In an article about the Blue Jays’ upcoming offseason, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet says that the club tried to acquire Cleveland infielder Jose Ramirez and Detroit outfielder Robbie Grossman at the trade deadline.
This comment came within the context of a discussion he had with general manager Ross Atkins about the lack of diversity in the Blue Jays’ lineup this season. Atkins stated that the righty-heavy lineup was better when left-handed hitters Cavan Biggio and Corey Dickerson were present. “It’s not just that they’re left-handed, but how we are attacked and potentially the pitchers that are used is different,” Atkins said. “Secondarily, we feel it’s important to have balance and not just the same type of hitters up and down your lineup. So some players that are more batting average driven and some players that are more on-base driven with plate discipline. Having both is exceptionally powerful.”
In the end, the Blue Jays only added pitching at the deadline, with Jose Berrios being the headline move. In the season’s final months, the club finished strong and ended up 91-71, just one game away behind the eventual Wild Card participants, the Red Sox and Yankees.
Ramirez and Grossman are both excellent hitters, making it hardly surprising that Toronto, or any club, would be interested in their services. Both certainly would have helped with the righty-heavy situation, as they are both switch hitters. Grossman is usually better as a righty but still above-average from the left side. For his career, his slash line as a righty is .273/.367/.409, wRC+ of 116, whereas the lefty line is .241/.346/.378, wRC+ of 102. This year, his production as a lefty was slightly better, coming in at 105 in terms of wRC+. But his production as a righty was significantly better, coming in at 135 by the same measure. Ramirez, however, is equally excellent from both sides. His career line as a righty is .292/.351/.500 for a wRC+ of 125. As a lefty in his career, he’s hit .272/.356/.502 for a wRC+ of 127. This year, his wRC+ was 139 as a lefty and 135 as a righty.
It is perhaps worth nothing that both players are still controlled by their respective clubs, making it possible that whatever trade scenarios were discussed could be revisited in the offseason, especially considering that the Jays are losing the aforementioned Dickerson to free agency, weakening their already-thin pool of lefty bats. Grossman and the Tigers agreed to a two-year deal before this season, leaving one year remaining at a salary of $5MM. The Tigers have been rebuilding in recent years, making it somewhat logical that they would consider parting with a veteran player who is approaching free agency. But on the other hand, after an awful showing in April, they went 69-66 over the season’s final months and could be looking to add rather than subtract this offseason. And the Jays aren’t especially desperate for outfield help, given they have George Springer, Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Randal Grichuk on hand.
Ramirez, for his part, is controlled through for two more seasons via a pair of club options as part of the extension he signed prior to the 2017 season. The $11MM and $13MM salaries for 2022 and 2023 are both absolute bargains for a player of his caliber, meaning they’re guaranteed to be picked up. However, that also means it will be difficult to pry him loose from Cleveland, even if it’s unclear how aggressive the team plans to be this winter. They finished the season with a lackluster 80-82 record, meaning there could be an argument for selling. But on the other hand, they suffered a large number of injuries to key players, especially in their rotation, and could expect better results in 2022. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, they also had an opening day payroll of under $50MM this season, lower than it’s been in a decade, meaning there shouldn’t be too much desire to strip it down even further. As much as he would slot nicely into a Toronto lineup that has Cavan Biggio and Santiago Espinal as its best third base options, it should take a tremendous trade package to make it happen.
The Blue Jays, for their part, should be able to take on some salary. When asked if the payroll could increase from this year’s $140MM range, Atkins tells Davidi, “That is our desire and that is our understanding.” That wouldn’t be unprecedented for the Toronto club, as their budget was over $160MM in both 2017 and 2018, before dipping as their recent rebuild picked up steam. Now that they’ve returned to contention over the past two seasons, it stands to reason that they would return to that level, if not surpass it. They only have about $65MM committed to next year, according to Jason Martinez of Roster Resource, though that’s before accounting for arbitration raises for players like Berrios, Hernández and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Atkins tells Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet that the Jays are looking to add to the infield and rotation, which makes sense given they are losing Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien to free agency in a few weeks. As to whether they have the cash to pull it off, Atkins told Davidi that the Jays could give out a “very significant deal with a lot of term to it, maybe more than one,” but also tried to tamp down expectations by saying that teams “need to have that five- and six-year understanding for what that means for the team and the organization.”