Baseball free agency begins today, Nov. 10, at 5 pm ET.
Slowly, the big dominoes will fall and the market's top names will find new homes. In recent years, the Blue Jays have been in the mix for many of the top free agents and even landed a few elite players.
Looking to fill out and improve on their roster, the Jays may have to shop up and down the free agent market this year. Reporters Ethan Diamandas and Mitch Bannon have identified six free agent fits Toronto should sign this winter, with options from every tier:
The Top Tier
Mitch's Pick: RHP Justin Verlander
I'm not sure many teams will need a Verlander sales pitch. He's the likely Cy Young winner, with the most wins, lowest ERA, and lowest WHIP in the American League. The Jays had very real interest in the veteran ace last offseason, reportedly offering the same general contract that Verlander returned to Houston on, and his brilliant 2022 should only heighten their curiosity.
The sole red flag with Verlander is age, entering his age 40 season, but that could actually play into the type of contract structure the Jays would want. Toronto may not have the financial flexibility to hand out another long-term commitment like the Kevin Gausman or George Springer deals. But, perhaps a high-dollar, low-term deal for Verlander fits the timeline and budget?
Ethan's Pick: RHP Kenley Jansen
The Blue Jays dipped their toes in the reliever market last winter by signing Yimi García to what now looks like a bargain of a deal at two years, $11 million with a team option. Now it's time for Toronto to take the full plunge.
Jansen has arguably been baseball's most consistent leverage arm over the last dozen years, weaving a 2.46 career ERA with 13.0 K/9. The Curacao native has stumbled at times over the last several seasons but always seems to emerge with polished numbers by year's end. His 41 saves in 2022 led the NL.
At 35 years old, Jansen likely won't command more than a two-year deal, which is perfect for the Jays, who can toss a higher average annual value at the right-hander in exchange for a lower term. While Jansen doesn't light up the gun like he used to, his cutter-heavy arsenal and 93rd-percentile extension would pose unique challenges for AL hitters.
The Mid Tier
Mitch's Pick: RHP Chris Bassitt
The Blue Jays have the top of their rotation settled, with Gausman and Alek Manoah. They have their upside plays, banking on a José Berríos rebound and flashes from Yusei Kikuchi and Mitch White. What they desperately need is some dependability in between.
Bassitt typifies reliability, making at least 25 starts in his last three full seasons, and delivering a quality start in over 60% of his outings over the last two years. He was the one constant in an oft-injured Mets rotation last year and could fill the same role for the Blue Jays going forward.
Ethan's Pick: OF/DH Michael Brantley
Toronto came oh-so-close to signing Brantley ahead of the 2021 season, and two years later he's still a fit in a heavily right-handed Blue Jays batting order. The 35-year-old's days of crisp defense are done—he's a full-time designated hitter now—and there are concerns about how his health will hold up (spoiler, it won't), but that just makes him more affordable.
The Jays love to rotate through the DH spot with hitters like Alejandro Kirk or Lourdes Gurriel Jr., but if Brantley is available on a two-year, $16-million deal or a one-year, $10-million pact, for example, I think that moves the needle for Toronto. He's still an impact hitter who can add high-contact, low-strikeout value, even on a platoon basis.
The Value Tier
Mitch's Pick: OF Ben Gamel
I see Gamel sliding seamlessly into Raimel Tapia's role, if the Jays choose to non-tender Tapia, as a flexible fourth outfield option who could play regularly against righties.
For his career, Gamel has been essentially a league-average hitter despite playing most of his games in two of the most pitcher-friendly environments in baseball (Seattle and Pittsburgh). He does bring a different look compared to Toronto's current outfield, though, with a left-handed swing and a patient approach at the plate (high walk rate, low chase). Gamel profiles pretty similar to Tapia defensively, with experience at all three positions but metrics only really love him in left.
Ethan's Pick: LHP Matt Moore
I've got to wonder how many times Moore was drug-tested last season. Probably a lot.
After four consecutive low-impact MLB seasons and a trip to Japan in 2020, the left-hander rekindled his mojo with the Rangers in 2022, firing 74 innings of relief with 83 strikeouts (10.4 K/9) and a 1.95 ERA. At the wise age of 33, Moore morphed into a fantastic full-time reliever capable of pitching multiple innings.
Toronto will likely have a Ross Stripling-sized hole in its 2023 bullpen. A cheap, low-risk acquisition like Moore could wind up being one of the sneakier methods of making up those bulk innings.