2:24PM: Toronto also has interest in J.T. Realmuto, according to Sports Grid’s Craig Mish (Twitter link). While the Jays have a fair amount of catching depth already on hand, Realmuto would obviously present a big upgrade over current starter Danny Jansen, backup Reese McGuire, and top prospect Alejandro Kirk. If the Blue Jays did sign Realmuto, it’s fair to assume the Jays would shop at least one of their in-house catchers to other teams.
12:32PM: For the second straight offseason, the Blue Jays are checking in on a wide range of free agent options. The club has already been linked to George Springer and DJ LeMahieu, and now The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (subscription required) adds that Toronto has spoken with representatives for Michael Brantley and Justin Turner, and the Jays also made an offer to Kevin Gausman before Gausman accepted the Giants’ one-year, $18.9MM qualifying offer. Going beyond only established big leaguers, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the Jays have interest in Korean shortstop Ha-Seong Kim, noting that Toronto has “evaluated him closely.”
Beginning with the position players, Brantley, Turner, and Kim would each cost less than the likes of Springer or LeMahieu. MLBTR’s list of the offseason’s top 50 free agents had Brantley and Turner right next to each other in the No. 13 and 14 positions, projecting the two veterans for similar contracts — Brantley a two-year, $28MM pact and Turner for two years and $24MM. Kim ranked seventh on the list due to his younger age (25), projected for a five-year, $40MM deal and another $7.625MM in a posting fee to the KBO League’s Kiwoom Heroes.
Brantley turned 34 in May and is seemingly less of a positional need for the Jays since he has exclusively played as a left fielder or DH over the last five seasons. Toronto already has Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in left field and a Vladimir Guerrero Jr./Rowdy Tellez tandem penciled in for the first base and DH roles, so a Brantley signing would to hint that a trade could be in the offing. Guerrero has been vocal about wanting to play third base again, so conceivably the Jays could find room for Brantley without a trade, but it doesn’t seem too likely that the team would install Guerrero as a full-time option at the hot corner.
Turner or Kim would be the easier positional fit since either could immediately slide into the Blue Jays’ open third base spot. Turner just celebrated his 36th birthday yesterday and, like Brantley, continues to swing a powerful bat into his 30’s. A return to Los Angeles is certainly possible, however, as Rosenthal writes that Turner “still appears to be [the Dodgers’] first choice” in terms of infield additions, though they perhaps couldn’t be ruled out as a potential suitor for LeMahieu. While Turner’s positive coronavirus test during Game 6 of the World Series and subsequent post-game return to the field to celebrate with his Dodgers teammates adds an inescapably strange footnote to his career, Turner won’t face any league discipline for the breach of COVID-19 protocol.
Signing Kim would be perhaps the most intriguing move possible, as unlike Brantley or Turner, Kim would be seen as a long-term building block to a Toronto organization that is already stocked with young infield talent both on the MLB roster and in the farm system. While Kim could play third base immediately, he is also a well-regarded defensive shortstop, so the Blue Jays could experiment with trying Kim at short and moving current shortstop Bo Bichette to second or third base (with Cavan Biggio playing the other position).
Adding Kim might also made it more feasible for the Jays to trade one of their top infield prospects, with Jordan Groshans, Miguel Hiraldo, or Orelvis Martinez probably more likely to be moved than 2020 fifth-overall pick Austin Martin. Since Martin is also a multi-positional threat, the Jays might try to develop him as a center fielder if Kim is signed to bolster the infield picture. The Blue Jays (and the 29 other MLB teams) will get their first chance to directly speak with Kim after his 30-day negotiating window opens on November 26.
While possibilities abound on the position player side, pitching is Toronto’s chief focus this winter, so it isn’t surprising that they made an early pitch for Gausman. Rosenthal reports that the Jays offered Gausman a three-year deal worth roughly $40MM, though the right-hander instead opted for the one-year deal to remain in San Francisco. Should Gausman deliver another good season in 2021 and then return to the free agent market next winter, he’ll surely receive offers beyond the two years and $21.1MM he left on the table to accept the Giants’ qualifying offer.