Time for Blue Jays to act after missing Lindor and Sugano

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TORONTO – In the absence of the kind of move that matches the heightened expectations created by the Toronto Blue Jays, every name that comes off the board will serve as a test of confidence in their off-season plan.
The New York Mets’ acquisition of Francisco Lindor on Thursday, hours before the 5 p.m. ET post deadline on Japanese right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano, came and went without a deal with MLB, became the latest exposure on that front. .

In the wake of the famed flushes of Kevin Gausman and Ha-seong Kim, as the San Diego Padres and Mets shake things up, and in a slowly changing global market, there is fertile ground for cynicism.

The Blue Jays have made calls and asked for and preceded almost every consequence available. Their remarkable work so far has been limited to re-signing Robbie Ray. Given how aggressive they have been, you would think they would have accomplished more by this point.

Their failure to do so is either a cause for concern or simply the result of a dysfunctional business environment caused by the economic fallout from the pandemic, depending on your perspective.

Now, not acquiring Lindor – a possibility that has captured the imaginations of some Blue Jays fans on social media – is not the end of their winter. Bo Bichette deserves to be the team’s undisputed shortstop anyway, and general manager Ross Atkins would do well to anoint him so publicly.

But with Lindor off the table – the Blue Jays would have played a pretty big role for him – the rest of their pursuits need to be more focused. And rather than playing the remaining options and alternatives that are still plentiful, now is the time to force the issue with their preferred targets before the market starts playing them.

George Springer, another Mets target who suddenly has a clearer path should be at the forefront in this regard.

After adding Lindor and Carlos Carrasco (we’ll discuss Cleveland’s return later), the Mets under new owner Steve Cohen are currently expected to have a payroll of around $ 180 million, according to FanGraphs.

At a minimum, an executive expects him to do some more in-depth signings, each pushing them closer and closer to the competitive balance tax threshold of $ 210 million. Springer will cost at least $ 25 million per season, which doesn’t leave them much room below the line, and it’s uncertain if they would cross it.

During his introductory press conference, Cohen told reporters that “at some point we will, but maybe not this season. ”

“I’m not afraid to take it back, but you want flexibility on our payroll,” he added. “Long-term contracts can limit a team’s capabilities in the future. I said we are a major market team and we should spend like we are a major market team, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to spend like drunk sailors.

The important background here is that Robinson Cano’s one-season suspension after testing positive for a banned substance wiped out his $ 24 million success this season, but that same amount remains on the record in each of the two. coming years. If they want to extend Lindor, continue to carry Jacob deGrom’s $ 37.5 million, consider extending Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Michael Conforto, or any of their other pending free agents, it’s fair to go. ask if they can, or if it’s reasonable, carry another big ticket like Springer, too.

Mets President Sandy Alderson alludes to a yellow light there, but between Lindor, Carrasco, James McCann and Trevor May, it’s already been a pretty solid offseason.

Therefore, there is a route to Springer for Toronto, especially if Atkins and his team decide that’s it and it’s time to go get him. At $ 125 million over five years, maybe the Mets fit, but if the Blue Jays get close to $ 150 million over five years, does that seal the deal?

They need to find out now and change quickly if it doesn’t happen, decide who they will overpay for, because that’s what it will take. The reason they took Hyun-Jin Ryu off last winter was because they gave him a fourth year, and some have suggested they were the only team willing to do so.

So far, the Blue Jays have held firm on their assessments, refusing to budge. A source suggested this is what happened with Kim, who received similar but shorter-term dollars with the Padres, and there was similar speculation about a line in the sand with the Sugano camp. .

With lesser-known products, that’s understandable. But at some point they have to bet and it’s better if it’s for someone they have total belief in, rather than someone whose market has pushed them and fallen into their comfort zone. financial.

After all, if the Blue Jays aren’t willing to swallow ineffective back-ends for deals and they’re going to wallow in the middle market security of two- or three-year contracts, then they’re not really pushing the market forward. program. as aggressively as they should be.

And if they’re not doing the right thing in free agency, then maybe it’s best to use their potential capital to trade for players, as it’s traditionally easier for the Blue Jays to keep players in Toronto than it is. to attract them here. in the first place.

In exchange for Lindor and Carrasco, Cleveland won shortstop Amed Rosario, well-regarded infielder Andres Gimenez, rookie right-hander Josh Wolf and outfielder Isaiah Greene a second-round pick last summer.

Rosario is an established big leaguer while Gimenez posted an OPS of 0.732 in 49 games in his rookie year last summer. If Cleveland were determined to prepare a young infielder to step in, the Blue Jays wouldn’t have a game for what isn’t named Bichette, Cavan Biggio or Vladimir Guerrero Jr., obvious non-starters.

Maybe the Blue Jays could have built a package around Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and top prospect Jordan Groshans. But doing that for a guaranteed year for Lindor while creating a left field hole that would cost around $ 10 million to fill is a good way to shorten their competitive window.

Adding two years and an option on Carrasco, which ZiPS projects a value of 2.9 fWAR this season, would have helped, and perhaps framed in that light, it changes some of the calculations.

Only Ryu projects better under ZiPS at 3.1, with Robbie Ray next at 2.5, so picking up Carrasco, even with $ 27 million guaranteed over the next two years, would have improved rotation, another area of ​​focus.

For some reason that didn’t happen, and now the Blue Jays have to decide what to do next. A lot of good players stay and some of them will end up taking their money, but they should go and get who they really want, rather than letting others decide which way to go for them.



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