Blue Jays Not Putting Eggs in One Basket

Like a shrewd investor, the Blue Jays have opted to diversify this offseason

Last offseason, the Blue Jays faced a choice: dump all their resources into David Price or use the money to buy two lower prestige starters. They opted for the latter signing Marco Estrada and J.A Happ to $13m AAV deals. Boston meanwhile signed Price to a gargantuan 7 year $217m deal. Many fans howled their disappointment. “Cheap Rogers” they scoffed.

As it turned out “Cheap Rogers” apparently knew what they were doing. Within a few months of 2016, Price’s contract already was starting to look like an albatross while Happ and Estrada were both outperforming Price. Happ ended the campaign with a 4.4 WAR, Estrada 3.4 WAR and Price 3 WAR.

The new “Shapkins” regime recognized that they’d only be able to fill one hole if they signed Price but they needed to fill two rotation spots and round out the bullpen. They wisely chose to diversify and fill four holes for far less money combined than what Price received.

It appears they are taking a similar tack this offseason. Instead of signing two or more premier free agents, they’ve spread the money around to fill five roles. The Blue Jays have spent $38.75m on free agents this offseason and assuming Joe Smith‘s contract comes in around $3m, roughly $41.75m.

They’ve inked Kendrys Morales, Joe Smith, J.P Howell, Jose Bautista, and Steve Pearce. Once again, the moves have been met with groans from many fans. However, just like last year, this diversification of assets could pay more dividends.

Consider if the Blue Jays had spent their ~$42m on premier free agents. Let’s say Edwin Encarnacion and Kenley Jansen. That’s $36m AAV and leaves only $6m to fill holes in right, left, and a bullpen lefty. Steamer projects EE at 2.1 WAR for 2017 and Jansen at 1.6 WAR. Add on three $2m AAAA types and you’ve got a total of around 4 WAR.

The Jays’ actual ~$42m has netted them five major league players and a projected 4.8 WAR (these projections tend to be conservative). For the same amount of cash, the Jays have bested the imaginary scenario by almost a full win and have filled each hole with a quality MLB player. Signing two premier FAs would have beggared the team elsewhere at three inadequately filled positions.

Some may still irrationally complain, “why didn’t they get five premier free agents at all five open roles?” No team this offseason has, and no team usually does. The Jays are adding about $18m in payroll this year (to about $165m). Five premier FAs would have cost beyond $200m. There was never a chance of the Jays doing that.

They obviously couldn’t get the best five available at each of their open positions, so rather than blow all of their budget increase on two top ranked free agents, they’ve plugged five holes by spreading it out. They are better off for it.

That doesn’t mean that the offseason has gone perfectly. One could still quibble with perhaps moving too quickly on Morales, or prefer they’d retained Encarnacion over Bautista or want Smoak gone or what have you, but the overall philosophy has been the best one. The bases all couldn’t be covered with great players. With a healthy payroll increase they’ve signed one premier player (Bautista) and four other solid ones. They’ve filled their holes and reduced their risk by placed their eggs in several different baskets.

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