Not that Toronto Blue Jays fans really need a reminder, but the team’s track record with high-profile international free agents has been a little disappointing.
That’s not for the lack of trying, either. It almost seems like only yesterday when the Blue Jays were heavily rumored to be in the mix for Aroldis Chapman, only to end up being used as extra leverage to get the Cincinnati Reds to pony up more money to their current star closer. And who could forget the Yu Darvish saga, when all of Blue Jays nation were essentially sure that the Japanese import would be coming north of the border, only to be disappointed once more?
Alex Anthopoulos isn’t deterred, however. After all, it’s not as if either circumstance was really totally within his control (in fact, one of them was a blind auction).
So once again, Blue Jays fans can expect to see the team linked to folks like Masahiro Tanaka (for obvious reasons) and perhaps more intriguingly, Cuban slugger Jose Abreu. Widely considered to be the best hitter in Cuba at the time of his defection in August, there will be no shortage of teams looking to acquire the 26-year old’s services.
Whether it’s the Miami Marlins, Boston Red Sox, or any team looking to add light-out power potential to their lineup (hint: all of them), the only probable at this point is that there’s going to be yet another bidding war coming.
But is it one that the bluebirds should participate in?
That’s a question that’s a little tougher to answer given the team’s resources (or payroll parameters, whatever you want to call it) and its current needs on the roster. Yes, the team could definitely benefit from the skill set that the Cuban import would bring to the 1B/DH spot, though it’s far from their biggest hole considering Edwin Encarnacion‘s output and Adam Lind‘s career revival as a platoon hitter.
Considering that the team was fourth in the league in 2013 with 185 homers, adding one more power bat would be a nice-to-have, but not a must.
Unfortunately, Abreu doesn’t pitch, which means the money that might be spent on him as a more permanent solution to the 1B/DH spot (assuming that Lind is not the future even if his option is picked up) won’t be going towards making sure that the Blue Jays end up getting a much more pressing piece of the puzzle on the mound. Even if it’s just between Tanaka and Abreu, you’d have to think that the former would be of much bigger help than the latter.
And given that a six-year contract around $60 million isn’t out of the question for the slugger, that kind of money (while not exactly what you’d call unreasonable) could handcuff the team’s ability to deal with all of the arbitration raises this offseason, and to get a deal done with core pieces like Colby Rasmus.
It would certainly generate a nice bit of excitement in Toronto if the team were to land Abreu, but unless he ends up falling into the team’s lap for some reason, it’s probably a bidding war that’s not worth fighting for Anthopoulos and co. — because there are more important battles to be won elsewhere.