TORONTO -- As the Blue Jays move forward after their reported agreement with star outfielder George Springer for six years and a club-record $150 million, the rest of their offseason checklist is becoming clearer.
On Wednesday, the Blue Jays appeared to continue that momentum following multiple reports that they were in agreement on a deal with veteran outfielder Michael Brantley, but Brantley has agreed to return the Astros on a two-year, $32 million deal, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. That deal has not yet been made official by the Astros.
The Blue Jays were very interested in Brantley and, while they’ll need to look elsewhere now, the financial certainty following the Springer deal and their pursuits up to this point help to shape the coming weeks as we approach Spring Training. The Blue Jays still have money to spend and, given the slower pace of the offseason up until this past week, there’s no shortage of options.
The fit of someone like Brantley wasn’t obvious because there is no clear hole in the Blue Jays’ outfield, but they’ve built a roster deep enough to allow them such luxuries. There may be one starting spot open on the infield at second or third, depending on what the Blue Jays have in mind for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. defensively, but at this point in their roster build, the Blue Jays can stockpile talent with future moves in mind.
If that were to come in the form of another outfielder, of course, the Blue Jays could look to package one of Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Randal Grichuk or Teoscar Hernández in a deal for a starting pitcher. There’s a complicating factor on each of those fronts, though. Hernández was the breakout star of 2020, Grichuk has three years remaining on a deal that could make him difficult to move and, while Gurriel is very attractive to other teams given his affordable contract, that’s the same reason he’s attractive to the Blue Jays.
There is a simpler path to starting pitching in free agency, of course, with right-hander Trevor Bauer still topping that market. While the Blue Jays' investment in Springer will be significant, Feinsand reported Wednesday that it doesn’t necessarily take them out of the running for Bauer.
While the Blue Jays would prefer to improve their rotation now, there’s also a fair argument to be made that opportunities could present themselves throughout the season and leading up to the Trade Deadline. The Blue Jays are expected to continue on this upward trajectory with their payroll and winning will only open more doors, especially when fans are safely back at the ball park.