nelsoncruz

Not that this necessarily impacts the Jays directly– they don’t have any qualifying offers out to players, and they certainly haven’t been interested in signing guys who’d cost a compensatory draft pick in years past– but it’s worth noting that, as the 5 PM ET deadline for players to accept or reject qualifying offers that were made by their clubs last week looms, it looks like all of the players will decline and become free agents.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted the report first (that I saw), while Jon Heyman also wrote about it for CBS Sports.

Yeah, there’s some money floating around the game, it turns out. Not that there was ever any doubt of that, but… look at a Nelson Cruz, for example, who this morning formally turned down the Rangers’ qualifying offer.

Cruz will turn 34 in the middle of next season, and while he’s certainly an impressive hitter, he hasn’t been the nearly 5-win guy that he was in 2010 for three seasons now– especially not defensively– and he’s got the PED issue hanging over his head as well. Last year Melky Cabrera, who hit free agency five years younger, came with a similar PED story, and while maybe not the same lengthy track record of success or power, he’d had two very comparable seasons at the plate (150 and 118 wRC+) to what Cruz has done recently (122, 106, 116 in his last three). Cabrera, of course, didn’t have a draft pick tied to him– the Giants didn’t make him a qualifying offer– and yet “only” ended up signing for two years and $16-million.

Maybe this is an indication of just how scary much money it’s believed will be out there this time around, but it could also be a misstep from Cruz and his people– and one that other free agents may also be making, which plays to the Jays’ advantage. In theory, at least.

It probably goes without saying that I’m not particularly interested in Nelson Cruz, specifically, but I sure as shit am all for some of the free agents in the upper-middle range of the market devaluing themselves and suppressing their own value by tying a draft pick around their necks. And that’s because it would seem to me the fact that the Jays have two protected first round draft picks gives them a significant opportunity to add exactly those kind of free agents that other teams, afraid of losing their lone first-rounder, would shy away from.

In fact, Alex Anthopoulos admitted as much in a piece late last week from Shi Davidi at Sportsnet.

The Blue Jays would surrender a second-round pick for signing such a player, which allows them to aim higher in the free agent market.

“That helps quite a bit,” says Anthopoulos. “When you have a chance to get multiple years of a free agent, and it’s a now big-league player. I think almost every team would do that. We’re not happy with the way the year went, but now in the off-season it’s to our advantage that we don’t have to surrender a first-round pick.”

Obviously when you’re talking about a guy like Robinson Cano, and the kind commitment a club would be making to sign him away from the Yankees, the draft pick becomes rather peripheral, but as Kyle Lohse found out last year, teams really, really covet their draft picks, and can be very reluctant to part with them except for the absolute best free agents out there. It’s a market inefficiency that is screaming for Anthopoulos to exploit it– especially because he has a pair of protected first-rounders, and a club actually looking to be competitive. The same can’t be said of many of the other teams with protected picks: Houston, Miami, both Chicago teams, Minnesota, Seattle, Philadelphia, Colorado and the Mets.

I’m not saying that those will be the Jays’ only competition for guys like Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez, but they may be the clubs willing to go farthest to get the player, given that the draft pick loss they’re factoring in will be less significant than for others. If that’s the case, and if the Jays are willing to put getting a good player at as fair a price as the market will ever bear ahead of their third (and maybe, dare I say, fourth?) draft pick next June, they could certainly make some noise on the market this winter. And really, the timing is beyond perfect, isn’t it?

The thirteen players who received qualifying offers and will (reportedly) be turning them down before today’s 5 PM ET deadline are: Cruz, Jimenez, Santana, Carlos Beltran, Robinson Cano, Shin-Soo Choo, Stephen Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson, Hiroki Kuroda, Brian McCann, Kendrys Morales, Mike Napoli.

Obviously the Jays shouldn’t be looking exclusively to this corner of the market– if they can get a player they want at a good price without giving up a draft pick, that’s all the better– it’s just, they need to find whatever advantages they can, and it would certainly appear as though they have one when it comes to these guys. And it certainly seems like there are some fits, too.

For example, I think I talked myself into Ubaldo last week in a Daily Duce last week:

I’ve sort of been cold to the idea of the Jays giving up a draft pick for Ubaldo Jimenez, given the appearance of “Bad Ubaldo” during the 2012 season and the first half of this one. But… I don’t know, actually. Yeah, at his worst it’s bad, but he’s only had that one year of less-than-3.2 fWAR over the last six seasons, and the last year in which he didn’t make thirty starts? That would be 2006, when he was playing on a shortened Triple-A schedule and made 26. The last season in which he made fewer than 25 starts? In 2002 an 18-year-old in the short-season Pioneer League. So, is… uh… is he a way less risky, far more durable Josh Johnson with the same five- or six-win probably-never-coming-back upside? Should the Jays be all over this? Did I hear someone say on the radio the other day that Anthopoulos was trying to get him when he was originally traded from Colorado to Cleveland in 2011? The answer to both those questions might actually be yes, right? At any rate, Grant Brisbee looks at his free agent case at Baseball Nation, and sees him returning to Cleveland by taking the qualifying offer. Alex can do him one better than that, eh? Protected pick and all. Do it!

He was indeedon the Jays’ radar back in 2011. And we know that Alex Anthopoulos has a long memory when it comes to players that he likes. So… yeah, I’m still on board here. Sign ‘em all! 2009 Yankees it!

Comments (45)

  1. Are the winter meetings the one where all the action happens?

  2. I could see Cruz getting more total term over a longer term, say 3/30, but I doubt he gets to a $14M average per year. But a maybe a smart move on his part if he can get multiple codes.

    Can’t see the Jays being interested in any of those guys except Ubaldo.

    • Ubaldo does sound intriguing. I don’t think the term on the contract would be too crazy either (maybe 3 or 4 years?).

  3. the steady and significant decline on his FB velo is concerning to me. Otherwise peripherals look good, Would depend on cost obviously but the declining velo is concerning

  4. The other advantage to signing one of these top free agents (besides getting a top player, and not giving up a first round pick) is they can backload a 4 or 5 year deal, lessening impact on current payroll, which is already high. They can’t do that with a medium tier free agent who can only get 2 or 3 years.

    • I agree. Backloading worked out great for Florida, even if they flipped a little earlier than they intended. You use the FA for the years you are competing, and then flip them to a team in need who is ok acquiring the guy because the length of commitment is lessened.

      • Good point. Heck, it even worked out for the Jays before with Wells, even though nobody could anticipate getting off *that* easy on the worst years again.

  5. If you can sign Beltran or Choo, does the trading of Bautista for a front line starter become palatable?

    • Yes, though you’d have to see what came back for Bautista to understand what the point of it all was and why they couldn’t just get a free agent starter to begin with.

      Moot point, of course, because Choo certainly isn’t coming here and Beltran turned the Jays down once before, partly because of turf concerns. I’d think he’s slightly more likely to end up here, just because of the limited market because he has to DH– and also because of the pick– but I’d still be very, very surprised.

      Maybe his old teammate Jose Reyes can talk to him right? That’s how this pipe dreamin’ is supposed to work, isn’t it?

      • I like the pipe dreaming!

        As for Choo, what’s the reason he wouldn’t come? Wouldn’t he be a defensive upgrade over Bautista? I’m sure you could convince him this team could be a contender and promises of starting in RF, and batting at the top of the order on a contender would be pretty enticing to someone if the dollars lined up/

        • It seems like a tough situation to navigate. If they sign Choo, then they risk losing leverage in a JB deal. Teams would see that the Jays almost need to move him, so they might start playing hard ball. If they trade JB first, then they give the leverage to Choo. The risk is the jays end up with a hole in their line up or not getting enough value for JB. This is why Stoeten thinks it would be much easier and safer to just sign a FA starter.

          I still like the idea of trying to get Profar and a SP for some JB package. It is easier to find OFers than young high-upside middle infielders.

          • With the Jays having a pretty clear need on LF too I can’t see how this would hurt their leverage when trading one of the best power bats in the game.

            Reyes, Choo, Bautista, EE would be deadly.

          • I don’t think you understand leverage.

          • I disagree with losing leverage on trading JB if you were to sign a guy like Choo.

            JB has value regardless.

        • I’d love to see Choo here but the reality is that a lot of clubs, including marquee franchises, are going to offer him big money to come play for them. Contenders or not, the Blue Jays haven’t been relevant for 20 years and having to play on a shitty carpet doesn’t help either.

  6. Drives down the price tag of taking a flyer on JJ?

  7. Six of the 13 QO’s (46%) were from two of the 30 MLB teams 7%.
    That is potentially six compensatory (between 1st and 2nd round)
    draft picks headed to those two teams.

    The rich teams can thus both afford to pay the premium players
    and reap a harvest of draft picks when they depart.

    Doubt the current system will survive the next CBA.

    • I keep hearing this but it’s kind of bogus. Looking at the Yankees picks, don’t forget what they gave up for Granderson. I’m pretty sure they come out of this worse off than before they had him. Kuroda’s not going to get them a draft pick. and Cano is a premier player in the game. It’s not like they’re exploiting some holes here.

      As for the Red Sox, your point is a little more valid…kind of annoying seeing them grab Napoli and Drew for 1 year and turn them into picks, but Ellsbury is definitely a big loss.

  8. Question – let’s say a Christmas miracle happens in Toronto and we can sign two FAs that turn down QOs… do we only give up the 2nd rounder and that pick’s associated bonus pool?

  9. .except only 16 of ubaldo’s starts he went 6+ip

    he routinely gets bombed by the yanks and sox, not exactly a guy I want to pay big money for, so no thanks

  10. Stop getting our hopes up! It’s Rogers for cripe’s sake. They won’t spend a dime.

  11. I really don’t understand the notion of trading Bautista for pitching.

    I dont care about the sentiment or any other nonsense, I’m looking at it from a strictly on field business decision.

    What team is going to give up a front line starter to receive a slugging outfielder? If you go based on the pitchers who are supposedly available this offseason, Scherzer, Price, Shark, it makes sense for none of those teams. Especially when a team can sign Cruz, Ellsbury, Choo for much less, and keep their starter or trade the starter for prospects, which makes more sense for the cubs and rays.

    I really just don’t see it, I don’t see it make sense for the Jays or for another contending team.

    • The only one I could kind of see is Price. The Rays could use an offensive upgrade, and with their budget constraints Bautista’s about the only legit power bat they might be able to afford. But the whole inside the division thing makes it a moot point anyway.
      I think the prevailing thought is he’d be traded for two lesser players. Which kind of makes sense, but to find a team that matches up is nearly impossible. Who has a 2/3 starter and a good second baseman (or catcher) they’re willing to give up for Bautista?

      • There is 0 chance the jays take bautista’s contract, everytime they trade one of their players it is for prospects, they survive and rely on players who haven’t started their arb clock yet.

        As for your second point, its exactly why i don’t see a trade happening. Not only will you have to find a team with pitching and infield depth to acquire bautista but it has to be a contending team, or else whats the point in acquiring bautista.

        • I’ve said it before, I think St. Louis is a good match for the Jays in this regard, lots of good looking young pitching and they currently have no place to play Kolten Wong 2B. They’re going to lose Beltran and want Tavares to get some more PAs in the minors before making the jump, so they need a slugging OF for a couple seasons.

          • Cardinals main concern is a shortstop and rumour has it they are targeting good ones.

            I guess I could see a deal if they didn’t have that big hole. But if they go after Profar,Andrus or Tulo, they will be giving up some big names in their pitching depth.

  12. All in for Matt Garza. His numbers vs. the AL East are very good and he doesn’t cost you a draft pick. Seriously all it will cost you is money – a lot of it – but isn’t that better than money plus giving up players or draft pick compensation?

    • if it was a 1 year deal yes.

      but if you have to give him a 5 year deal with a high AAV is it worth it?

      • There would potentially be quite a bit of value in Garza, two or 3 years from now if you did sign him to a 4 or 5 year deal.

      • I don’t get what is so bad about multi-year deals. If we sign him for one year, then next year we have a problem all over.

        There is this weird asumption that all contracts go bad and become unmovable. This seems a far less likely outcome than people assume.

  13. I just wrote a whole big thing about free agent starters that the Jays might target this off-season (pretty much any of them…), and I think I kind of ended up talking myself into Ubaldo as well. I feel like Garza is probably a more certain bet because his overall record of health and consistency is pretty remarkable, but because of that will demand more money/term.

    Ubaldo, on the other hand, might be more volatile but has a higher upside in my opinion. His recent crappy seasons and the draft pick compensation have lowered his cash value, but as I mentioned in my piece I feel like I can see him as a guy that’s learned to live with his diminished velocity and who might be a much better value pick up, draft pick or not. If he can be had for something like the Edwin Jackson deal like MLB Trade Rumors predicts I’d be all over that.

    The whole thing is here if anyone is interested: http://bluejaysblackboard.blogspot.ca/2013/11/free-agent-targets-starting-pitching.html

  14. Big Hirok; make it happen.

    • Do it.

      Short term. He keeps signing 1 year deals in NYY. So why not?

      Heck, go two years if you must.

  15. They should go after Matt Garza. Why not give him a 5-year slightly backloaded deal?
    1. He doesn’t cost a pick.
    2. The money saved on not losing from a bonus pool matters
    3. He can pitch in AL East
    4. You would think you could still trade him in year 4 or 5 if necessary to a team desperate for starting pitching. I mean that kind of situation happens right…right?

    I really hope we pony up some money for at least one very good starting pitcher. I abandoned all hope it would be Tanaka. While it seem to make sense for the Blue Jays to show the baseball world that they plan to seriously compete with the Yankees and Red Sox for the foreseeable future I doubt it would happen. Henceforth Garza. Please baseball gods let clarity enter the Rogers braintrust. It takes money to spend to build a perennial winner in any sport and it’s especially true where the Jays are concerned

    Thanks for listening. I never post

    Go Jays Go

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