If you’re anything like me, this Blue Jays offseason felt like a turbulent one. There were lots of ups and downs when it came to the team’s transactional activities. Much like we do at the end of the regular season, with Spring Training just around the corner, now is a good time to look back on the highs and lows that embodied the 2016-17 hot stove season. The timeline should also serve as a reminder to be patient – the sky isn’t falling when you lose out on one great player; or even five of them. Even if it really, really feels like it.
November 11 – Jays Sign Kendrys Morales
When the Jays act quickly to sign a middle of the order bat, many people talk themselves into the idea that Edwin can still return and play first base. Are Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins some of those people? Others are confused, as Morales is definitely not the young, athletic guy the front office said they had their heart set on. We all pay more attention to exit velocity.
Panic Level: Moderate. It looks like the team will lose Edwin, but there’s lots of time to build the roster. While the fences at the Rogers Centre might be closer to home plate than they were at Kaufman Stadium, unfortunately for Morales, the distance between the bases remains 90 feet.
November 21 – Brett Cecil Signs with the St. Louis Cardinals
The under-appreciated lefty reliever gets big dollars ($30.5 million over four years) from the Cardinals. Cecil’s departure leaves a hole in the Toronto bullpen.
Panic Level: Remains Moderate. Mostly because people don’t appreciate Cecil as much as they should.
November 23 – Josh Reddick Signs with Houston
He was an outfield target, but he’s got some holes in his game and he signed for a lot of money.
Panic Level: Low. No big deal, he can’t really hit lefties anyway.
December 4 – Steve Pearce Signs in Toronto
The move serves as a reminder that Justin Smoak is likely going to be taking a whole mess of at bats for the team next season. Pearce’s signing also likely represents the end of the Encarnacion era. Lost in everything is that Pearce can be a useful player himself – assuming he can stay healthy and on the field.
Panic Level: Escalating to High. Are we sure Rowdy Tellez is too young for the majors?
December 6 – Red Sox Trade for Chris Sale
In response to the Steve Pearce signing, the Red Sox acquire Chris Sale. Everyone in Blue Jay land is reminded that playing in a division with the Red Sox and Yankees leaves you grappling with existentialism more often than you should.
Panic Level: Too sad to be panicked. Silver lining: at this rate, Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox will be out of prospects to trade sooner rather than later.
December 9 – Dexter Fowler Signs with the Cardinals
Fowler decides that playing for Mike Matheny is still better than having to run on turf and pay Canadian income taxes.
Panic Level: High. Edwin is likely gone and Fowler was the team’s top alternative target. Outfield options on the market are thin beyond him. We start talking about Brandon Moss way too much.
December 22 – Edwin Signs in Cleveland
Jays’ fans get their lump of coal early when Edwin signs in Cleveland a few days before Christmas. In signing for fewer dollars and years than was reportedly offered by Toronto in early November, Edwin’s agent, Paul Kinzer, gives Aaron Sanchez a reason to fire his current representatives and hire super-agent Scott Boras shortly after Christmas.
Panic Level: High. High enough that we are making something out of Sanchez’s agency change even though he won’t be a free agent until the fall of 2021.
January 5 – Jays Rumored to Still Be Uninterested in Re-Signing Jose Bautista
Despite filling a glaring need, the best player left on the market is allegedly not on the Blue Jays’ radar. Even amidst rumors that he can be prickly in the clubhouse, if Danny Valencia can still find work…With Jose’s price dropping, fan’s worry that the biggest offseason acquision will be two compensatory draft picks. The chances of having of playoff caliber team feel slim.
Panic Level: Sky high. Are the Jays rebuilding? At least the Maple Leafs are good right now. It hasn’t really come to that…has it?
January 17 – Jays Re-Sign Jose Bautista
The Jays (or maybe just Ed Rogers) decide they want to sign Jose Bautista after all. The return of Joey Bats fills a major hole in Toronto’s roster. The cherry on top is in signing what will likely amount to a one-year contract, Jose’s deal has the potential to be one of the bargains of the winter. News also leaks out that the Jays were trying to land Tony Watson and Andrew McCutchen in a blockbuster deal with the Pirates.
Panic Level: Dropping fast. One power-hitting outfielder does a lot to improve the roster. Even though the McCutchen rumors didn’t go anywhere, it’s nice to know the front office was trying to be competitive all along. It funny how obvious this seems now; yet seemed so improbable three weeks earlier.
January 24 – Jays Sign Jarrod Saltalamacchia
After a few weeks of worrying that Toronto will break camp without an established backup catcher, Toronto signs Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a minor league deal. Salty provides a major league-tested backup option that isn’t Josh Thole for the first time in four years. The torch has been passed to another sub-.200 hitting backup. 2017 batting average aside, Saltalamacchia has been valuable against right-handed pitching in the past and gives the Jays the opportunity to keep Russell Martin rested.
Panic Level: Even lower. Backup catchers don’t make a ton of difference, but it’s the principal of the thing. The deal would have been finalized earlier, but it took a few drafts before Salty’s name was finally spelled correctly on the contract.
January 31 – Jays Sign J.P. Howell
Howell gets about half the annual salary that the Cardinals shelled out for Brett Cecil on a one-year deal. While he isn’t Cecil, Howell has been known to grow some similarly interesting facial hair. He should be a serviceable replacement out of the pen. Then a few days later, they threw in Joe Smith for good measure.
Panic Level: Low. It hasn’t been this low since Josh Donaldson slid home in Game 3 of the ALDS against Texas.
Bring on 2017. While it sure didn’t feel like it at Christmas, or even early in the New Year, the Jays look like they’ll head to Spring Training with a roster that looks like it can compete for a playoff spot. Watching the offseason play out chronologically is a good reminder that the season doesn’t start in December. It ain’t over until the last lefty reliever signs.
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