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Ten days from now is when the free agent market officially opens, and now that Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro have hired Charlie Montoyo to be their new manager, they can turn their attention to other things like continuing to build the roster.

I wrote about it a few weeks ago and suggested that the Blue Jays may not do much in the way of upgrading their offence, but that doesn’t mean I think they’ll sit by and doing nothing this winter. The pitching staff has several talented pieces and some minor league reinforcements on the way, but I would expect that Atkins will seek to upgrade both the rotation and the bullpen.

It’s safe to expect that Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, and Ryan Borucki will be in the starting rotation next season, but beyond that there are very few guarantees. Talented arms like Sean Reid-Foley, Thomas Pannone, and maybe Sam Gaviglio are expected to compete as well, but it’s going to take more than those six to get through a 162 game season. Even the “guarantees” are somewhat suspect, as Sanchez has battled injuries for the last two seasons, Stroman had a couple DL visits of his own in 2019, and Borucki has all of a half season under his belt.

With that in mind, I would expect the Blue Jays will pursue at least one solid starting pitcher, and likely a few cheaper gambles. I don’t know that we should expect to see them striking early in the market either, especially after the slow pace that things went last winter. More likely they’ll wait out the market and look for a potential bargain, especially because they’re not expected to be serious competitors in 2019 anyway, and they’d like to give their young arms experience as well.

There could be plenty of non-tendered pitchers that join the list, but for now there are a few veterans I could see fitting the description of what Atkins should be looking for. While I expect Toronto to have interest in J.A. Happ, I sincerely doubt that he’ll be left looking for a decent contract, and I predict he’ll re-sign in New York, unfortunately.

There are suitable candidates though, and the list could include guys like Gio Gonzalez, Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, Tyson Ross, and plenty of others. Looking closer at the “bargain bin”, I would expect that guys like Drew Pomeranz, Chris Tillman, or even Marco Estrada could be looking for a contract into the new year.

As far as the bullpen is concerned, I would argue that the Blue Jays could and should spend some money there, for a variety of reasons. While there are plenty of arms in the organization, a young starting rotation would benefit from having a strong bullpen to support their work, and it could be something that new manager Charlie Montoyo comes to rely on a bit, maybe even in the form of using the occasional “Opener” strategy. Beyond that though, there are some potential bargains on the market this winter, and there could be great potential to time a “pillow contract” candidate like Cody Allen or Andrew Miller, and turn them into a valuable trade chip in July.

Next: Charlie Montoyo and the possibility of an “Opener”

As we draw closer to official start of free agency and the rumours begin to fly, be sure to stay tuned to Jays Journal. It’s a lot more fun talking about trade rumours and potential free additions than watching the Red Sox hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy. Yeah, I know I said that already.

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