After their surprise playoff appearance in 2020, the Toronto Blue Jays are buyers in the off-season free agent market for the first time since 2015.
The young talent has arrived. The trade deadline acquisitions performed. Can a solid group of free agent signings take the Toronto Blue Jays over the top in 2021?
That’s what general manager Ross Atkins is certainly hoping for. With Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. all proving their mettle over the shortened 2020 season and ace Hyun Jin Ryu locked up for another three seasons, the Blue Jays are in win now mode.
All five of the free agents listed in this story would be boosts to the 2021 team, but sometimes it’s the move you don’t make that pays dividends.
Here are five free agents who the Blue Jays should either pass on, or pursue.
1. Trevor Bauer
Unquestionably the jewel of the 2020 class, Trevor Bauer is on every contender’s shortlist of arms who can take them to the next level. And he knows it.
Never one to shy away from the spotlight, Bauer has kept his Twitter followers informed on his every move through free agent courtship.
His first stop appeared to be in Boston, as Bauer tweeted out a plane ticket to Beantown in early October
Next up was a visit to Houston, even though the right-hander has been about as outspoken as one can be regarding the Astros sign-stealing scandal.
Bauer hasn’t even narrowed his choices down to team in North America. He’s made it known that he’ll field offers from Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan as well.
Bauer has always been a bit of an oddball. From wacky (yet effective) workout routines to rifling a ball over the centre-field wall at Kauffman Stadium after being pulled to the drone incident, he certainly likes to keep it entertaining. Thus, it should come as no surprise when he coyly (we think?) asserts that he could use his location analytics on Instagram to determine his free agency destination.
Bauer can get away with all of this because he’s really good at baseball. In 11 starts with the Cincinnati Reds in 2020, Bauer posted an elite 1.73 ERA whilst dragging the team kicking and screaming into the playoffs. There, Bauer pitched a heroic 7.2 innings of shutout ball, striking out 12.
It’s also worth noting that Bauer has had some history with Toronto. From the aforementioned drone incident to beefing with Blue Jays fans after his Cleveland Indians beat the Jays on Canada Day, Bauer’s relationship as we know it with Canada is a tad rocky. But, if we’re judging by yet another Bauer tweet, all may be forgiven.
Well, at least on his end.
The bottom line is the Blue Jays should pursue Bauer. After Ryu and Matt Shoemaker, it gets real dicey, real fast in the Blue Jays rotation. As unlikely as it is to actually happen, adding the Los Angeles native would completely swing the balance of power in the AL East. He may be brash, but there are few pitchers in the world that can match his unique delivery and ability to mix pitches.
Whether it’s the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Astros, Yankees, Reds or the Nippon-Ham Fighters, Bauer’s impact on wherever he takes his talents will not go unnoticed.