All other arbitration-eligible players have been tendered contracts. The pair of moves brings the club’s 40-man roster from full down to 38, giving the Blue Jays some flexibility to add players via trade or free agency without needing a corresponding move to create space in the coming weeks.
Shaw signed a one-year deal worth $4 million last Dec. 30 as both sides tried to get the third baseman back to his 2017-18 form, when he’d posted an .844 OPS over his first two seasons with the Brewers. Shaw hit .239 with six home runs and a .717 OPS in 50 games for Toronto and now the club will look elsewhere at third base.
Just where the Blue Jays will look, though, is quietly one of the most interesting pieces to the club’s offseason picture. While much of the focus has been on big-name free agents like Astros outfielder George Springer or a number of starting pitching options, Toronto has a serious opportunity to upgrade its lineup at third.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is determined to prove to the Blue Jays that he’s capable of handling reps back at third, which seems like a tall mountain to climb given how poorly he played the position as a rookie in 2019, while Cavan Biggio gives the club another versatile option. The free agent market isn’t stacked with starting third basemen, but with so many young players who can be moved around, creative solutions will be on the table. Third base is a position that Toronto simply needs more offensive production from.
The Cole decision may not have been as obvious as Shaw, but it still lines up as a way to create added 40-man roster flexibility for the Blue Jays. There will still be difficult decisions to come -- a good problem to have given its depth -- but non-tendering Cole at this point in the offseason gives an extra bit of flexibility through December and January.
This is no knock on Cole’s individual performance, though, general manager Ross Atkins made clear on Wednesday.
“We made the tough decision to non-tender A.J., but remain interested and will consider him as an alternative for the remainder of the offseason,” Atkins said.
The big right-hander, who turns 29 on Jan. 5, gave the Blue Jays a 3.09 ERA over 23 1/3 innings last season, often pitching in high-leverage innings after Ken Giles and Jordan Romano were lost to injuries. Cole’s fastball averaged 93.4 mph in 2020, according to Statcast, and he avoided hard contact well.
The Blue Jays will remain interested in bringing Cole back in the right situation later this offseason, as he fits the type of reliever the club typically targets. One of Toronto’s strengths in recent offseasons has been finding effective bullpen arms on Minor League deals or less expensive, one-year Major League deals.