In yesterday’s State of the Union press conference with Ross Atkins, Toronto’s GM stressed that the team needs to get younger, faster, and more athletic. This is obviously all true, but also ironic coming from someone who just last off-season signed Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce to multi-year deals when neither of them are any of those things.
Unlike the 2016 off-season when the Blue Jays front office got a little spend happy in an effort to keep the team competitive for yet another year, Toronto can’t afford to make any serious mistakes this time around in free agency and bite-off more than they can chew. Toronto now has to live with the Morales contract for two more seasons, and what they can’t do over the next few years is sign yet another over priced old guy to a contract that’s too long.
Atkins mentioned yesterday that they’ll try to address several of their needs via free agency, specifically finding a utility infielder who can fill-in for the oft injured Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis. This probably isn’t such a bad idea, but the only free agent utility infielders better than Toronto’s current player who fills that role, Ryan Goins, are Eduardo Nunez and Jed Lowrie, two players deserving of multi-year deals in excess of $10 million/season. Considering the injury problems that Devon Travis has suffered, do the Blue Jays break the bank to acquire Nunez or Lowrie, or do they stick by their talented hitting 2nd baseman in the hope he heals nicely and is able to play out the entire 2018 season.
Toronto has no clue how well Tulowitzki or Travis will hold-up next year, and for that reason it might make sense to sign Nunez to a lengthy deal, say 3-years. If Tulowitzki and Travis happen to remain healthy, perfect, Nunez can still get plenty of playing time filling in for them, along with Josh Donaldson. And if either Travis or Tulowitzki do get hurt, Nunez can easily slot-in as the starter.
The point I’m trying to make is that signing Nunez, who’s still just 30, to a 3-year deal isn’t a huge risk for the Blue Jays. Whereas signing a player like Lowrie, who’s 33, to a similar contract would be a far riskier move for a team already saddled with numerous bad contracts for older players. The mistake Toronto made with Morales isn’t just that they forked over too much money, but that they gave him a 3-year contract when he was already 33-years old. A mistake they can’t afford to repeat this off-season, or next off-season for that matter as well.