The Jays have three key players who are pending unrestricted free agents this off season: SS Xander Boegaerts, 1B Anthony Rizzo and MR Paco Rodriguez. Of the three the jays pushed the hardest to retain Rodriguez, he was a great addition to the back end of the Jays pen but he was looking for closer money and with CL Rex Brothers holding down that job and signed for 2 more seasons it was just too rich for the Jays blood. All three players were extended qualifying offers and all 3 declined so they will hit the open market. This situation creates a few holes in the Jays lineup that GM Ryan Stewart is going to have to fill but there is a silver lining as the Jays have the potential to add up to 3 extra compensation selections in the 2021 First Year Player Draft.
Salary Arbitration Cases
The Jays had 14 salary arbitration cases go to a hearing this season and GM Ryan Stewart and his staff was very busy getting all of the offers prepped for the arbitrator. The rumor mill has been churning that the Jays have been working on long term extensions for a couple of their players including the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award Winners C Max Pentecost and SP Jamie Cox. GM Ryan Stewart was asked to comment but revealed very little about the ongoing negotiations saying "we would absolutely love to get both Cox and Pentecost signed to long term deals. It is something that we have high on our list of priorities. We tried to get deals done before arbitration and there just wasn't enough time. We will start talking again in the off season and see where things go from there".
Blue Jays Salary Arbitration Cases and 2021 Salaries
C Max Pentecost - $11,250,000
RF Justin Williams - $8,750,000
SP Kohl Stewart - $8,000,000
LF Randal Girchuk - $1,000,000
C Tomoya Mori - $2,600,000
MR Carson Fulmer - $1,000,000
MR Chris Richardson - $800,000
SP Marcus Stroman - $1,900,000
SP Jamie Cox - $11,250,000
CF Andrew Alpin - $800,000
MR Tony Boone - $800,000
1B A.J. Reed - $11,250,000
2B Gotsuke Katoh - $800,000
SP Nathan Kirby - $2,200,000
2021 Operating Budget
Rogers Communication, the parent company of the Toronto Blue Jays announced that GM Ryan Stewart would have a 2021 operating budget of $178,000,000 which is the 4th highest in the Majors this season. They have allocated $7,500,00 of that budget to the 2021 First Year Player Draft. As it currently sits the Jays have $101,370,000 in salary committed in payroll for the 2021 season. When you include scouting ($18,000,000) and Player Development ($15,000,000) the Jays have roughly $35,000,000 in money available for free agents this off season. The Jays have the 8th biggest payroll in the game with the Los Angeles Dodgers having the highest at just over $185,000,000.
GM Ryan Stewart's Off Season Wish List
With the start of the Off season here GM Ryan Stewart has a number of holes to fill. Some of them could be filled internally with prospects that are already in the Jays system. GM Ryan Stewart also didn't rule out going outside the organization via trade or in free agency.
1. Starting Shortstop
With the departure of SS Xander Boegaerts as a free agent the Jays have a gaping hole on the left side of the infield. Boegarts hit .271 with 20 HR and had 85 RBI this season and played defense at a decent level but is just slightly above average. In terms of internal options the Jays have former 2nd round pick SS Nicholas Gordon who hit .259 with 4 HR and 30 RBI in AAA this season and he also spent some time with the Jays.
2. Designated Hitter
The Jays also lost 1B Anthony Rizzo to free agency. He hit .267 with 26 HR and 87 RBI last year. At 31 he has seen a decline in his ratings and my scouts were leary of offering him a multi year deal. We tried to connect on a 1 year deal but he was not interested. In terms of internal options there really aren't any and this is a spot that will likely have to be filled internally.
3. Right Field
RF Desmond Jennings also left as a free agent this off season. The Jays caught lightning in a bottle with him after he signed a 1 year deal in 2019 and hit .283 with 19 HR and drove in 65 runs. He was granted an extension for 2020 but saw a huge decline in his performance hitting just .222 with 6 HR and 34 RBI. In terms of internal options CF Colin Bray who hit .384 with 12 HR and 55 RBI for AAA Buffalo last season is a viable option. There are a few attractive options on the free agent market as well.
4. Bullpen Help
MR Paco Rodriguez was a rock in the late innings for the Jays in 2020 posting a 3-3 record with 10 saves and a 1.59 ERA. The 2020 All Star was looking for a minimum 3 year deal and to get paid closers money. With CL Rex Brothers firmly entrenched in that role for the Jays he was not going to get that kind of money from the Jays and he left as a free agent. The Jays have a number of internal options here that could be make the jump up from AAA. MR Jorge Miranda, MR Jim Phillips and CL Nick Kennedy are all bullpen arms that we are quite high on and all could be on the radar for the open spots in the Jays bullpen.
Up Next: 2020 Off Season Transactions Report