Photo By: Lesly Juarez from Unsplash

While collective bargaining discussions continue to dominate the MLB news cycle, it can easily be forgotten that there’s actually a whole other side to the offseason — you know, the actual transactions and such. 

There’s been some minor trades and signings so far (Wade Miley to the Cubs, Andrew Heaney to the Dodgers, Tucker Barnhart to the Tigers, etc.), but for the most part it’s been pretty quiet on that front. So before it gets too crazy, I figured I’d lay out my offseason wish list for Blue Jays Santa (who I think is just Juan Francisco in a red suit).

The shortlist of needs for the Blue Jays goes something like this: 

– 3B — ideally a lefty bat, even more ideally a lefty bat who can play 2B too

– Starting pitching — market is rather slim, but need to build up depth

– Power relief arms — you’ve got one stud in Romano, but need more like him

– Left-handed outfielder — if Gurriel gets traded, you’re thin out there…

Assuming that Marcus Semien does not re-sign, which seems likely given his preference to live on the West Coast and how much money he’ll command, there’s now a hole at second in addition to the existing hole at third. I’ve written about this in the past, but I like Cavan Biggio more than most and would be totally fine if he’s the everyday second baseman next year. I think we’d all agree he’s looked much more comfortable there and is pretty clearly not a great third baseman.

José Ramírez is obviously the perfect guy to fill that hole — switch hitter, can play second if need be, is also really really good — but Cleveland would rightfully ask for the motherload in exchange for him, if he’s even on the block at all. You know who’s like a budget version of J-Ram, though? Eduardo Escobar. He too can switch-hit and play second, but is obviously nowhere close to the player Ramírez is (though he was an All-Star for the lowly Diamondbacks last year). He’s an interesting name, if nothing else. 

The reason I bring Escobar up though, is because it would appear that the Jays may use the pieces they’d most likely use in a potential Ramírez trade in a separate deal with Miami. The Marlins need hitting and catching, and they also have many good young starting pitchers. In a market where the catching options are as bleak as ever (I saw Pedro Severino listed as the third-best free agent catcher in one article), the Jays are actually kinda loaded back there. It almost makes too much sense. Reports are flooding in that the Marlins and Jays will do something centred around Alejandro Kirk, and maybe Lourdes Gurriel in exchange for one of Miami’s starters. Now, I’m not sure if any of the Marlins’ starters are untouchable, but I am enthralled with Sandy Alcántara. He’s clearly the best of the bunch over there and would be the most expensive in terms of trade pieces, but I’m giddy at the thought of him pitching in Toronto.

The other options, Pablo López and Elieser Hernández, would cost less but come with far more question marks than Alcántara. Both guys have had their fair share of injuries and haven’t made more than 21 starts in a season (Hernández’s career-high in innings is just 82.1). Now, Alcántara’s name hasn’t been mentioned nearly as much as López or Hernández, so it’s possible he’s either off the table or too expensive. I have no doubt that Pete Walker and his magic elixirs would help López and Hernández — who are both totally good pitchers, they just get hurt a fair bit — but there isn’t an elixir that can fix injuries (well there are a few, but they’re illegal in professional sports). 

Kirk seems so expendable right now because of the raucous performance of the Jays’ top prospect, catcher Gabriel Moreno, who I recently learned has the same pop-time as J.T. Realmuto. He should be absolutely untouchable and is the catcher of the future in Toronto. There’s been rumblings about Moreno potentially being moved to third, which I guess I get given the current need, but come on, how can you not leave him behind the plate? A backstop combo of Moreno and Jansen seems very nice going forward.

As for the bullpen, well, that’s what cost the Jays a playoff spot this year, and despite the front office’s incredible on-the-fly patchwork (getting Richards and Cimber), it’s clearly a major need going forward. Richards and Cimber were fantastic, but are more suited for those 6th/7th innings rather than the highest leverage spots. Cimber in particular is a perfect get-out-of-the-last-person’s-mess kind of guy, as his funky delivery and soft-contact repertoire is made for double play balls. 

Tim Mayza became the go-to lefty last season and was awesome, but I don’t think you can be 100 per cent certain he’ll be able to replicate that. The Jays still need another high-powered arm to bridge the gap between Cimber/Richards/Mayza and Jordan Romano, who is a lock for that closer role. Raisel Iglesias has been mentioned quite a bit — he’d work. I’m kinda into seeing what Pete Walker could do with Joe Kelly. He throws heat, has got a wicked knuckle-curve, but has struggled with command in the past. Sounds like a Walker special.

So all in all, there’s quite a lot to do for the Blue Jays ahead of the 2022 season, and I haven’t even mentioned Robbie Ray and his free agency. I do think it’s more likely the Jays bring back Ray rather than Semien, but he’ll certainly have his fair share of suitors to comb through. It is possible Semien makes his decision rather soon though, which at the very least will make the Jays’ offseason plan all the more clear one way or another.