Blue Jays could look to “show me” contracts in free agency

Blue Jays’ GM Ross Atkins may look at a few creative approaches to filling out his roster for the 2017 season

With the MLB off-season roughly 3 weeks in, most teams around baseball are still evaluating their rosters and trying to decide what holes they’ll need to fill prior to spring training. Only a handful of free agents are off the board, so plenty of options remain for hopeful GM’s around the league.

For the Blue Jays, the offseason challenges are well documented. They have free agents Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Michael Saunders, among others, and they’ve already watched Brett Cecil sign with the St. Louis Cardinals. While there is a great core coming back, including the AL’s top rotation, losing that much thump from a lineup isn’t an easy thing to replace.

Like many teams at this time of the year, the Blue Jays are reportedly asking about most free agents, trying to gauge the market and come up with the best solution. With needs in the outfield, the bullpen, and possibly at first base, it’s not as easy as throwing money at the best available options.

With that in mind, Blue Jays’ GM Ross Atkins may look at a few different creative approaches to filling out his roster. One such approach could be pursing players that might be interested in a “show me” contract. For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s generally a one-year deal for a talented player who struggled the season before. Signing a one-year deal allows that player to show the market their struggles were temporary, and hopefully sets them up for a better free agent contract the following year.

One player who could be looking for this type of contract is Carlos Gomez. Gomez will turn 31 this off-season after finishing the year with the Texas Rangers. He started the 2016 in Houston, but played so poorly he was designated for assignment. It’s one thing for an expensive player to be designated by a floundering team, but the Astros were still theoretically in the playoff mix. They still felt they were better off without the two-time All-Star on their roster.

Fortunately for Gomez, he found his stroke in Texas and revived his career down the stretch for the Rangers. He ended up hitting .284/.362/.543 in Texas with eight home runs and 24 RBI in 116 at-bats. He also had six doubles and five stolen bases, eventually moving into the leadoff spot and becoming an important part of his new club. After having batted .210/.272/.322 with just five home runs and 29 RBI in 295 at-bats with Houston, his renaissance may have saved his career.

There could be a GM willing to take a risk on Gomez’s first half struggles, but it’s also possible he’ll pursue a one year deal to re-establish his value. His skill set may not be the perfect fit for the Blue Jays, but there may be other reasons to consider the Dominican native as an option.

The Blue Jays have some talented young outfielders in their system such as Dalton Pompey, Anthony Alford and Harold Ramirez, so they don’t necessarily need to lock down the position for very long. They could use the above mentioned names in trades, but the Jays have expressed a desire to strengthen their minor league system, making deals less likely.

If they don’t like Gomez or another team is willing to take more of a risk, there could be other “show me” free agent options, such as former Blue Jay Eric Thames. Thames is looking at returning to the MLB after three seasons of dominating in the KBO in Korea. While he may get a multi-year offer, he may also be enticed with the idea of truly establishing his MLB value before locking in to a longer term deal.

Lastly, there was a familiar name asking for five years and big money last season, who might be forced to re-evaluate his free agency. Jose Bautista is very likely to secure a three-year deal at a raise from last season, but what if the market falls out from under him? He has a qualifying offer attached to him, and struggled through injury for a significant portion of 2016.

Known for being a freak of conditioning, Bautista may find it more palatable to bet on himself in 2017, and hope for a better contract next offseason. His age complicates that strategy, but “Joey Bats” has never been a player lacking in confidence, so it’s possible he could consider this alternative if the market isn’t to his liking by the new year.

It’s still relatively early in the offseason, and chances are the dominoes will fall at a faster rate after Dec 2nd, when the current CBA expires. The Blue Jays will no doubt pursue other free agents and players in trade, but it’s entirely possible they could look to the “show me” deal to keep them competitive in 2017 and keep their budget restrictions limited in the future.

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