TORONTO — It’s no mystery that the Toronto Blue Jays have a great many decisions to make this off-season. Fixes are needed in the outfield, at second or third base and in the bullpen, at a minimum, to get this group the additional six or seven wins it needs to be a playoff team in 2015 after blowing a six-game lead in the AL East in early June and a three-game lead in the wild-card race to begin the month of August.
Some of those decisions can be made as soon as the season ends, as we saw with the outrighting of Dan Johnson, George Kottaras and Munenori Kawasaki last week. All three of them are now free agents, as are Jonathan Diaz, Cole Gillespie, Bobby Korecky, Darin Mastroianni, Brad Mills and Raul Valdes, who elected minor-league free agency over the weekend. Eight of those nine players spent time with the big-league club this season, however brief for some.
Decisions on the major-league free agents, though, can’t be made until after the World Series ends — short of re-signing them, which can happen at any time.
The fifth day following the conclusion of the World Series is the deadline for teams to make a qualifying offer to a player to secure draft-pick compensation should he decide to sign elsewhere, and two of the Blue Jays’ three major free agents won’t be getting a call.
Neither closer Casey Janssen nor outfielder Colby Rasmus will be getting a qualifying offer from the Blue Jays.
Unlike in hockey, the qualifying standard in Major League Baseball does not vary from player to player. The offer, for one year only, is required to be at least equal to the average of the 2014 salaries of the 125 highest-paid players in the game. Last year, the qualifying standard was $14.1 million. Thirteen players received such an offer and all of them rejected it, much to the future chagrin of Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales, who couldn’t find work until after the June draft when compensation was no longer attached.
In fact, no player has ever accepted a qualifying offer since the current model came into existence after the 2012 season.
This year, the qualifying standard has been set at $15.3 million for one year, so that’s what the Blue Jays would have to offer to Janssen and Rasmus to make sure there would be a draft pick coming back their way if either left. Of course, there would never be any draft pick coming back regardless, because there’s no way that either Janssen or Rasmus would turn down such an offer. So the Blue Jays will get nothing in return upon the departure of their top relief pitcher over the last four years — the longest-tenured current Blue Jay other than Dustin McGowan — and their supremely talented, but underachieving, centre-fielder who found himself on benched in September.
Not tendering a qualifying offer doesn’t mean a free agent can’t stay with his old team by any means, but it seems the Blue Jays and Rasmus have grown weary with one another, and that Janssen, a native of Southern California, would enjoy a return to the left coast after nine seasons up north. Even if Janssen wants to come back, there’s likely not a fit because the Blue Jays haven’t paid significant money to a reliever since signing B.J. Ryan to a five-year, $47-million contract back in Nov. 2005.
Janssen was the Blue Jays’ highest-paid reliever in 2014, making $4 million. In fact, only one other relief pitcher has ever made more money than that in Alex Anthopoulos’ tenure with the Blue Jays, and that’s Francisco Cordero, who signed a one-year deal for $4.5 million for the 2012 season. That one didn’t work out well. It stands to reason that Janssen can make a lot more money elsewhere.
As reported in September by Shi Davidi, the Blue Jays will be issuing a qualifying offer to Melky Cabrera if they can’t sign him before players file for free agency, and there’s no indication they will be able to. Should Cabrera leave, the Jays will likely get a 2015 supplemental first-round pick as compensation.
The same will not apply to either Janssen or Rasmus, who will leave for nothing in return.