In the latest chapter of Trevor Bauer’s unconventional trip through free agency, the right-hander revealed in a video that he had a call set to talk with the Blue Jays — specifically mentioning that he planned to talk with their pitching coach (Pete Walker) and high performance coach (presumably VP of high performance Angus Mugford).
While many fans have had some fun with the fact that the Blue Jays have been linked to virtually every free agent on the market this winter, Bauer’s meeting with them is still plenty notable. Few clubs are expected to be major spenders this winter, but Toronto is among the likeliest teams to sign a major free agent. The Blue Jays’ current $ 84MM projected payroll (via FanGraphs/Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez) is about half the franchise-record $ 163MM, set back in 2017.
Beyond that flexibility, the Toronto front office — headed up by president Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins — is quite familiar with Bauer. Both Atkins and Shapiro were in the Indians organization when Cleveland originally acquired Bauer from the Diamondbacks; Shapiro was the team’s president at that point and Atkins the director of player development.
Among top-tier free agents, the Blue Jays have been most prominently linked to outfielder George Springer in recent weeks. The Jays reported to be one of two finalists to sign Springer. The Mets, the other apparent Springer finalist, have been tied to Bauer in their own right, although Springer is said to be New York’s priority at this time.
Toronto’s current rotation features Hyun Jin Ryu, Robbie Ray, Tanner Roark, Ross Stripling and highly touted 24-year-old Nate Pearson. Penciling Bauer into that mix alongside Ryu would give them a formidable one-two punch atop the rotation with plenty of upside behind them. Ryu is coming off consecutive Top 3 finishes in Cy Young voting, while Bauer of course won the National League Cy Young Award in 2020.