Remember Tanner Roark? It was at the winter meetings three years ago that the Toronto Blue Jays began re-establishing themselves as off-season players by signing the self-described “diesel engine” for $24 million over two years.
A couple of weeks later, general manager Ross Atkins built upon that deal by taking the $80-million, four-year plunge for star lefty Hyun Jin Ryu, credibility building steps which led to big contracts for George Springer ($150 million, six years) and Marcus Semien ($18 million, one year) the following winter and Jose Berrios (an extension for $131 million over seven years), Kevin Gausman ($110 million, five years) and Yusei Kikuchi ($36 million, three years) last off-season.
Now, once again at San Diego’s Manchester Grand Hyatt for baseball’s first in-person swap-fest since that fateful 2019 gathering, the Blue Jays are in a much different spot.
Back then, they were a team on the make trying to sell reluctant free agents on the legitimacy of both their ambitions and their roster. This time around, they’re a largely set wild-card club seeking to refine a group that’s posted back-to-back 90-win seasons, a shift that in some ways makes their work even more complicated, even if they are now a far more attractive venture.
Their needs at this point are obvious – one starting pitcher for sure, but likely two, or at least one other arm who can also start; plus a left-handed hitting outfielder, ideally one who plays centre field – as they have been since the trade of Teoscar Hernandez to Seattle last month.
How they address them is still unclear, and even though Atkins, speaking at the Toronto chapter of the BBWAA’s annual meeting Wednesday, said the club is “probably” leaning a bit more to free agency than trade right now, what happens in the catching market may very well be the trigger for their next steps.