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As MLB braces itself for an imminent work stoppage, the Toronto Blue Jays are still working to assemble a winning team for 2022.
Toronto has three key areas to address before/if/when the next season begins: Infield, starting rotation and bullpen.
Marcus Semien's possible departure will leave an MVP-sized hole in the Blue Jays' infield. The second baseman predictably declined Toronto's qualifying offer and will test the free-agent waters with mega agent Scott Boras by his side.
Should the Blue Jays fail to bring him back, there are some good infield options to consider this offseason.
Call me a romantic, but Kyle Seager and the Blue Jays seem like a match made in heaven.
The Seattle Mariners declined the third baseman's $20-million club option for 2022, making him a fascinating free agent this winter.
Seager finished last season with 35 home runs and 101 RBIs, albeit with a career-low batting average of .212. The 34-year-old has 11 years of MLB experience as a plus-defender at the hot corner.
A left-handed hitter, Seager would address multiple Blue Jays needs at once, as the team lacked an elite third baseman in 2021. Seager could take over third and allow Cavan Biggio to move to second base, where he's most comfortable.
Plus, Seager may have something even stronger in common with this Blue Jays team: An incessant will to make the playoffs. Through his 11 big-league years — all of them with Seattle — Seager has never played a postseason game.
How fun would it be if he achieved that with this young Jays squad?
Seager isn't likely to get a long-term deal, and the Mariners' refusal of his $20-million option is indicative of his value in the open market. He's an affordable and reliable start that would bring the type of veteran leadership the Blue Jays value so much.
Speaking of veteran leadership, Chris Taylor is another intriguing option in free agency.
The 31-year-old has seen reps at basically every position on the field during an eight-season career and is coming off of an all-star year with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He appeared in 148 games in 2021, mostly as a middle infielder or in the outfield. That versatility is arguably Taylor's most valuable asset and something that any team would love to have in modern-day baseball.
In contrast to Seager, Taylor has extensive playoff experience and a World Series ring.
He did receive — and reject — a qualifying offer from the Dodgers, so whoever signs him will have to surrender a draft pick to do so.
At .254/.344/.438 with 20 homers and 71 RBIs, the Blue Jays and other teams must decide if Taylor is worth it.
It's unlikely the Blue Jays will sign Corey Seager, Carlos Correa or Javier Báez, but they may have a shot at Trevor Story.
The shortstop is coming off of a 4.2 WAR year after spending his first six seasons with the Colorado Rockies. Story had 24 home runs and 75 RBIs with the lowly Rockies, along with 20 stolen bases and a .251 batting average.
Signing the 29-year-old would involve some infield shuffling for the Blue Jays, as Bo Bichette would likely need to take over at second base. Still, a two-time all-star with an elite bat and enviable speed might be worth it.
Story rejected Colorado's qualifying offer, which means he is looking for a long-term deal well north of the $18.4-million mark. It also means, however, that the Jays would need to surrender a draft pick to sign him.
There were several reasons why the Blue Jays failed to make the postseason in 2021, and their bullpen woes were at the forefront of all of them. Toronto has some good relievers on its current roster — and a few prospective arms coming up. But since you can never have too much relief pitching, here are four free-agent targets that would fit in well with the Jays.
The Blue Jays are no strangers to Daniel Hudson, who had a stint in Toronto back in 2019 before being traded away to the Washington Nationals and helping them to an unexpected World Series win.
Hudson started last season in Washington and was traded to the San Diego Padres at the deadline, where he struggled mightily. Before the trade to San Diego, Hudson had a 2.20 ERA with a 0.918 WHIP — every contending team's dream for a reliever. After the trade, his numbers dropped to a 5.21 ERA with over eight hits allowed per nine innings.
It remains to be seen whether the Padres fiasco was just a blip or a sign of things to come for the 34-year-old right-hander, but his second-half performance may make him more affordable this offseason.
The same affordability premise goes for Trevor Rosenthal, who had to sit out the entire 2021 season with a torn hip labrum.
Rosenthal was a member of the Oakland A's last year and likely won't receive an offer from them, as Oakland is largely expected to start a re-tooling process and clear its payroll of big names and contracts.
The 31-year-old right-hander has an all-star appearance under his belt and, when healthy, puts up insanely high strikeout numbers with his fastball-slider combination.
In a word: Dependable.
Archie Bradley won't blow up radar guns or turn heads with his strikeout numbers, but he is coming off a 3.71 ERA season with the Philadelphia Phillies that saw him pitch 51 innings without making headlines for the wrong reasons.
Bradley, 29, will have no shortage of suitors this winter. The Blue Jays, who have had enough bullpen excitement for a lifetime, could use a quietly dependable guy like that.
If Toronto is at all serious about boosting the 'pen and contending in 2022, it will make Raisel Iglesias an offer.
Iglesias will be the most coveted reliever of the offseason, having just declined the Los Angeles Angels' qualifying offer to enter the free-agent market after a terrific year as the team's primary closer. The right-hander pitched 70 relief innings in 2021, finishing the season with a 2.57 ERA, 34 saves and 2.8 WAR, per Baseball Reference.
It may seem crazy that a relief pitcher just turned down $18.4 million for a year, but if Iglesias can leverage this career year for a long-term deal around that mark, it'll have been worth it.
In case he hasn't heard, Toronto is a great city to settle down in.
Play for each other. Win for each other 💯 pic.twitter.com/KWuQb4Wghq
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) November 18, 2021
The Blue Jays crossed off one future rotation question mark by extending José Berríos this week. But Robbie Ray and Steven Matz hitting free agency means the team has two more pressing holes to take care of.
Here are some free agents that might fit in well should Ray and Matz choose to sign elsewhere.
A 2011 Blue Jays draft pick, Anthony DeSclafani may finally make his debut for Toronto.
DeSclafani had a great season after signing a one-year, $6-million deal with the San Francisco Giants last winter, righting the ship after a tough 2020 season and putting himself in a good position in this year's market. The 31-year-old pitched 167.2 innings over 31 starts in 2021 and finished with a 3.17 ERA and 1.091 WHIP.
It's likely the right-hander will get a multi-year deal with an annual average of at least double what he signed for last offseason. The Blue Jays should at the very least be making phone calls about DeSclafani.
The former first-round pick of the division-rival Baltimore Orioles is pretty familiar with the Rogers Centre visitor's dugout.
Last season with the Giants, Gausman pitched 192 innings and boasted a 2.81 ERA, helping San Francisco to an NL West title alongside DeSclafani. Gausman accepted a qualifying offer last season, which means there are no draft picks attached to signing him this year.
At 30 years old, the right-hander still has some prime years ahead of him. Gausman's elite strikeout ability as a four-seam, split-finger pitcher would make him a fascinating addition to the Blue Jays rotation — especially if their current two-pitch ace decided to leave.
One of the most mind-boggling moves of this young and turbulent offseason was the Rockies' decision not to extend a qualifying offer to Jon Gray.
Granted, the 30-year-old finished the season with a 4.59 ERA and 1.329 WHIP, but he has shown enough skill to warrant a close look, especially when considering the right-hander has pitched at Coors Field his whole career. The fact that there are no draft picks tethered to his name should only make Gray more enticing to contending teams.
Gray has tremendous strikeout potential and would benefit greatly from being in a less hitter-friendly ballpark.
Toronto struck out on Yusei Kikuchi last time around, but things are different now.
The Blue Jays have gone through a full-blown glow up since Kikuchi came to MLB from Japan in 2019. Joining a contending team that's become notable for helping pitchers find their stride may be exactly what the 30-year-old left-hander needs coming off an all-star season.
That said, Kikuchi just turned down a $13-million player option, meaning teams will probably need to make a considerable commitment to land him. This may be a logical next big move for the Blue Jays, as they watch the likely departure of two left-handers in Matz and Ray.
If Kikuchi can maintain his high strikeout rate while addressing his hard-hit-ball mark, he and the Blue Jays could strike a productive partnership.
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