The Blue Jays locked up one key rotation member for the long haul this week, signing Jose Berrios to a seven-year, $131MM contract extension, but they’re still hoping to retain a pair of key lefties who are now free agents. Both American League Cy Young winner Robbie Ray and fellow southpaw Steven Matz are “priorities” for Toronto, writes FanSided’s Robert Murray.
The Berrios extension shouldn’t be viewed as a deterrent in their efforts to sign another pitcher — far from it. Berrios is slated to earn $10MM next year in the first season of that deal — a slight bit less than he’d likely have earned by going through the arbitration process. And while Berrios adds another notable salary to the long-term ledger, southpaw Hyun Jin Ryu and his $20MM salary will be off the books after the 2023 season. Randal Grichuk is also off the books post-2023, so the 2023 season is really the only one in which the combination of the Berrios extension and a multi-year deal for another arm (e.g. Ray) would substantially impact the payroll.
Whether it’s Ray, Matz or another free-agent target, another rotation addition will fit nicely into the long-term payroll, as Springer and Berrios are now the only two players guaranteed anything in 2024 and beyond. That applies to Kevin Gausman as well, whom MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reports to be another target for the Jays. The Jays were linked to Gausman in both the 2019-20 offseason and the 2020-21 offseason, so it’s hardly a surprise to see them in the mix again — although the righty’s price tag is now substantially higher than in either of the past two offseasons. The Jays, Morosi adds, have also spoken with the Marlins about their starting pitching surplus.
One player unlikely to change hands, even if the Jays do go the trade route to add to the rotation, is infielder/outfielder Cavan Biggio. Although the 26-year-old hit just .224/.322/.356 in a 2021 season that was cut in half by neck and back injuries, GM Ross Atkins voiced confidence in Biggio’s ability to rebound during the GM Meetings (link via Gregor Chisholm of the Toronto Star). Atkins repeatedly talked Biggio up as an option either at second or third base — which spot depends on the rest of their offseason dealings — and as Chisholm notes, it seems unlikely Toronto would trade someone who was viewed as a key long-term piece prior to the 2021 season with his value at an all-time low.
The Jays have a wide-open slate of possibilities thanks to a cost-controlled young core, a relatively clean payroll outlook and a good bit of available financial resources. Ray said following this week’s Cy Young win that his camp is talking with the Toronto front office “on a daily basis” but also “testing the free-agent market” (link via Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi).
Given the accelerated nature of the starting pitching market so far, it’s possible the Jays’ pursuits of Ray and Matz will be resolved, one way or another, before they begin sorting through the infield needs. Regardless of the order in which it plays out, though, it seems likely they’ll come away from the offseason with at least one more starter and an addition to the infield — be it via free agency or trade.