But for all intents and purposes, the offseason hasn’t really started yet. From Wednesday, that could change. Teams have until 8 p.m. ET to award contracts to players eligible for arbitration and those not subject to contracts (the aptly named non-bidders) will become eligible free agents to sign with any team.
Over the past few weeks, team leaders and agents have been forecasting a busy deadline with more players than usual in the open market at a time when many teams appear to be spending less on payroll. It is telling that Kris Bryant and Gary Sanchez are even mentioned as non-bidding candidates, and while these two seem likely to receive contract offers, the likes of Matthew Boyd, Tommy Pham and Carlos Rodon can still be let loose.
Adding to the uncertainty, there is no real way of knowing how the refereeing process will play out after a historically short 60-game season. Even people with years and years of experience in the business don’t know how umpires will compensate players, and MLB Trade Rumors’ three-pronged projections reflect the wider range of possible outcomes than usual.
However, determining the precise value of these salaries will be a challenge for the New Year. Right now all teams have to do is figure out which players will make it through to refereeing, and as always, some decisions are easier than others. For the Blue Jays, a relatively small class of just four players is eligible (all three MLBTR estimates are included below):
• Travis Shaw – $ 4.2 million / $ 5.4 million / $ 4.5 million
• Teoscar Hernandez – $ 2.7 million / $ 5.3 million / $ 2.7 million
• Ross Stripling – $ 2.5 million / $ 3.7 million / $ 2.7 million
• AJ Cole – 800 000 USD / 1,1 million USD / 800 000 USD
In Hernandez, the Blue Jays have a breakout star who is a lock on a contract. The most interesting question with the 28-year-old is whether extension talks could follow in the coming months.
The results weren’t there for Stripling either before or after the trade that sent him potential World Series winners from Los Angeles to Toronto. But the Blue Jays front office acquired the right-hander in part because he’s a long-term play, and Stripling’s track record (career 3.77 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 8.6 K / 9, 2.2 BB / 9) is much better than what it showed. in 2020. At 31, he is expected to be at his peak and his average fast ball speed has effectively hit 91.7 mph this year. It would be a real surprise if he did not submit a contract.
Considering the need for guns in the surveys pen and the affordable salary Cole plans to earn in 2021, he will likely be awarded a contract as well.
That leaves Shaw, who twice hit 30 homers in Milwaukee before a tough 2019 season led to the first non-tender of his career a year ago this week. After a solid but unspectacular season in which the 30-year-old made six home runs with 0.717 OPS and repairable defense in 50 games, there’s a good chance he won’t be offered once more .
Whichever path the Blue Jays take, they expect to add more players to the 40-man roster this winter. Since this list is now complete, each addition will require a corresponding movement. If nothing else, removing Shaw on Wednesday would free up the first of those spaces.
Make no mistake, the Blue Jays are very into the infielder market, it’s just that they seem to be aiming higher than Shaw at this point. The Yankees have long been considered DJ LeMahieu’s favorite with the Mets seemingly next, but the Blue Jays also appear to have a legitimate interest.
Even if LeMahieu lands with one of the New York squads, the Blue Jays could still bid on a pool of inferior players including Marcus Semien, Andrelton Simmons, Didi Gregorius, Justin Turner, Kolten Wong, Enrique Hernandez and the next in office. Ha-Seong Kim. While he’s certainly on the Blue Jays’ radar, Wong isn’t necessarily ahead of the rest on this list, according to an industry-savvy person. And while Simmons could possibly be a Toronto adjustment, there are clear indications that other clubs courted him more carefully from the start.
Either way, there are plenty of options out there right now, with more chances to join once this year’s bidding decisions are official. This will give even more choice to teams like the Blue Jays starting Wednesday night.