Blue Jays Notes: Senga, Bassitt, Taillon, Reyes, Brantley, Gallo

The Blue Jays are exploring several roster upgrades, with Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reporting that the club are interested in players like Kodai Senga. Jameson Taillon, Alex Reyesand Michael Brantley. “There doesn’t seem to be traction at the moment” between the Jays and Chris Bassittalthough the right-hander is another free-agent hurler who is at least being considered for the team.

Starting pitching is Toronto’s most pressing need, and as one Sportsnet agent Shi Davidi said, the Blue Jays are “anywhere in the pitching marketright now. To that end, it’s fair to speculate that the Jays have at least checked in on virtually every available arm, which has been the team’s strategy for the last three offseasons. Davidi adds that the Jays also have “some interest” have on it Carlo Rodon, Nathan Eovaldiand her own acting free agent in Ross Stripling. Previous reports have indicated that the Jays made them an offer Andrew Heneyand they were interested in Kyle Gibson (before Gibson turned down Toronto’s one-year, $10 million offer to sign an identical deal with the Orioles), and even Justin Verlanderbefore Verlander joined the Mets.

Alex Manoah and Kevin Gausman have solidified the front end of the Blue Jays’ rotation, but after that there’s a lot of uncertainty considering how Jose Berrios and specially Yusei Kikuchi fought in 2022. There isn’t necessarily a guarantee that Kikuchi will even get a clear shot at a starting role as at best he could compete with him Mitch White for the fifth starter job, or maybe even relegated to the bullpen if the Jays get two new starters this winter.

As both Nicholson-Smith and Davidi noted, the fact that the Jays were considering entering Verlander’s market (even on a short-term deal) is another sign of how aggressive the team is willing to be, and perhaps a sign how far you will stretch the payroll. Bigger spending might be somewhat inevitable given the rising costs associated with the pitching market this offseason, although seeing the Blue Jays spend what’s needed to get Rodon or maybe even could be a reach Signing Senga considering how the Japanese ace draws a lot of attention from multiple teams. Speculatively, the Jays’ relative disinterest in Bassitt could have to do with Bassitt’s desire for at least four guaranteed years, which can be challenging for a pitcher heading into his 34-year season.

Reyes represents another type of pitching complement, as the former top pick is an intriguing bounce-back pick that would fit on many teams. However, Reyes is also at high risk given his long injury history, including shoulder surgery that kept him from even pitching in 2022. It will be interesting to see how Reyes’ market materializes, as of course the Blue Jays and other teams will be weighing up injury concerns, but the sheer amount of interest could still result in a decent payday for the right-hander.

Beyond the pitching market, the Jays are also looking for left-handers who will hit outfielders. After Toronto’s deal, there was a gap in the outfield Teoscar Hernandez to the Mariners, and a left-hander could help balance a largely right-handed Blue Jays lineup. Brantley is a possibility, and while he’s a player, the Jays were reportedly close to signing in the 2020-21 offseason, but health issues also surround Brantley’s market. Shoulder problems that eventually required surgery limited Brantley to just 64 games last season, and he missed plenty of time with other injury issues earlier in his career.

Such names as Brandon Nimmo and Cody Bellinger were also linked to the Jays’ outfield search that winter, and Agent Scott Boras said Nicholson-Smith and Hazel Mae (Twitter link) that Toronto was actually interested in both of its clients. Boras also said the Blue Jays are interested in another client Joey Galloanother left hander.

Gallo has had a thoroughly tough 2022 season, hitting just .160/.280/.357 with 19 home runs over 410 plate appearances with the Yankees and Dodgers. Gallo’s “three true results” style will always limit his offensive productivity to some extent, but he’s only entering his season at age 29, and Gallo’s strikeouts haven’t stopped him from posting some big offensive numbers in the past. As recently as 2021, Gallo was posting a 4.2 fWAR season, and his ability to play decent midfield would also be interesting for a Jays team that ideally would love to give George Springer more time in a corner in the outfield.

With Gallo, Bellinger and likely Brantley all lined up for one-year bounce-back contracts, the Jays could plan to only address the outfield with a shorter-term addition and then focus on a longer-term addition for the rotation. The Blue Jays appear to be open to all possibilities, however, and their pursuit of free agents is obviously also influenced by what they might be doing in the trade market, especially as their depth of catch is in high demand.

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