A less than bountiful free agent class awaits for Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins' biggest off-season yet

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The shopping list for Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins is long and the shelves not exactly overflowing with blue chip offerings as baseball’s version of free agent frenzy took its tentative early steps this week.

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So what is Atkins to do for a team in need of re-tooling an offence and with as many as four holes for every day players to fill? Attach the Jays to any and every free agent out there seems to be the way for now, much as it often is for this front office.

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There’s nothing wrong with that of course, as long as there is recognition that some rumours will be more serious than others.

For Atkins, the early work means at least kicking the tires on Shohei Ohtani, the top prize of the free-agent season and doing the same for Cody Bellinger, even if both pursuits are dreaming large. Sure, the Jays are coming off a season with a franchise record payroll funded by owner Rogers Communications, but in all likelihood Atkins’ real (and realistic) focus will be elsewhere.

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It also means saying the right things about Canadian legend Joey Votto by suggesting that bringing home is a possibility even if the only way it would happen is if the price is right (cheap) and the term is short (one year.) And even that might not be enough.

Big picture, nothing is going to come easy.

The landscape of a weak free agent class couldn’t have come at a worse time for Atkins, who arguably faces his stoutest challenge and most important off-season in his eight years heading the Jays baseball operations department. Fan unrest is at its peak since the Alex Anthopoulos days and after topping three million in attendance in 2023 that loyal audience will be asked to pay more to see a team that frustrated them so deeply last season.

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For those reasons, plus the fact that time is ticking down to the final two years of club control on franchise centre pieces, Bo Bichette and Vlad Guerrero Jr., there is an even added sense of urgency in the weeks and months ahead for the Blue Jays.

With Matt Chapman, Kevin Kiermaier, Whit Merrifield and Brandon Belt all expected to be out of the mix, there’s work to be done. The process started this week at the general manager’s meetings in Arizona and will ramp up as baseball’s winter meetings to be held in Nashville in the first week of December approach.

For now, there are plenty of names to fuel the rumour mill. Here are a handful of possibilities that have been linked to the Jays with varying degrees of seriousness. And with the caveat that the list will continue to grow as baseball’s silly season truly gets rolling.

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The switch-hitting infielder could fill a couple of needs for the Jays, should third baseman Chapman do the expected and go elsewhere in free agency.

Candelario is at home at third and is coming off a career-best 22 home run season. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reports that the Jays have met with the representatives of Candelario, who hit .251 in a split season with the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs.

The 29-year-old wouldn’t bring the elite defence Chapman offers at the hot corner, but as a contact hitter, Candelario certainly could offer a boost and the price wouldn’t be nearly as dear as the dude he’s replacing.


While it would be a tremendous feel-good fan story for the Toronto native to finish his career at home, it also seems a stretch to actually happen.

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Atkins said all the right things about Votto when asked about him in Arizona but it doesn’t mean he’d want a 40-year-old whose skills, as considerable as they have been, are on the downside.

But Votto’s a pro who could add another leader’s voice in the Jays clubhouse. If the price is right and Atkins feels he needs a platoon player to round out the roster it would be a popular move.


Given that Atkins’ winter want list is topped by adding a power bat, the Cuban slugger certainly would add some pop.

Several reports have suggested that the Jays are one of a number of teams that have expressed interest in Soler, who hit 36 homers in just 137 games last season while hitting .250.

Atkins would no doubt be wary of the inconsistency the 32-year-old has shown in his career, however. But if he’s serious about adding power, Soler could merit a serious second look.

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The Seattle Mariners infielder is intriguing on a number of levels, most notably that it would require a trade to get him Toronto. But given the meagre offerings elsewhere, it’s a route Atkins has said he will investigate thoroughly as he looks to re-stock his starting nine with quality bats.

Suarez, who will be a free agent a year from now, could replace Chapman at third. Solid defensively, Suarez hit 20 homers last season and Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the Jays have expressed interest.


The Jays aren’t expected to be heavily into the starting pitcher market, but Yamamoto has had front offices salivating about his move from Japan to MLB.

Atkins has reportedly watched him pitch live more than once and will certainly be investigating given there are no guarantees about Alek Manoah and the fifth spot in his rotation.

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