The temptations of Las Vegas can test even the most disciplined of visitors, which makes Sin City an especially interesting setting for the winter meetings of baseball. Amid this austere period of free agents, putting the annual baseball swap festival on a site built around the elimination of regulation and moderation will add a hint of intrigue the following week.
Will the self-control of recent seasons still reign? Or will some teams be drawn to let it run and exceed the past budget?
The Toronto Blue Jays have certainly been among the most disciplined baseball clubs in recent seasons, methodically and carefully spending on free agents. Consider that since Mark Shapiro took over as president and CEO in November 2015, the club's biggest financial commitment to the free agency was the three-year, $ 36 million deal awarded to J.A. Happ that year.
The second on the list is the three-year, $ 33 million agreement for Kendrys Morales distributed in November 2016 with Marco Estrada's 26-year contract of 26 million and the two-year contract of $ 12.5 million with Steve Pearce. multi-year appointments delivered on your watch.
There was considerable spending in one year for Jose Bautista ($ 18 million), Estrada ($ 13 million) and Jaime Garcia ($ 10 million), and a series of smaller deals, mostly for relievers.
Little exposure to long-term, minimal risk – a front office mantra for the times.
Ben Nicholson-Smith and Arden Zwelling take fans into the Blue Jays and MLB with news, analysis and interviews.
All that is worth bearing in mind, as GM Ross Atkins continues to look for the pitch upgrades that his poorly exposed team desperately needs. Ideally, Blue Jays want to add weapons in extended periods of time control with their core emerging player, but "it's very difficult to add Trent Thorntons, Marcus Stromans and Aaron Sanchezes for sure," he says.
"Young, controllable pitching is very difficult to get, so we're not going to get more Ryan Borucki / Sean Reid-Foley guys easily and easily," continues Atkins. "Adding at the free agent level is more realistic and something we're looking to do."
Given Blue Jays' recent spend habits, this suggests a future with more types of space markers that, if executed, can be traded on the negotiation deadline without waiver, rather than on longer term maturities.
The $ 140 million, six-year deal that Patrick Corbin got with the Washington Nationals is the kind of reach the team does not believe makes sense for the squad at this point, since 2019 will be spent on the sand and persuade that player to participate reconstruction requires an overpayment.
Maybe – maybe – if someone like a Dallas Keuchel is in the same spot where Jake Arrieta was last spring, without a contract for spring training, the Blue Jays could try to be opportunists. But the most likely scenario is that they are expecting the market in a Garcia type, just expecting a better result this time around.
The only way to get the kind of young arm they want out of the project is to pay a high price in the trade, and there is some irony in their desire to acquire controllable pitchers and also be willing to trade Stroman and Sanchez for the right payback.
By that time, Atkins worked to do business using only the periphery of his potential client base, so a larger reallocation would mark a change of approach.
Much simpler is to spend on free agency and with a projected $ 100 million or more in contractual guarantees, arbitration wages and 0-3 time-of-service players, they have money to work with.
All this points to placeholder additions rather than basic acquisitions.
"We're very lucky to have the option to do either," says Atkins. "We have a lot of flexibility. The young core we've come to, we could not be more excited. Having flexibility, we certainly have it now and even further, we are in a great position to be … taking advantage of opportunities. We will be able to do both. We can be aggressive and we can be opportunistic. "
Vegas, baby, actually.