The 2020 MLB season was, of course, highlighted by the coronavirus that was and still is running roughshod through the United States and much of the rest of the world. In this previous there were plenty of surprises. One of those was the success of the Toronto Blue Jays. I’m sure some of you reading this are wondering, how can a team with a handful of supremely talented young stars and a brand new $80 million ace could take people by surprise? Some help from a rollercoaster 2020 season and a productive season from unlikely sources is the answer. This begs a very important and potentially very expensive question, where do you go from here? Is the answer to get aggressive and sign a marquee free agent and/or trade for an impact bat or arm? Or is it to play the patient route and reap the benefits of seeing your talented farm system grow? The answer is yes. But analyzing the upside of both routes is important.
The most difficult aspect of being the general manager of an up and coming team is knowing when to let your talent do the work and when you should try and get that last piece to get them over the hump. If there’s money to be spent, Toronto should undoubtedly thrown their name in the free agent hats, at the very least. With the marquee talents of JT Realmuto, Trevor Bauer, and George Springer essentially being up for grabs as of now, there is no reason Toronto shouldn’t at least try to get one of these guys. Bauer would fill the team’s biggest weakness, which is starting pitching. Pairing him with Hyun-Jin Ryu, who is coming off of a very good 2020 season, and potential ace of the future Nate Pearson gives Toronto a very strong top 3 in their pitching staff. Springer, albeit not entirely necessary, would provide much needed veteran presence in the lineup and in the outfield. And Realmuto, baseball’s best catcher, needs no explanation for why he’d be a good fit for this roster.
But should Toronto pursue any trades? We’ve heard about them being interested in Francisco Lindor, just like the rest of the MLB. Lindor is a premier talent, anyone who has seen him play would know that. But is he the right guy to focus on? With the second generation MLB superstars in Cavan Biggio, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette taking up 75% of the infield, their need isn’t at shortstop, a position Bichette has proven to be plenty good at. Not to mention that they have to sign Lindor long term if they trade for him, otherwise it’s seemingly pointless. There are some names in the trade market that might be attainable for the Blue Birds. Joe Musgrove is certainly a name they should look at, especially with their farm system depth and Pittsburgh’s dearth of minor league talent. They seem to make a natural match.
Patience is a Virtue:
With a roster that seems almost ready to be a legitimate contender, sometimes being patient is all there is to do. They’ll still have most of their core young players under team control for the next three to four seasons, meaning the clocking isn’t ticking just yet. And with plenty of young talent rising through the team’s system, maybe the waiting game is the answer. Toronto’s top prospect, and consensus top 10 prospect in the sport, Nate Pearson made his Major League debut this season, but it was short lived due to injury. The team just added a top tier draft talent in Austin Martin, the Vanderbilt utility man. Throw in Jordan Groshans (1st round, 2018), Alek Manoah (1st round, 2019), and Simeon Woods-Richardson (2nd round, 2018) whom they acquired in the Marcus Stroman trade, and this team seems to have the foundations for a very bright future on both sides of the ball.
But is it enough? It’s safe to assume the players I just mentioned are still years away from being consistent and productive players that the Blue Jays can reasonably rely on. Pearson seems about ready, just needs to be able to stay on the field. And even though Martin and Groshans are talented, neither has much minor league experience (or any, in Martin’s case). Patience might be the move this offseason, but it cannot be the answer long term.
Blowing money on the top free agents this offseason is not the most responsible move, though it might feel like the best option. In an offseason where a lot of money was lost, the best move might be to be frugal with the money the team does have and let their current pieces develop. If the Blue Jays play their cards right, they can make real improvements to their roster without blowing away the farm or their bank account.