The Blue Jays have officially announced that they tendered 2021 contracts to all unsigned players on their 40-man roster other than RHP A.J. Cole and infielder Travis Shaw, who both return to free agency having signed as free agents in late 2019.
ROSTER UPDATE: INF Travis Shaw and RHP A.J. Cole have been non-tendered.— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) December 3, 2020
All remaining unsigned players on our 40-man roster have been tendered contracts for 2021. pic.twitter.com/7l7xXmwuCq
Neither non-tender decision comes as a surprise, as both were long-since identified as potential candidates. Shaw was the more likely, with 94% of Bluebird Banter readers believing the Jays should move on. Though he rebounded somewhat from a terrible 2019, Shaw was only serviceable and the Jays appear to be targeting higher impact additions. This decision not only frees up a roster spot towards that pursuit, but also more than $4-million in payroll room as well.
Cole was a closer call as a serviceable member of the 2020 bullpen (3.09 ERA in 23.1 innings), and by almost a two-to-one margin this site’s readers would in fact have brought him back. With a modest expected salary through arbitration (relative to the major league minimum), what this really comes down to is the Jays already had 21 other pitchers on the 40-man before they make further expected upgrades to both the rotation and bullpen. That will necessitate roster spots, and left Cole on the outside, at least for now.
The only two remaining players eligible for arbitration are Teoscar Hernandez and Ross Stripling, with the next milestone on the calendar for them being the January 15th deadline to file figures for final offer arbitration in which a panel would pick one or other prosposed 2021 salaries. If no settlement is reached by then, then barring a longer term extension the cases would presumably proceed to a hearing in February given the “file-and-trial” team policy.
Tendering the remaining 29 unsigned players (seven Blue Jays are already under contract for 2021) was for the most part a routine or even automatic decision. The potential exception was Derek Fisher, who is out-of-options and subject to Rule 55(f), meaning he could only be sent outright to Buffalo before March if he signed a 2021 contract (as opposed to having it renewed then).
Barring that, unless claimed by another team on waivers, the Blue Jays would have to release Fisher should they desire and find a more established fourth outfielder. Tendering him a contract now is thus a reasonable if not absolute sign that the Jays intend to keep him at least through the winter.
Additionally, it would appear the Jays tendered a contract to Breyvic Valera, who remains on the restricted list after being (re)claimed on waivers in July but unable to report and thus doesn’t count towards the limit. His rights now remain similarly reserved to the Blue Jays, and presumably at some point in the future will be reinstated and would again require a 40-man spot.
With the two non-tenders, the 40-man roster now stands at 38 heading into the Winter Meetings and the heart of the offseason.