With an offseason that has seen numerous contracts break the $150 million mark, there are some teams that have come out swinging and aren’t afraid of the Competitive Balance Tax (enter Steve Cohen) and some that haven’t really participated in the winter festivities as of yet. For the Blue Jays, with the recent signing of Chris Bassitt to a three-year, $63 million dollar contract, the organization is on track to break the $233 million CBT threshold for the first time in team history.
Owned by Rogers, fans have always wanted the ownership group to spend big and put the best team forward and so far this offseason, the front office has been able to do so. President and CEO Mark Shapiro echoed those sentiments earlier this month, “is not an obstacle for us… not going to be what sets our budget, managing around that.”
This is good news for the Jays, as they still could use a few more pieces to really put the finishing touches on a squad that is looking to make a deep run this postseason, after an early exit last year in the AL Wild Card at the hands of the Seattle Mariners. Overall, another outfielder and another starting pitcher would really round out the roster, while adding another established bullpen arm is not really a necessity but definitely not a hindrance if the right deal/player is available.
Let’s take a look at the remaining free agents and how they could help the Blue Jays in 2023.
Johnny Cueto – RHP
The Blue Jays currently have a battle brewing for the fifth rotation spot, with Yusei Kikuchi and Mitch White both looking to find a starting role next year. That all could be a moot point if the Jays front office decides to bring in a veteran starter to take on the role, which is where right-hander Johnny Cueto enters the picture.
Entering his 16th season in 2023, Cueto had a resurgent 2022 campaign with the Chicago White Sox, posting a 3.35 ERA through 25 outings with a 5.8 K/9. While the strikeouts took a dip, Cueto kept the walks at bay (1.9 BB/9) and posted a strong 3.79 FIP to go along with 1.225 WHIP with a 3.5 bWAR.
The Jays have shown some interest in the veteran right-hander and a short-term deal to add some rotation depth is exactly what this team needs to officially round out the starting corps.
Andrew Chafin – LHP
While a majority of the relief pitchers have inked new contracts, one of the top left-handed options still remains available in Andrew Chafin. The southpaw opted out of his contract with the Detroit Tigers and hit free agency after a strong 2022 campaign, authoring a 2.83 ERA through 64 appearances with three saves.
Finding another southpaw for the Blue Jays bullpen
Chafin’s name hasn’t been linked to any rumors so far this offseason but adding him to the Blue Jays bullpen would be a benefit, as the club is currently rolling into Spring Training with one lefty reliever in Tim Mayza. While he doesn’t blow you away with velocity (92 mph sinker/fastball), Chafin sat in the 89th percnetile in chase rate with his slider leading the way at 60.4 whiff percentage, which has -7.5 inches of horizontal movement.
Matt Moore – LHP
If Chafin isn’t available or the price is too high, the Blue Jays can also pursue another southpaw in the form of Matt Moore.
A starter for most of his career, Moore moved to the bullpen last year with the Texas Rangers and produced a strong campaign. Through 74.0 innings, the Florida product pitched to a 1.95 ERA with 83 strikeouts to the tune of a 10.1 K/9 while allowing just three home runs on the year. He was a bit wild with a 4.6 BB/9, but he was able to keep the walks from scoring, allowing just 16 earned runs on the year while also allowing just 6.0 H/9, earning five saves on the year as well.
Adding another southpaw like Moore would benefit the Blue Jays in 2023 and signing Moore likely won’t break the bank either compared to what Taylor Rogers or Andrew Chafin will be signing for this offseason.
Robbie Grossman – OF
A familiar name to Blue Jays fans, Robbie Grossman was on the organization’s radar back at the trade deadline in 2021, but a deal never materialized. Now a free agent, the switch-hitting outfielder would likely slot in as a fourth outfielder amongst the Blue Jays squad after the Daulton Varsho acquisition, which is what the Jays are looking for to complete the roster.
Blue Jays and a potential fit with Robbie Grossman
Varsho didn’t have the strongest split stats when facing LHP last season, so adding someone like Grossman, who posted a .320/.436/.443 slash line with 18 RBI and a .879 OPS, is just the type of contact hitter the Jays could use to offset Varsho in the outfield. The downside would be that he really struggled against right-handers on the mound, which is where the fourth outfielder role would come in handy for the former Atlanta Brave.
Factor in that Grossman can play the corner outfield spots as needed and this could be a deal worth exploring to expand the Jays bench.
AJ Pollock – OF
Following the same footprints as the Grossman scenario above, AJ Pollock is another name to consider if the former Dodgers and White Sox outfielder is willing to platoon with Varsho in left field.
A righty-batter, Pollock crushed left-handers last season, posting a .286/.316/.619 slash line with 11 home runs and a .935 OPS through 126 at-bats. Pollock also fits in defensively for the Jays, as he could find some reps in center field or left field with Kevin Kiermaier not boasting the hottest health record through his career.
The Conneticut product might not be open to a fourth outfielder type role that the Blue Jays would be offering but having him amongst the current outfield core is exactly what the club would need heading into 2023.