If the Toronto Blue Jays have one clear need this offseason, it is a solid bat or two to round out the lineup. While the team retained Kevin Kiermaier for another campaign and signed Isiah Kiner-Falefa for two years, neither are bat-type first players. Considering the Jays are currently without Matt Chapman and Brandon Belt heading into next season, there is a need for some power bat additions before Spring Training rolls around.
The Blue Jays still have numerous options available, such as Rhys Hoskins, Joey Votto, Jorge Soler, and Cody Bellinger (for those dreaming big). The Jays will likely head into the new season with at least one free agent bat added to the lineup, potentially two. This would bolster an offense that already features George Springer, Bo Bichette, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Yet while offense is the clear need for the club right now, there should be at least one pitcher the front office keeps on their radar as the winter continues.
Jordan Hicks Belongs on the Blue Jays’ Radar
Reliever Jordan Hicks finished out the 2023 season with the Jays after Toronto acquired him at the trade deadline in exchange for a pair of pitching prospects.
The fireball-throwing right-hander was dominant for the club down the stretch, posting a 2.63 ERA through 25 outings while finishing 10 games and adding four saves through 24 innings. He posted an 8.3 K/9 during his time with the Jays, allowing just eight walks (3.0 BB/9) and getting opposing batters to generate groundballs 58.5% of the time.
Ranking in the 100th percentile in terms of fastball velocity (he routinely hit triple digits with his sinker), Hicks brought a real competitive advantage to a Jays bullpen that was already doing well before his arrival.
Heading into the trade deadline, the Jays bullpen ranked third in MLB in ERA (3.62) and seventh in FIP (3.91) while striking out batters at a 9.97 K/9 rate (fourth best in the league at the time).
After acquiring Hicks, their numbers slipped a little as rough performances from Trevor Richards, Chad Green, and Nate Pearson skewed the overall line, but the former Cardinals right-hander picked up the slack, working late in games and allowing just seven earned runs during his time with Toronto.
The Jays haven’t really featured a ‘blow it past you’ relief arm in recent years, using deception (Adam Cimber’s side-arm) and offspeed pitches (Jordan Romano’s slider and Erik Swanson’s splitter) instead of fastballs to overpower opposing hitters. The likes of Romano and Yimi García can hit the upper 90s with their fastball offerings, but not to the degree that fans saw with Hicks.
Looking at the Jays’ current bullpen picture, it’s easy to see why the team hasn’t been active on the reliever market so far.
The club only lost Hicks and Jay Jackson to free agency, and they boast several internal arms that could potentially fight for the lone bullpen spot remaining on the Opening Day roster, including Pearson, Zach Pop, Bowden Francis, Mitch White, Yosver Zulueta, and Hayden Juenger.
First and foremost the Blue Jays need to add a power bat, of that there is no question. Still, shoring up the bullpen with a power arm like Hicks could be a difference-maker throughout a full season, taking the bullpen to an even higher echelon.
Risk and Reward
The obvious drawback would be the financial commitment, as Hicks will likely command between $10-15 million per season with the way the pitching market is trending this winter.
That’s not a small chunk of change for a club that still needs to allocate some finances to other areas on the roster while closing in on the CBT. The salary plus his spotty injury history (he’s a former starter turned reliever) are enough to make the risk a bit more elevated than it is for some of the other arms available. Then again, the reward could be huge.
Slotting the Texas product next to Romano at the back end of the bullpen, alongside Swanson and southpaw Tim Mayza, would make for a fearsome combination. This would work out especially well if the Jays run into some injury trouble and provides some additional security if Romano, who is eligible for free agency following the 2025 season, eventually departs for another club.
Don’t get me wrong, signing a bat should be at the forefront for the Jays this offseason. However, if the front office has some funds left to play with this winter and Hicks is still available, bringing him back to the Jays for the next few seasons would be a hell of a lot better than having to face him.