Photo By: Lesly Juarez from Unsplash

I spent last week’s SIDELINES talking about the Blue Jays’ offseason to-do list while effectively jinxing myself when I said, “nothing has really happened yet”.

Seeing as the Jays hadn’t done anything at that point, I thought I could squeeze in one article before something major (or minor) happened. Well, I should’ve known better, because early Tuesday morning — like 12 hours after we finalized all our articles — José Berríos signed a seven-year, $131 million extension with the Blue Jays. Tuesday news sucks for us and our production schedule.

So it’s kinda old-ish news now, but still worth talking about briefly because this deal is just fantastic for both sides. The Jays are essentially paying $120 million for Berríos’ six years of free agency, plus $11 million for his final year of arbitration. Breaking that down even further, the contract includes an opt-out after five years and $83 million. If he opts in for 2027 and 2028, he’d be getting $24 million apiece and up to $29 million apiece depending on performance incentives. In that case, the total value of the contract would reach $141 million.

Shi Davidi of Sportsnet broke down the contract even further, reporting a $5 million signing bonus, $10 million for 2022, $15 mill for 2023, $17 mil; for 2024, $18 mill for 2025 and 2026, and then if he opts in for the final two years, $24-$29 mill for ‘27 and ‘28.

Backloading the contract is definitely a big win for the team, as they can spend more now and take advantage of Bo and Vladdy’s arb years before they ask for nine-figure deals. It also helps that Hyun-Jin Ryu and his $20 million-a-year contract is up after 2023, as is Randal Grichuk’s albatross.

During the press conference announcing Berríos’ extension, he mentioned how he, a) never imagined himself pitching for the Blue Jays, and b) really wanted to experience being a free agent. Yet, after just two months with the organization, he liked the team and city enough to forgo the free agent process and sign a seven-year extension. 

This is part of the reason, as GM Ross Atkins mentioned in that press conference, that they traded for him at the deadline rather than try and lure him as a free agent, as that short taste of the organization can really open up players’ eyes. They did the same thing with Robbie Ray last year and he was the first free agent to sign in 2020. That’s a huge testament to the job Atkins and Mark Shapiro have done in terms of building a culture and environment where players can feel so comfortable in such a brief amount of time. 

So, all in all, a very good day in Blue Jays land last Tuesday, and because of how durable and consistent Berríos is — he hasn’t missed a start since his rookie year — the contract should age very nicely.

There were a couple of other signings last week, the most notable of which include Noah Syndergaard’s one-year, $21 million deal with the Angels, Justin Verlander re-signing with the Astros for one-year, $25 million with a $25 million player option for 2023, while Brandon Belt was the lone player to accept the qualifying offer, re-upping with the Giants for $18.4 million.

Syndergaard declined the Mets’ qualifying offer, and instead opted for a Semien-esque one-year showcase deal where he can hopefully prove that he can stay healthy after having pitched just two innings in the past two years due to Tommy John surgery.

The gaping black hole in Anaheim has been their almost comical inability to put a decent starting rotation around quite possibly the greatest player ever in Mike Trout. Now, after the season that Shohei Ohtani just put together, I guess the Angels figured it was about time to get some arms. 

While they’re almost certainly not done acquiring pitchers, it’s not like Ohtani and Syndergaard are sure things health-wise. This was Ohtani’s first full season of pitching, and prior to that he too pitched just 1.2 innings over a two-year stretch from 2019-2020. The ceiling is wildly high with those two, but the Angels better be investing in some insurance in case one (or both) of them get hurt again.

Meanwhile, last night was the deadline to protect players ahead of the Rule 5 draft, where teams have the chance to scoop up unprotected prospects from other organizations on the condition that they remain on the active roster for the entirety of next season. 

Somewhat unrelated, but I pitched implementing a Rule 5 draft in my fantasy football keeper league after one guy kept hoarding Marlon Mack on his bench (this was in 2019) whereas I would’ve started him every week. The idea was that after Week 3 or 4, you’d protect X amount of players on your team, and then hold a “Rule 5 draft” on the condition that if you plucked an unprotected player from someone else’s roster, you had to start them for the rest of the season barring injuries or bye weeks. I still think it’s a pretty incredible idea, but no one else seemed to be that high on it.