Where Blue Jays stand after offseason activity

March 13th, 2022

TORONTO -- Baseball is back, and while the Blue Jays made some major moves prior to the lockout, there’s still plenty of work to do before the regular season begins.

Here is a look back at what Toronto has done since its 91-71 campaign left the club just short of a postseason spot in 2021, and what comes next:

What deals have already gotten done?
The Blue Jays made a statement to open their offseason, signing right-hander José Berríos to a seven-year, $131 million extension. Berríos was acquired at the 2021 Trade Deadline for prospects Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson and pitched to a 3.58 ERA down the stretch. Still just 27, Berríos will be one of the faces of this rotation for years.

The other face of the rotation? Kevin Gausman, who the Blue Jays landed on a five-year, $110 million deal in free agency. Toronto has long coveted Gausman, who spent six seasons in Baltimore before stints in Atlanta and San Francisco, where he truly broke out.

The Blue Jays also signed right-handed reliever Yimi García to a two-year, $11 million deal prior to the lockout. Multiyear deals for bullpen arms are rare for the Blue Jays, but García brings experience in high-leverage situations and will play a prominent role in a group that’s still far from finished. Others signed to Minor League deals include David Phelps -- who will compete for a bullpen job in camp -- Mallex Smith, Nathan Dukes, Casey Lawrence, José De León, Matt Gage, Kellin Deglan and Gosuke Katoh.

Once the labor agreement was in place, the Blue Jays fortified the rotation by agreeing with left-hander Yusei Kikuchi on a three-year, $36 million contract, according to a source.

Which of their free agents already signed elsewhere?
Marcus Semien came, saw and conquered in his one season with the Blue Jays, setting a new AL/NL record for home runs by a second baseman (45) and finishing third in AL MVP voting. That earned him a seven-year, $175 million deal with the Rangers in free agency.

Robbie Ray was the club’s other major free agent, and he signed a five-year, $115 million deal with the Mariners. Gausman slides in as Ray’s one-for-one replacement, but it won’t be easy to replace one of the best seasons in Blue Jays history; Ray won the AL Cy Young Award with a 2.84 ERA and 248 strikeouts over 193 1/3 innings. Fellow lefty Steven Matz also signed a four-year, $44 million deal with the Cardinals after a quietly productive ’21 season.

What are the biggest remaining needs, and who might they target to fill those holes?
Look to second and third base. It’s just a question of which the Blue Jays address, as Cavan Biggio and Santiago Espinal can play either spot while there are several prospects -- including Kevin Smith and Otto Lopez -- pushing for a longer look. Free agency still offers top-end options like Kris Bryant, but keep an eye on the trade market, too

Are there any players they are looking to trade?
The Blue Jays are in a good place here, given that they aren’t carrying any albatross contracts and aren’t facing a major logjam at any one position. still has two years remaining on his five-year, $52 million extension and looked like the obvious trade candidate last offseason, but he ended up appearing in 149 games while George Springer worked through multiple injuries. A trade is something the Blue Jays could explore, but they'll need to ensure enough depth is in place if they do so.

If the Blue Jays do make a change in their outfield, last year’s addition of Corey Dickerson should be a clue. That was a good opportunity for the club to add a much-needed lefty bat available off the bench in a pinch to round out the lineup.

Toronto’s catching depth remains enviable, too. Danny Jansen is due for a bounce-back season alongside Alejandro Kirk and Reese McGuire, but it’s No. 1 prospect Gabriel Moreno who will be generating all of the buzz. The franchise’s catcher of the future could make his MLB debut in 2022, so while the Blue Jays aren’t in a spot where they need to actively dangle a catcher in trade talks, it’s a fine strength to bring to the bargaining table.

What outstanding arbitration cases are on the docket?
The Blue Jays tendered contracts to 10 players prior to the lockout, led by star right-fielder Teoscar Hernández and AL MVP runner-up Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Hernández is projected by Cot’s Contracts to earn $9.25 million in his second year of arbitration, while Guerrero, who’s in his first year, is projected to earn $8.75 million.

Others tendered contracts include Ross Stripling ($4.25 million projection), Biggio, ($1.5 million), Jansen ($1.25 million), Adam Cimber ($1.25 million), Tim Mayza ($1 million), Trevor Richards ($1 million), Ryan Borucki ($1 million) and Trent Thornton ($850,000).

How many open spots are there on the 40-man roster?
With 38 players on the current 40-man roster, the Blue Jays have some wiggle room for now. Eventually, some moves will be required to fit new signings or trade acquisitions, and as seen in 2021, Toronto’s improved depth means that these moves won’t always be easy decisions.

Is the border still an issue? How close to “normal” will the Blue Jays get in 2022?
The Blue Jays finally are in line for a full season at home, their first since 2019. Returning to Rogers Centre late in 2021 gave the club a major boost, but beyond that, there will be a relief among players that they can return to a sense of normalcy in their day-to-day lives and experience a true “home” city.

Capacity limits for fans and in-stadium protocols will continue to evolve based on COVID-19 regulations in the province of Ontario and the city of Toronto.