The Toronto Blue Jays have a number of notable names hitting free agency and they'll need to address those departures, most of which are in the starting rotation and bullpen. The latest rumors suggest the team will explore "possibilities" on the trade market and in free agency.
Toronto is close to filling one of the voids as rumors indicate starting pitcher Marco Estrada is "nearing" a two-year contract with the Blue Jays. Joel Sherman of the New York Post says the deal will be worth $26 million if finalized. Estrada, 32, was given the qualifying offer, but the Blue Jays expressed interest in signing him to a multi-year contract.
If Estrada signs it'll be one less aspect the team needs to worry about this offseason. That would mean Estrada, R.A. Dickey, Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison (who the team expects "to be better" in 2016) and either Aaron Sanchez or Roberto Osuna could possibly make up the rotation for 2016.
With that being said, the team still has offseason plans in motion after this week's general managers meetings in Boca Raton, Fla.
"We've got quite a list of possibilities (of possible players coming in from trades or free agency) and now we'll pursue some of them, some of them we'll think more about and probably won't (pursue), but there are plenty of ideas that we've come up with and now we'll see how the market unfolds," Blue Jays interim general manager Tony LaCava told Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun. "We're open minded for different scenarios."
It's hard to envision them making trades after former GM Alex Anthopoulos surrendered a lot of the organization's top prospects in the deals that brought David Price and Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto. It seems they might be more inclined to make more moves in free agency.
LaCava told reporters earlier this week that he's been "assured" the team will have "all the resources" needed to put a championship team on the field in 2016. One would argue the Blue Jays need an ace in order to be considered a World Series contender, as seen after they acquired David Price at this year's trade deadline. However, landing a top starter on the market will cost the Blue Jays a lot more money than they'd ever imagined spending.
Do LaCava and new president Mark Shapiro have those types of financial resources?
"So all you need is pitching, which costs money," writes Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star. "And given the incredible, core-of-the-earth adoration that this team unearthed - the full stadiums, the lineups for hats and jerseys and T-shirts, cracking five million TV viewers for a game - and all the millions that came with it, it would make sense to give incoming team president Mark Shapiro something more than the box Anthopoulos operated in. An extra $10 million, an extra $20 million, go overpay for some arms and win us a title."
The Blue Jays' payroll is expected to hit $114 million after they take care of their arbitration settlements. They set a franchise record with a $137 million payroll in 2014, and after their 2015 campaign there's no question they can afford to pay a top free agent, especially since they'll have approximately $45 million come off the books after 2016.
Additionally, they'll still be maintaining their young core as Stroman, Sanchez, Osuna, Dalton Pompey and Devon Travis won't hit free agency until after 2020. They also have Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin through at least the 2018 season.
There hasn't been much chatter around the Blue Jays and their free agent endeavors, but it'll be interesting to see what life after Anthopoulos brings. The Blue Jays will arguably have their best chance at winning the World Series in 2016 as Dickey, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Cecil, Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders will be free agents next year.