Joc Pederson. Daniel Hudson. The Jays would be wise to browse the free-agent bargain bin
CARLSBAD, CALIF.—A lot of ink will be spilled and many clicks will be … clicked, I guess, over the next few weeks about the big names on baseball’s free-agent market, but there are hidden gems to be unearthed as well.
These guys aren’t on anybody’s top-50 lists, but they’re all worth a look as teams attempt to fill out their rosters, and some of them are going to wind up being very, very valuable assets for the 2022 season.
You can never have too much pitching, and there’s a gaggle of relief arms on the market this winter. As the Blue Jays discovered last season, reliable bullpen depth is a must, no matter how good a team’s other pieces:
Hudson, who became the Nationals’ closer shortly after the Jays traded him to Washington at the deadline in 2019 and wound up getting the final out of the World Series, had another great year in 2021. The 34-year-old posted a 1.08 WHIP for the Nats and San Diego Padres, striking out 75 in 51 2/3 innings. He has obviously shown the ability to get the job done in big spots.
Norris blew the doors off in spring training in 2015 and has yet to unlock that great potential at the major-league level, but it’s in there. And as we learned from Robbie Ray this past season, lefties often take a long time to find their form. Still only 28 years old, Norris might do well to ditch the slider that got murdered to the tune of a .563 slugging percentage last season. He’s shown the ability to beat hitters with his fastball and throw strikes, and again has only scratched the surface of what he might be able to do. He’s also the kind of human any team wants in its clubhouse.
With Corey Dickerson a free agent himself, the Jays would do well to replace him with another strong left-handed bat, and there are a few who fit the bill and are flying under the radar.
The Jays will likely be shopping in more expensive aisles this off-season, both in free agency and in trade, but some of these guys are worth dropping into the cart, too, as the roster gets filled out.