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Jays Add Shaw and Ryu

The Toronto Blue Jays made news over the weekend with two significant free agent signings: Travis Shaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

After two good seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2017 and 2018, Shaw bounced back and forth between the minor leagues and the big club, hitting .157/.281/.270 with seven home runs in 86 major-league games for Milwaukee. The Jays signed Shaw to a one-year, $4 million contract as a potential replacement at the first base position vacated by Justin Smoak, who signed with Shaw’s former team, the Brewers.

Shaw has mainly played at third base (3508.2 innings in 434 games) but also at first (825.0 innings in 129 games) and can also fill in at second base, which will give manager Charlie Montoyo more flexibility when setting lineups. According to TSN writer Scott Mitchell, this means Montoyo will be able to use Vladimir Guerrero Jr. out of the DH slot more often.

Shaw’s poor performance in 2019 is cause for concern, hence the relatively low price tag and short-term contract. He remains arbitration-eligible for the 2021 season, so the Jays will be able to retain him on relatively team-friendly terms should he bounce back in 2020.

In the biggest acquisition for the Blue Jays over the offseason, news broke on Sunday night that the team had reached agreement with Hyun-Jin Ryu, the 2019 ERA leader of the major leagues, on a four-year, $80 million deal.

This was the major pitching acquisition the Jays were looking for in order to anchor the rotation following the trade of Marcus Stroman to the New York Mets. During the 2019 campaign, Ryu led MLB with a 2.32 ERA and 1.2 BB/9. He also led the National League with an ERA+ of 179. The major concern with Ryu is injuries. 2019 was his first year with over 150 IP since 2014.  Continued good health for Ryu will be key given that Matt Shoemaker will be returning from a season-ending ACL tear and the Jays’ younger talents like Trent Thornton and Thomas Pannone are still developing at the major-league level.

While this development represents major progress in the Jays’ rebuilding efforts, the team may not yet be finished with its winter acquisitions. Smoak’s departure represented a completion of the teardown, as he was the final remaining link to Toronto’s 2015 and 2016 playoff teams. However, the front office is rumored to be interested in bringing back some old friends through a trade with the Boston Red Sox for David Price as well as signing Edwin Encarnación.

I feel the move towards letting the kids play in recent years should leave the team with plenty of budgetary freedom to acquire either or both players. Price dealt with injury woes in 2019, but his veteran leadership would be especially useful to the Jays’ young pitchers. Toronto’s lack of pitching depth also means the team really cannot acquire too many pitchers.

In any event, Jays fans should feel some reassurance about the team’s commitment to improving in 2019 and beyond thanks to these acquisitions, especially that of Ryu. While it will take more seasoning of the Jays’ young stars and further retooling of the pitching staff to return to playoff contention, the outlook for 2020 is much less miserable.

Featured Image: Keeton Gale / Shutterstock.com

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