The Toronto Blue Jays have had a whirlwind winter in the rumour mill, but have not yet been able to acquire the type of high-end talent the fan base is clamouring for.
They've reportedly come close on Francisco Lindor, DJ LeMahieu, Tomoyuki Sugano and others, but as Josh Donaldson once famously said, "This isn't the try league, this is the get it done league." There are no points for second place.
Despite a few whiffs, there are still several avenues open to the Blue Jays as they look to improve for 2021 and beyond. Most of the top free agents remain unsigned, and Toronto has made clear it isn't afraid to spend in an off-season where most teams are trying to scale back.
Equipped with a good farm system as well as controllable MLB-level talent, the Blue Jays have enough attractive pieces to also make noise on the trade market.
With free agency and trades both legitimate options, here are six blockbuster moves the Blue Jays could still make in the coming weeks.
Improve the outfield with Springer
It has seemed like Plan A for the Blue Jays this entire off-season has been to sign George Springer, and for good reason. The 31-year-old would plug Toronto's hole in centre field, provide another big bat for the lineup, and inject post-season experience into a young roster.
The Blue Jays have already offered Springer a five-year contract worth north of $100 million, according to multiple reports, and it sounds like his signing decision could be coming shortly. Toronto is expected to re-connect with Springer early this week and may have already done so, per Sportsnet's Shi Davidi and Ben Nicholson-Smith.
Obstacles still remain, especially with the Blue Jays unsure of where they will be playing in 2021 and the New York Mets lurking with their wallets open under new owner Steve Cohen, but adding Springer would go a long way in improving Toronto's present and future outlook.
Bolster the rotation with Bauer
If things don't work out with Springer, the Blue Jays could address their starting rotation by signing the top arm on the market in Trevor Bauer. Adding more offensive firepower would be nice, but Toronto might be better off addressing its pitching situation. There is a lot of uncertainty behind ace Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Bauer would immediately give the Blue Jays a fearsome 1-2 punch.
The Blue Jays have been in contact with Bauer, who recently claimed geography is not a major factor in his decision of where to sign. That has to be welcome news for Blue Jays fans, who are well aware of how difficult it has been to lure top free agents to a different country.
The outspoken Bauer says he is also seeking an opportunity where he can be happy playing baseball, and with a team that will have a legitimate conversation with him about potentially pitching every fourth day (instead of every fifth).
No team can ever have enough starting pitching, but the Blue Jays figure to be one of only a handful of teams in this financial landscape with the resources to meet Bauer's high price tag.
Acquire baseball's best catcher in Realmuto
The Blue Jays are flush with young catching, both at the major-league level and in the minors. That shouldn't prohibit them from giving serious thought to J.T. Realmuto, who would be a real difference-maker behind the plate.
Since 2017, no catcher has a higher WAR than Realmuto, who is able to contribute offensively, defensively and with his baserunning. If they were to land Realmuto, it would free up the Blue Jays to use their enticing catching surplus in trade talks for another impact piece.
A return to Philadelphia is currently viewed as the most likely scenario, as the Phillies reportedly extended Realmuto a new five-year, nine-figure offer last week, but the Blue Jays could swoop in and be competitive if they decide to chase this marquee free agent instead of other options.
Capitalize on the Cubs' budget cuts
After years of success highlighted by a World Series title in 2016, it appears the Chicago Cubs are ready to look to the future. They've already dealt ace Yu Darvish to the San Diego Padres this winter, and could be looking at selling more pieces to save money.
As one of the few teams expressing a willingness to spend in this market, the Blue Jays appear to be in a position to take advantage. Former MVP Kris Bryant's name has been swirling in trade rumours, and he's an intriguing buy-low(ish) candidate coming off a down year in the shortened 2020 campaign. He recently settled on a $19.5 million contract for 2021 and is scheduled to hit free agency next off-season. For those reasons, the Cubs are likely looking to move him so they don't risk losing him for nothing.
Bryant would fill the hole the Blue Jays have at third base, and provide another middle-of-the-order bat, even if it's only for one year.
If the Blue Jays were willing to boost their package, they could potentially kill two birds with one stone by seeing if the Cubs would be interested in including pitcher Kyle Hendricks and the three years and $42 million (plus 2024 option) remaining on his contract. The right-hander owns a career 3.12 ERA (3.53 FIP) and has made at least 30 starts in four of his five full MLB seasons.
See who the Reds are willing to deal
The Reds are major X-factors this off-season, as they are ripe with impactful trade pieces should they decide to move them. Flamethrower Luis Castillo would be the biggest prize and would require a hefty package to acquire, but Reds GM Nick Krall threw some cold water on any rumours Sunday by saying they expect Castillo to be in their rotation in 2021. That makes sense given Castillo is only 28, has electric stuff and is under club control through 2023.
Even without Castillo in the mix, the Reds do have some pieces that could entice the Blue Jays, highlighted by two-time all-star pitcher Sonny Gray. He's owed roughly $20 million over the next two seasons and has a team option for 2023 at $12 million. Gray struggled in the AL East with the Yankees in 2018 but has an extensive track record of success, as evidenced by his career 3.54 ERA.
A trade package for Gray wouldn't be as significant as Castillo, but still wouldn't come cheap. Toronto could potentially lower the acquisition cost by also taking on Mike Moustakas's $52 million guaranteed over the next four years. Moustakas could handle third base in Toronto and would also provide a left-handed power bat in a righty-heavy lineup.
Eugenio Suarez is another name to watch out of Cincinnati, as the Reds have reportedly been fielding calls on him. The Venezuelan slugger would be a long-term solution at third base for the Blue Jays, signed to a reasonable deal through 2024 with a team option for 2025.
There's no guarantee the Reds move any of the names mentioned above, but they have the ability to send shockwaves through the trade market should they so choose.
Swing for the fences with the Rockies
Toronto missed out on Lindor, but there's another big name shortstop it could set its sights on in Colorado. Trevor Story is entering the final year of his contract and moving him would help the Rockies replenish a farm system that was ranked 28th by MLB.com following the 2020 trade deadline.
On paper, the Blue Jays would make sense as a trade partner for the Rockies, who are especially thin behind the plate. Colorado doesn't have a proven MLB-calibre backstop on its roster, and the only catcher ranked in its Top 30 prospects is 19-year-old Drew Romo, who would be multiple years away from reaching the majors.
The Blue Jays have catchers who could step into an MLB role immediately, and also have options in their pipeline that would be further along in their development than Romo. Toronto reportedly finished as the runner-up in the Lindor sweepstakes, so a similar package for Story could get a deal done.
Story hits for a high average and is capable of hitting 30 home runs and stealing 30 bases. Toronto already has Bo Bichette at shortstop, but could shuffle its infield to make room for Story, who is one of the best in the game. Like with Lindor, working out an extension with Story would be crucial as the 28-year-old would become a franchise cornerstone.