Sign-up for this years Pitch Talks live events! Next up: February 1st at Rivoli featuring: Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins and President of Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Bob Kendrick.
Curtis Granderson’s one-year, $5 million deal with the Blue Jays can be perceived in different ways. One might say it’s a depth move that adds experience to an already weak outfield while plugging in a left-handed bat to the lineup. Others could see it as a case of déjà vu after the Blue Jays yet again failed to sign a blue-chip free agent in the off-season and settled on a soon to be 37-year-old.
At the end of the day, options and flexibility have been the name of the game for Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro. They’ve preached their plans of competing against a stacked American League East (despite failing to reach .500 in 2017), while putting themselves in a position to sell at the deadline. The way management has dealt with contracts during the offseason makes me think they’ll be ready to pull the chute whenever deemed necessary. And it all starts with Josh Donaldson.
In 426 games with the Blue Jays, Donaldson hit 111 homeruns, drove in an even 300 RBI and took home the 2015 AL MVP title. He’s been the team’s best player since the moment he stepped foot in the clubhouse; more than deserving of the “blank check” treatment that franchise players should receive when negotiating a contract extension.
Had the Jays been happy with the roster they have, Donaldson would have been signed to a long-term deal with an annual salary that matched his value. Instead, he and the team settled on a one-year, $23 million deal to avoid the sticky, hostile war zone we like to call arbitration; adding Donaldson’s name to the other five contracts ready to expire by the end of the season.
Along with Donaldson, the likes of Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, Justin Smoak and newly acquired Curtis Granderson have one-year remaining with the club. They can be dealt as rentals at the deadline to fetch a quality return of young talent for the Blue Jays to evolve from a team in decline to a team with potential. Kendrys Morales has two years remaining on his contract, but it’s a safe bet the team is looking for buyers (should there be a team in the league interested in a 34-year-old who’s hitting has drastically dropped off and supplies next to no fielding capability).
The Blue Jays are the third oldest team in the MLB and their injury plagued, debacle of a 2017 created a need for turnover. Anthony Alford and Teoscar Hernandez are next in line to fill the voids in the outfield, while Bo Bichette and Logan Warmoth hope to get a call in the next year or two to get reps in the infield. The highest touted prospect in the Jays’ chain is Vladimir Guerrero Jr. who’s drawn comparisons and shown signs of an even higher ceiling than his MVP and 9-time All-Star father, Vladimir Guerrero.
Toronto avoided arbitration with 25-year-old right-hander Aaron Sanchez, agreeing on $2.7 million for the upcoming season. Both 26-year-old Marcus Stroman and 22-year-old Roberto Osuna filed for arbitration, but like Sanchez, remain under team control until 2020. All three appear to be cogs in the Jays’ future plans but the team will need to add pitching depth to compliment them if they hope to suppress the hard hitting division in which they reside.
The Jays are a team in transition and they aren’t fooling anyone, so don’t be surprised when Atkins delivers the “it’s time to go in a different direction” speech this summer.