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Blue Jays Face Unique Challenges this Offseason

Blue Jays face unique challenges this offseason
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The Toronto Blue Jays overcame hurdles that no other team dealt with during the shortened 2020 season. Now, it’s time for the team’s front office to clear the obstacles. 

The Buffalo Blue Jays

Even during Toronto’s opening series in Tampa Bay from July 24-26, it was uncertain where the team would play its home games. The eventual destination was Sahlen Field in Buffalo, NY. The Blue Jays started summer’s version of “spring training” in early July in Toronto. They were under the assumption that they would manage the COVID-19 complications just like any other team in the MLB一at their usual home. The Canadian Federal Government denied the Blue Jays request to play its home games in Toronto. Shortly after, the team was forced to temporarily move south. 

The decision by the government forced the upstart Toronto squad to play under the oddest of circumstances, while throwing several unknowns towards the way of the young ball club. With the offseason here, Toronto’s front office will have to approach free agent targets with the same complications in mind. Blue Jays starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker has the same concerns, and acknowledges that recruiting players to play for Canada’s only team this winter could be tricky. 

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More Difficult Recruiting

“If COVID-19 is still a factor, that could play a huge aspect in anybody coming to Toronto, and hopefully it doesn’t,” said Shoemaker on Sportnet FAN 590’s “Good Show” in Toronto on October 14. 

Getting players to sign in Toronto was already difficult. Now a new element has been added and having Shoemaker, a native of Wyandotte, Michigan acknowledge it, doesn’t help. This is not to say that the Blue Jays will not be active during free agency but the uncertainty that surrounds the team off the field can be taken into consideration when observing the team’s activity this winter.

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“If Toronto wants you and they sign you to a deal, oh, but hey, the government still says you have to play in a bubble, and maybe you’re the only team in a (bubble) because it’s Canada, and your family can’t come, that would be a really big discussion,” Shoemaker said on the Toronto radio station. 

Recruiting free agents is an art. Some executives are better at it than others, but generally, the process starts with baseball-related matters and ends with money. The unprecedented circumstances that face the Blue Jays can potentially have negative implications in starting a conversation with a free agent.

Money Issues

What may be more pressing however is the loss of revenue that has been seen around the league. Commissioner Rob Manfred said in an interview on Monday with Barry M. Bloom of Sportico that the 30 major league teams have combined for $8.3 billion in debt as of season’s end. Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro is focusing on this offseason just like any other. 

“If we think that the right deals are there and we make those recommendations, the resources are going to be there for us to add in a meaningful way,” said Shapiro at his first general media availability after the Blue Jays were ousted in two games to the Rays in the Wild Card round.

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No Excuses

To the credit of the Blue Jays players, the 2020 season was seen with more positives on the field, as opposed to the distractions off it. Toronto qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2016, finishing the 60-game schedule with a 32-28 record. Despite injuries across the board throughout the shortened campaign, flashes of brilliance were seen offensively from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez

“There were so many things that could have been built-in excuses for our players and they refused to take those excuses,” said Shapiro. “They chose instead to focus on what they could control.” 

After the team signed former Dodgers hurler Hyun Jin Ryu last winter to a four-year, $80 million deal, it appeared the Blue Jays were on their way to building around their young budding stars through free agency. With the unknowns that surround not only where the Blue Jays will play, but also the uncertainty financially around the MLB, Toronto may be the most fascinating team to observe as free agency approaches.

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Main Credit Image:  Embed from Getty Images

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