Article Written by Hudson Stewart (@hudson_stewart6)
While teams like the Phillies and Padres went out and made big moves this off-season, the Blue Jays made it clear that they weren’t going to be big spenders. They were never in the conversation for Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, and only made moves that were low-risk. However, despite the fact that they didn’t make any big splashes, I still think this off-season was a success for the Blue Jays front office.
First of all, here’s a list of the notable moves that the Blue Jays made:
Traded Aledmys Diaz to Houston for SP Trent Thornton
Signed INF Eric Sogard to a minor-league contract
Signed SP Matt Shoemaker to a 1-year, $3,500,000 contract
Traded Conor Panas to the Padres in exchange for SP Clayton Richard
Signed RP David Phelps to a 1 year, 2,500,000 contract with a 2020 club option
Signed SS Freddy Galvis to a 1-year, 5,0000 contract with a 2020 club option
Signed RP John Axford to a minor-league contract
Signed RP Bud Norris to a minor-league contract
Signed SP Clay Buchholz to a 1-year, 3,000,000 contract
All of those moves have very little risk to them, and have the potential to give the Jays a high reward. With the starting rotation, the Jays could’ve easily gone into the season with a rotation of guys already on the roster (Stroman, Sanchez, Borucki, Reid-Foley, Gaviglio). But instead, they created some internal competition by bringing in some veteran arms that have pitched in the majors before. The additions of Buchholz , Richard and Shoemaker likely have the Jays’ rotation looking like this: Stroman, Sanchez, Shoemaker, Borucki, and Richard until Buchholz is ready to pitch. I like this approach much more than handing rotation spots to unproven guys like Reid-Foley or Pannone. It gives them more time to develop in the minors, and also doesn’t force a guy like Ryan Borucki to be the 3rd starter already. I especially like the Buchholz signing because he’s coming off a pretty good bounce-back year. He made 16 starts for Arizona and posted a 2.01 ERA for them. If he can pitch at close to that level in Toronto, then they could flip him at the deadline for a decent return (As they can with all of the guys on 1-year deals).
As for the bullpen, this was the main focus for the team this off-season. Other than Giles and Tepera, the Jays didn’t really have any reliable arms back there. I still think the bullpen is a question mark going into this season, but the Jays did add a few solid arms to it. Jays fans are familiar with Axford, as he was here last year before being traded to the Dodgers. As for Phelps and Norris, I think they’ll both fill the gap nicely in a middle relief role. Phelps missed all of 2018 due to Tommy John Surgery, but in 2017, he had a 3.40 ERA through 54 total appearances. As for Bud Norris, he was effective for the Cardinals last season, putting up a 3.59 ERA in 64 appearances. It’s too early to tell right now, but if I had to guess, I’d say the bullpen looks like this on Opening Day: Biagini as a long reliever, Norris, Phelps and Axford in middle relief, Tim Mayza as the lefty specialist, and then Tepera as the set up man for Ken Giles, who’s the closer.
The Jays mainly added pitching depth in the off-season, but they also added some infield depth with the signings of Freddy Galvis and Eric Sogard. Sogard will likely start the year in Buffalo, but Galvis has a real shot to play shortstop for the Jays on Opening Day. Obviously the Jays will give Lourdes Gurriel Jr. a shot to play there sometimes, as well as some second base and outfield, but I also expect Galvis to get a substantial number of starts at shortstop. He’s been one of the best defensive shortstops over the past few years, while also producing offensively, and I’m excited to see him play this year.
Overall, this off-season won’t be one that we’ll specifically remember for any big moves, but I do think that the Jays did a good job given the position they’re in. They were never going to be big spenders this year, but I think that they signed some players that have the potential to produce this year, and potentially bring back a haul at the trade deadline. My favourite part about the contracts is that even if they all blow up in their faces, the Blue Jays are only committed for one year, so there’s very little risk involved for the team.
Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)