Toronto could seek impact arm, bat in FA market

Blue Jays will need to replace Bautista, could add big league starter

Toronto could seek impact arm, bat in FA market

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays made quick strikes in free agency during each of the past two years. The same thing might happen again this offseason.

Toronto clearly has taken an aggressive approach when it comes to negotiations on the open market. In 2015, the Blue Jays gave lefty J.A. Happ the first multi-year contract of the offseason, and last year it was the surprise signing of designated hitter Kendrys Morales in early November.

Hot Stove Tracker

With multiple holes to fill, expect Toronto to be active early once again this fall. Indeed, the first domino fell when the team officially declined to pick up Jose Bautista's option for 2018. The General Manager Meetings in Orlando, Fla., are approximately two weeks away, and it likely won't take much longer than that to see what direction the Blue Jays are going in.

Free agents: OF Bautista, LHP Brett Anderson, INF Darwin Barney, C Miguel Montero, OF Michael Saunders.

Arbitration-eligible: 3B Josh Donaldson, RHP Tom Koehler, RHP Marcus Stroman, OF Ezequiel Carrera, LHP Aaron Loup, OF Kevin Pillar, RHP Roberto Osuna, IF Ryan Goins, 2B Devon Travis, RHP Aaron Sanchez.

Biggest potential free-agent loss: The Blue Jays already signed Marco Estrada to a one-year extension, so that leaves Bautista as the lone major loss. He departs Toronto among the all-time leaders in almost every offensive category, but his production from 2017 should not be hard to replace. A clear upgrade is possible after a season in which Bautista set franchise records for most strikeouts (170) and lowest qualified batting average (.203). The numbers were a major disappointment, but they will not tarnish his legacy as one of the club's all-time greats.

Atkins on Bautista's departure

Potential free-agent signings: General manager Ross Atkins said at the end of the season that the Blue Jays would like to add at least one impact bat and one impact arm this offseason. Toronto needs to find a replacement for Bautista in right field, and the club is expected to pursue one big league starting pitcher, plus additional depth for the Minor Leagues. A middle infielder also should be added as insurance for Troy Tulowitzki and Travis. Outfielder Jay Bruce, right-handers Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner and infielder Eduardo Nunez are among the names that make sense. Trade possibilities include outfielder Andrew McCutchen and infielder Jed Lowrie.

Bruce's game-tying solo jack

Wild card scenario: The Blue Jays have all but officially ruled out a possible trade of Donaldson this offseason, but what about Osuna? Toronto's closer is set to enter his first year of arbitration and his salary is about to skyrocket. He fills an area of need, so it seems unlikely Toronto would make a move here, but with three years of control remaining, Osuna could net a potential king's ransom in return. The best bet here is that both Osuna and Donaldson return, but if the Blue Jays want to get creative, they have the assets to do it. 

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.