With Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin and Michael Saunders all in the fold, the Blue Jays are now prioritizing the ninth inning and are seeking a closer via trade, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets. The team will look at free agents if a trade scenario can’t be worked out, Heyman adds, although quality options are dwindling.
There’s no shortage of potentially available relievers with closing experience. Jonathan Papelbon, owed $13MM in 2015 with a 2016 vesting option at the same rate, is certainly available. Tyler Clippard’s name has surfaced in trade rumors this offseason on a few occasions as well, and some have speculated that the Royals might be willing to move one of their excellent-but-expensive relievers (Greg Holland and Wade Davis). While there was some reactionary speculation after the Braves signed Jason Grilli earlier tonight, president of baseball operations John Hart quickly dismissed the possibility of trading Craig Kimbrel, saying it hasn’t been considered.
The free agent market offers far fewer options than it did a month ago, but there are still some notable former closers out there. Both Rafael Soriano and Francisco Rodriguez remain available and have had recent success. John Axford and Brian Wilson represent buy-low options as formerly elite closers that have struggled recently.
The Blue Jays currently have about $103MM committed to next year’s roster, not including arbitration raises. Toronto has Marco Estrada ($4.7MM projected salary), Donaldson ($4.5MM), Saunders ($2.9MM), Brett Cecil ($2.6MM) and Danny Valencia ($1.7MM) all eligible for arb this winter, which could take them to around $120MM total. That’s still well shy of last year’s $137MM Opening Day payroll, so the Blue Jays should be able to add a high-leverage relief arm even if the price tag is fairly substantial.