Free Agency gets underway in less than 24 hours at 12:01 AM on Tuesday morning, and you can bet Alex Anthopoulos and Co. are going to be busy in the coming months trying to make this Blue Jays team into a contender. This post will serve as a list of what I would attempt to do if I was GM, with explanations for every move.
I’m going to assume the Blue Jays will have a budget of $160 million to work with in 2014, which allows 25-30 million dollars to be spent. Let’s get started.
1) Extend Josh Johnson a Qualifying offer of $14.1 million/1 Year
I read a fantastic article on FanGraphs Community earlier this morning detailing why the Blue Jays should extend Josh Johnson for 3 more years. While I wouldn’t do that, 1 year is definitely worth it in my book. The author, Christopher Carruthers make a pretty solid case for signing Johnson, but it’s very lengthy, so I’ll just take one sentence from it and give a little explanation.
Josh Johnson’s SIERA this year was 3.73, which is probably the best guess as to what we can expect his ERA to be going forward.
SIERA is an ERA estimator which eliminates defense like FIP, assumes a league average HR/FB% like xFIP, and instead of using IP as the denominator (like FIP and xFIP), it uses PA or batters faced. This gives us a much better picture of Josh Johnson’s abysmal 2013 season, and allows us to see that once his rates regress back to the mean in 2014, he should be a solid pitcher. A 3.70 ERA isn’t great, but since that is what we can expect from Johnson, $14.1 MM isn’t so bad considering he has the potential to be one of the best pitchers in the game as we saw a few times this past year. On a one year deal, Josh Johnson represents a low risk-high reward option that must be taken advantage of.
2) Sign Jose Molina to a 1 year $2 million contract with a 2015 club option for the same $
After suffering through J.P. Arencibia‘s lacklustre catching these past 3 years, it’s time the Blue Jays bring back the defensive wizard who they let walk after the 2011 season, and install him as the starter in Toronto. He makes umpires look silly the way he turns balls into strikes, and can also get on base close to 30% of the time, something we haven’t seen out of a starting catcher in Toronto since John Buck in 2010. Aside from his talent behind the plate, there is also the factor of getting him away from division rival Tampa Bay, who has utilized his services over the past 2 years. It might not even cost $2 million to get this deal done, so it’s an easy in-expensive way to get something out of the catching position.
The only non-tender case here is J.P. Arencibia, but I’d keep him on for at least one more year, and, like I mentioned earlier, install him as the back up to Molina. He is projected to earn roughly $2.8 million through the arbitration process this winter according to MLBTR, and for that cost, I can live with his power bat off of the bench.
Cecil and Rogers are projected to earn $900,000 and $1 million respectively according to MLBTR, and given their performances this past year, it’s an easy decision to keep them around.
Rasmus is a more interesting case, but one I don’t wan’t to go into much detail with him because Matt should have something more in-depth on him soon. He had a great year in 2013, and he will deserve every penny of the $6.5 million he is projected to earn.
4) Sign Second Basemen Mark Ellis to a 1 year $6 Million contract with a 2015 club option for the same $
The situation at second is bleak for Toronto, and since it looks like the money won’t be available to go after Robinson Cano, who is the best player on the market, we’ll have to settle for Ellis. After 162 games filled with Maicer Izturis and the now departed Emilio Bonifacio kicking the ball all over the place, Ellis represents a nice change for the Jays, who need a good defender at second because Jose Reyes and his non-existent range play at short. While the 36-year-old Ellis is an upgrade over Izturis and Ryan Goins offensively(which doesn’t say much), he doesn’t need to produce at such a high level as he showed this season to be valuable. As an owner of a 92 wRC+ in 2013, he was still able to be worth 1.8 wins to the Dodgers in 480 PA due to his defensive impact. Creating a good defensive team is something the Jays must do if they are to have success, especially if they are to acquire ground ball pitchers. This brings me to my next move which is…
Extend RHP Jeff Samardzija on a 3 year deal worth $25 Million with a Club option for a 4th year at $10 Million($4 Million in 2014, $10 Million in 2015, $11 million in 2016)
The Jays have been rumoured to be in on Samardzija, and as I wrote back when the rumours first appeared earlier in October, they seem to be interested in receiving a young & toolsy outfielder in a package for the Shark. Anthony Gose fits that bill. Last week, Andrew Stoeten covered the more recent reports at DJF, some Cubs insiders/bloggers said a package of Drabek and Norris would get it done. I added Gose into the package because I think it’s more realistic than just Drabek and Norris. It might even take a major league ready reliever added to the package, which I’d totally be fine including because of the Blue Jays depth at the position. If you read my article on Samardzija, you’ll know that I do like him, but there are some concerns with the shoulder side of his mechanics. he has stayed healthy up until this point, but it is a risk going forward. With the pitching market where it is, I think Samardzija is a good target, and extending him with a contract similar to what the Reds gave Johnny Cueto in 2011 should be able to get him to commit to stay in Toronto for a few more years.
That’s all the major moves I would make. The Jays get 2 more pitchers to compliment Dickey, Morrow, and Buehrle, while filling holes at catcher and 2nd base. All this, and they are at the $160 million budget that I set for them.
That was a fun article to write, and I hope you enjoyed it. What would you do with the Jays this off-season? Let’s discuss in the comment section below.