One thing I’m always hesitant and reluctant to do, when it comes to baseball, is to look too far into the future. So much can change in a year, six months, or even less, that trying to do so is often useless.
And yet, that’s exactly what I’m going to do right now. This offseason’s free agent pitching market has been discussed ad nauseum, with everyone wondering where players are going to go and as Jays fans who, if any, pitchers is the team going to sign. There’s obviously still time, and we’ll see what plays out in the coming couple of weeks, but I’m wondering if the front office isn’t being hesitant to sign anyone because they have an eye towards next year.
Obviously, for a team in a strange position like the Jays – a should-be contender coming off a virtual clusterfuck of a season – there’s pressure to do something to write the ship. However, it’s not like the team is without any pitching options. Morrow, Dickey and Buerhle form a decent top three, with a number of intriguing options to fill out the roster.
As it stands now, next year’s free agent crop of pitchers is quite plentiful. While the big fish, Clayton Kershaw is signed, players like Brett Anderson, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, Yovani Gallardo, Brandon McCarthy, Justin Masterson, Jake Peavy, and Max Scherzer could hit the market. Add in some possibly intriguing arms like Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett and yes, even Josh Johnson, and next year’s FA class has the potential to be very interesting.
Now of course, some of those players are going to be signed to extensions. Not all of them will reach free agency. But some will. And some teams who thought they had playoff shots will also falter. Maybe it makes sense, from a Blue Jays perspective, to wait it out. Try and get by with what you have now. If that fails or there are injuries, a midseason trade maybe makes sense.
Alex Anthopolous is known for having a pretty good read on the pulse of other teams and other GMs. In a trade deadline scenario, I trust him to make good moves, not panic, and potentially take advantage of another team that is panicking.
Also, three months is a lot development time for prospects. The overwhelming comment on the Jays’ farm system is that it’s stacked at the lower levels, but a little light up top. Is it possible that by the end of June some of those prospects will have begun to move up the ranks? Also, the Jays are lined up to have a potentially strong draft. That infusion of talent, plus the hopeful develop of current talent, could put the team in a decent position to trade some young players for a pitcher midseason.
While no one really knows what the team’s budgetary constraints are, it’s widely accepted that there’s no a ton of money to throw around. However, that begins to change in the coming years, There’s only $27 million committed in 2016, $96 million in 2015. By June the team will be that much closer to shedding some contracts that maybe ownership will be willing to take on money for three months, with the possibility of an extension for a free agent to be.
I’m not saying it’s the best option. And there’s going to be some anger and nervousness if the team stands pat. But it’s not like the current crop of free agents are sure things, any of them really. While it’s arguable, many would consider Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka as the surest of the group, and he’s never thrown a pitch in North America. Ubaldo Jiminez, Ervin Santana and Matt Garza all carry great risk. If Toronto signs one of them and they flop, it not only hurts this year’s chances but puts more strain on future payrolls, and might take them out of the running for a pitcher next year who might be better, less risky, and not come with much different of a price tag.