Article Written by Hudson Stewart (@hudson_stewart6)
The upcoming MLB free agent class is touted as one of the most star studded classes that we’ve seen in a while. The likes of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will reach the open market for the first times in their careers, and it will be very interesting to see where those two end up. However, as a Blue Jays fan, I’m not at all expecting the team to go after either of these two stars. So I’ve decided to look at some of the other free agents in this year’s class, and who the Jays could realistically sign. In this article, I’ll list 5 players that I think the Jays should go after, and why they should.
When you look at next year’s team, it’s abundantly clear that the infield is covered and that no significant additions need to be made. The Jays have several options around the infield, with Diaz, Gurriel, Urena, Tulowitzki, Drury, Solarte, Travis, Bichette, Smoak, and even potentially Donaldson in the mix. With that, I think it’s pretty unlikely that we see any additions to the infield, but I would expect Diaz and Solarte to be traded away this off-season to make some more room for some other players.
As for the rest of the team, that’s where I could see some changes made. The Jays have some good pieces in the outfield, with Billy Mckinney, Teoscar Hernandez, and Randal Grichuk all likely returning next year. But, there is also a huge question mark on whether or not Kevin Pillar will return with the team. It seems like every winter we think Pillar will get traded, and maybe this is the year. Pillar has always been an excellent defender, but his inconsistency at the plate brings him down. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he’s still here next year, but I would also like the team to at least look at moving him to another club. It’s easy to look at this outfield core and say it’s set for next year, but I still think they could sign someone. There will be injuries for sure, and in order to prepare for that, the team needs to be active in the free agent market.
Pitching is where the Blue Jays will likely make the most noise in free agency. They’re going to have at least 1 spot in the rotation open, as well as a few bullpen spots. I don’t think the Jays need to sign a No.1 guy, but if they were to sign a No.3 or 4 starter, it would really help bolster the rotation. As for the bullpen, we know of a few guys who will probably be back there next year. Ken Giles will likely remain the closer next year, and Ryan Tepera will probably stay in an 8th inning role. I think Justin Shafer has earned himself a spot back there with how well he pitched in his call up, and then I think Joe Biagini will be in the bullpen as a long reliever next year. But other than that, the Jays don’t have many locks for positions back there, and that will lead to them being active in the market for relievers.
Free Agent No.1 - Marwin Gonzalez
Right now, the Jays don’t really have a super-utility guy who can play all around the outfield and the infield. Marwin Gonzalez perfectly fits that bill, and he does it while being an above average hitter as well. This year, he’s hitting .254 with 14 homers and 58 RBIs, and that’s a very good line; but last year he was even better, hitting .303 with 23 homers and 90 RBIs. Gonzalez also has championship pedigree, as he was part of last year’s Astros, who won the World Series. If the Jays were to sign him, he would probably start in left field, and then move around the field more as injuries start to pile up. For example, if Devon Travis goes down, you play him at 2nd, or if Justin Smoak goes down, he can play 1st. A lot of teams will be in the mix for Gonzalez as he’s such a good player, but I really think that the Jays should push hard for a guy like him and maybe even overpay a bit.
Free Agent No.2 - J.A. Happ
This name is familiar to Jays fans, because he pitched here for 2 ½ seasons before being dealt to the Yankees at the trade deadline. Happ has already said that he might want to re-sign here, and a reunion between the two sides makes a lot of sense. First of all, Happ would get to pitch in a place where he’s already comfortable, and he wouldn’t really have to adjust to being with a new team. Second of all, Happ is a really good pitcher, and he would easily slot in at the number 3 spot in the Jays’ rotation if Stroman and Sanchez are both healthy. He holds a 3.80 ERA this season, and that’s after posting a 3.53 ERA the year before, and a 3.18 ERA the year before that. You know what you’re getting with Happ, so signing him wouldn’t be very risky, and I think overall, this makes a lot of sense for everyone involved.
Free Agent No.3 - Kelvin Herrera
Herrera is currently on the disabled list and might miss the rest of the 2018 season. But that shouldn’t hurt his free agent value very much, considering how dominant he’s been over his career. He holds a 2.44 ERA between Kansas City and Washington this season, and a career ERA of 2.82. His closing days are behind him, but Herrera can still be a dominant late inning reliever, like he was for the Royals when they were making their World Series runs. The Jays should definitely look at signing Herrera, because other than Giles and Tepera, I’m not sure who’s going to get outs late in games for them.
Free Agent No.4 - Tony Sipp
With Aaron Loup gone and Thomas Pannone probably heading towards being a starter, the Jays don’t have a “lefty specialist” in their bullpen. They could try Tim Mayza out in that spot, but I think we’ve seen enough of him to know that he’s not very effective at the big league level. So, that should lead the Jays to look at some free agent pitchers who can fill the role. The one I think they should go after is Tony Sipp. Sipp has had an up and down career to this point, but currently holds a 2.01 ERA in 41 games this season. He’s also striking out more batters this year, and that shows in his 9.8 strikeouts per 9, which is his highest since 2015. There’s no question that Sipp is a wildcard; he’s been very inconsistent in his career. But at this point, he’s dominating hitters, and it’s worth it for the Blue Jays to take a shot on a guy like him because they might get an outstanding pitcher out of it.
Free Agent No.5 - Matt Harvey
This is probably the least realistic one on this list, but I do think it makes some sense. After coming into this season as the ace of the Mets' staff, Matt Harvey’s career has completely fallen off of the rails. He was abysmal this year with the Mets, and now finds himself on the Reds where he continues to struggle. He has put up better numbers in Cincinnati, but still not numbers that show he’s back to being a #1 starter. With all of that being said, Harvey is set to become a free agent this offseason and I think the Blue Jays should take a shot at signing him. Yes, he’s been bad this season, but good pitchers have bad seasons all the time, and what’s stopping him from bouncing back next year? It’s definitely a bit risky, but if you were to offer him a short-term deal and plug him into the rotation, you might be pleasantly surprised with the results. And if he continues to struggle, then he’ll be gone soon because he’d be on a short contract. Again, this probably won’t happen, but if I were the GM, I’d give it a shot for sure.
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