Blue Jays can’t allow themselves to be bullied by New York

There was an awful lot of chatter about the Blue Jays on social media on Friday night, but unfortunately most of the discussion was pretty negative.

That’s because fans were reacting to the news that the Blue Jays’ division rival in the Yankees had improved their roster, and it may hurt double in this case. That’s because the Jays had also been pursuing DJ LeMahieu as a free agent this offseason, but he eventually re-upped with the Yankees for six years and 15 million. Because there were reports that the Blue Jays had offered four years and 78 million, it stings a little more, especially because you could make the argument that LeMahieu was never serious about heading to Toronto. The Yankees then poured a little salt in the wound by agreeing to a one-year pact with Corey Kluber, another player that Ross Atkins and company had shown some interest in.

It’s never fun losing out on a free agent target, but it’s especially maddening when the Yankees end up as the victor. Now the Blue Jays will have the pleasure of seeing LeMahieu 19 times per year on the other side. Fortunately the veteran wasn’t the Blue Jays only chance to significantly improve the roster this winter, but he was one of the better options.

As Atkins and his staff move on, or perhaps focus on players they deemed as a higher priority than Lemahieu, I believe that it should be important for them to consider what’s happened so far, and the obstacles that stand in the way of some of their other premium targets. And the more I consider what this offseason has brought, and also the rumours that continue to swirl, I find there’s a theme that’s developed. Frankly, I’m sick of seeing the Blue Jays being pushed around by New York, and it’s high time they do something about it.

Unfortunately I’m not just talking the Yankees here, as the Mets have now emerged as serious players because of their new ownership led by Steve Cohen. Just as the Yankees were able to convince LeMahieu to stay put, arguably for a worse contract than what the Blue Jays were offering, the Mets swooped in and made a blockbuster deal with Cleveland to acquire Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco, a trade that the Blue Jays had been reportedly working on for months.

A common theme between Francisco Lindor and DJ LeMahieu

At the end of the day, there was a common story between Lindor and LeMahieu. The latter clearly wanted to return to the Yankees even if that meant he had to take a slight discount, which made it pretty tough for the Blue Jays to compete. As for Lindor, there were reports that he wouldn’t agree to an extension with the Jays, which was a deal-breaker for Atkins. In some ways that’s understandable, but the Mets went ahead and made the trade anyway, and chances are they’ll be able to retain their new star shortstop.

In a lot ways these resolutions were out of Atkins’ hands to some degree. That’ll happen when you’re sitting in his seat, but it’s also an opportunity to learn. In hindsight, maybe offering five years and 95 million to LeMahieu could have changed his mind, and that’s arguably a palatable figure. At the end of the day, they’re likely going to have to outmuscle the bullies if they want to make an impact upgrade. It’s a tall order when that group is led by the pair of big-market teams in New York, and followed up by plenty of others like the Dodgers, and the ultra-aggressive Padres, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Looking to how the Blue Jays proceed from here, the clear targets are George Springer and Trevor Bauer, likely followed by JT Realmuto. For Springer, it sounds like the Blue Jays are again competing with the Mets for the services of another star (according to Jon Heyman of the MLB Network), and this time they shouldn’t let him get away. Maybe Springer ultimately prefers New York as well, but the Blue Jays can always make him an offer he can’t refuse. I’m not suggesting that they hand him a reckless contract, but adding one more year than the Mets are willing to go could make the difference. Or maybe it comes down to cold hard cash.

However things play out, I think it’s time for Atkins and company to send a message to the rest of the league, and especially to the teams playing out of New York. If you truly want to compete with the “big boys” then sometimes you’ve gotta act like one. At this point in the offseason, that time has come.

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