What remaining free agents should the Toronto Blue Jays target?

Nick Reid Mar 15, 2022

I said last week that I was expecting a slew of MLB free agent signings this weekend. With the lockout over and done with and the regular season mere weeks away, I figured clubs would make a mad dash to to lock up the game’s best unsigned players like they were half-priced TVs at Best Buy on Black Friday.

And I was right. We’ve seen some a bunch of free agent deals already, including the Blue Jays going out and getting Japanese southpaw Yusei Kikuchi on a 3-year, $36 million deal. I said this was a great move by the Jays, but I figured there would have been some bigger contracts signed so far due to the immense talent that’s still out there. The Athletic‘s Jim Bowden released a top 25 MLB free agent list prior to the lockout, and as of Monday night nine players from that list remain unsigned including four in the top ten.

With Opening Day in sight and all of these agents still free, I have to imagine general managers aren’t getting much sleep as they work to fill out their rosters. And there are still some centrepieces available, some of which I think could be a great fit on this Blue Jays squad that was ranked sixth (SIXTH!!!) on MLB.com’s initial power rankings. Those are some high expectations

If this club really wants to solidify themselves as a contender within the dogfight of a division that is the American League East, they could benefit from adding some more pieces. Those could be acquired on the trade block, but whether players like José Ramirez or Matt Chapman are available via trade are unknown. Meanwhile, we know for sure that there are some quality players out there who still don’t have a job.

Let’s take a look at which of those free agents the Jays should go after to join Vladdy Jr. and the boys, who are busy getting back in the swing of things in Dunedin.

Freddie Freeman, 1B/3B

Freddie Freeman: The Albert Pujols of the Atlanta Braves

Reigning World Series champion. Five-time All-Star. CANADIAN!!! If you’re a Jays fan, Freddie Freeman seems to have it all.

Which is why it’s a shock to me that the Atlanta Braves didn’t do everything in their power to lock down their longtime first baseman. But every day that Freeman remains unsigned makes me think that the reunion won’t happen, leaving him up for grabs with a lot of potential suitors lined up.

There have certainly been rumours linking Freeman to the Jays, and whether this is actually realistic or just a pipe dream is yet to be seen. Obviously that’s a bat you would LOVE to have in your lineup, especially since the Blue Jays could use another lefty, but between the presumption that he would return to the Braves and his position in the field (I’d say the Jays already have a pretty good guy at first base) it still doesn’t seem realistic. But I’m here to tell you that if there is potential that the Jays could sign Freeman, then they should explore it.

I’ve seen Jays fans on both sides of the coin when it comes to Freeman, and those saying this club should look elsewhere aren’t unwarranted. Who knows how much Freeman has left in the tank at 32, when you’d expect him to enter the back nine of his career even though he’s yet to show any signs of it so far. And what do the Jays do defensively if they sign him? A third baseman is really what this club needs, which is why José Ramirez is everything you could want and more as the final piece of this lineup. Would you move Vladdy back to his natural position, and risk messing up his offensive mojo, or do you see if Freeman (who has limited experience at third) can handle the hot corner for a full 162 games? These are legitimate concerns.

But I’m telling you to throw those concerns out the window. If the Blue Jays are serious about winning with this core then I think Freeman is their best available free agent option. I don’t see any reason why he won’t age gracefully, like fellow Canadian first baseman Joey Votto has, and he’d be awesome in the middle of this batting order.

If Freddie’s up for the challenge then I’d try him at third, where he played 136 innings in 2017, and even if you have to split his playing time at DH and give some reps to Santiago Espinal or Cavan Biggio I’m okay with it. Orelvis Martinez or Jordan Groshans, two of the Jays’ best infield prospects, will hopefully take over at the hot corner soon enough.

The point is that Freddie Freeman is an offensive juggernaut who would be as great of a clubhouse leader as you can ask for. He just helped a young Braves core win their first World Series title since 1995, and I think he could be what this club needs to push them into that true contender stratosphere.

Kris Bryant, 3B

I can’t believe how far under the radar Kris Bryant has flown throughout free agency. At the beginning of the offseason I wrote about how the former MVP and World Series champion still had a lot left in the tank, and I think he could be a great fit with the Jays.

His production has dropped off in recent years, but I think he still has the tools to be a major addition to Toronto’s batting order and have a resurgence in a new home. While he’s become less of a contact hitter his power is legit and he can still get on-base, and while the Jays have plenty of right-handed bats Bryant is a third baseman which this team needs. He’s one of those hitters who looks like he obliterates the ball whenever he gets a good barrel on it.

Apparently Bryce Harper is lobbying for Bryant, his friend and fellow… Las Veganite??… to sign with the Phillies. While that would be a great fit (I’m high on the Phillies heading into this season, but that optimism is three years in and I’m willing to die on this hill) I think he’d also look great at the hot corner in a Blue Jays uniform. His defensive versatility is a plus and that’s something I find the Jays value more than most clubs. Plus he has big-game experience and is a guy you can count on to deliver under the bright lights. With the Rogers Centre as his home park I could easily see Kris Bryant put up 40 home runs a season.

 

An Impact Relief Pitcher (Kenley Jansen?!)

Now I KNOW that the Jays getting Kenley Jansen, the best closer left on the market, is a longshot. He surely has plenty of suitors and will cost a pretty penny. But the point is the Blue Jays could use another high-leverage relief pitcher and Jansen is exactly that. The 34-year old is coming off a resurgent season of sorts in which he converted 38 of 43 save opportunities with a 2.22 ERA and 185 ERA+, his best numbers since 2017 when he was a true Cy Young contender.

Even if the Jays don’t land the longtime Dodger, I think it’s imperative that they add another bullpen piece or two. I think the Jays should kick the tires on Colin McHugh, a longtime Astros starter who has transitioned into a reliable bullpen arm. He was fantastic with the Rays last season pitching to the tune of a 1.55 ERA and 0.94 WHIP, with a career-best 6.17 K/BB ratio. Lefties hit an abysmal .136 off of him and he gave up just three homers across 64 big league innings. And it’d take next to nothing for the Jays to get him on a short-term deal.

What I’d really love to see is a reunion with Ryan Tepera, who had a 2.79 ERA last season where he pitched for both Chicago clubs. Like McHugh he does a great job at keeping the ball in the park and he’s a guy you want in your bullpen if you’re a ballclub who wants to compete.

We should find out where Freddie Freeman goes sooner than later, as he’s rumoured to sign sometime this week, but even if he doesn’t get signed to the Blue Jays there are plenty of options out there that can improve this team. It should be a fun free agent period regardless. If the Jays do get Freeman, however, I will promptly lose my shit and buy his jersey before the ink even dries on his contract.

Nick Reid

Blue Jays Contributor for DeanBlundell.com. Sport Management student at Brock University. Have seen a game at all 30 Major League ballparks. Would rather be eating poutine at the Rogers Centre.

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