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Blue Jays forced to pivot to other free agents after missing out on Shohei Ohtani

TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays have been forced to pivot after missing out on two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, who agreed to a US$700-million, 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers last week.

Canada's lone big-league team has some significant holes to fill as it aims to get back to the post-season in 2024. Here's a look at five players who the Blue Jays may want to target now that the big free-agent domino has finally dropped.

MATT CHAPMAN

The Blue Jays may stick with what they know to address their vacancy at third base. Matt Chapman offers award-winning defensive skills but his bat can run cold at times.

Chapman, who's represented by high-profile agent Scott Boras, will likely cash in this off-season given the rather weak free-agent class outside of Ohtani.

Chapman's power numbers slipped last season (17 homers, 54 RBIs) but his defence remained on point.

He hit 27 homers in 2021 and '22, something the Blue Jays would want to see again if they open their wallet to bring him back.

CODY BELLINGER

A big left-handed power bat is just what the Blue Jays need for the heart of their batting order.

Signing Cody Bellinger would be costly as he's in his prime at 28 and is coming off a bounceback year with the Chicago Cubs. He hit 26 homers, drove in 97 runs and posted a .307 batting average last season.

Those numbers were more in line with his first three years with the L.A. Dodgers rather than the two seasons when he struggled after the shortened 2020 campaign.

Bellinger, who usually plays centre field but can also play first base, won the National League MVP award in 2019.

YOSHINOBU YAMAMOTO

Toronto's starting five is one of the deepest rotations in the major leagues. Adding a top-of-the rotation arm like Japan's Yoshinobu Yamamoto would give the Blue Jays another starter with ace potential and also give Toronto better trade options.

It would be a costly proposition since Yamamoto has generated interest from several big-spending teams and is expected to command a long-term deal worth over US$150 million.

With 2022 AL Cy Young finalist Alek Manoah looking to bounce back after a down year and top prospect Ricky Tiedemann waiting in the wings, the Blue Jays have plenty of potential trade capital on the mound.

Signing the 25-year-old Yamamoto would be a statement move that shows Toronto is serious about making a deep playoff run in 2024. It would also likely lead to some trades to improve the rest of the roster.

RHYS HOSKINS

A roll of the dice after undergoing knee surgery last year to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Rhys Hoskins could be a good fit at designated hitter if he returns to form.

Hoskins has been a regular 30-homer slugger for the Philadelphia Phillies and could also serve as a backup at first base or the outfield.

It's possible Hoskins may be interested in a one-year deal to show his power game is still there. That may be appealing for the Blue Jays, who could use a DH who's a proven playoff performer.

LOURDES GURRIEL JR.

If Lourdes Gurriel Jr. returned to Toronto, it would give the Jays a left-fielder with some pop and allow for an easy switch with Daulton Varsho likely to move to centre field after the departure of Kevin Kiermaier.

Gurriel, who was traded to Arizona for Varsho a year ago, was an all-star for the first time in 2023. His defence improved last season and he hit 24 homers with 82 RBIs.

Now 30, Gurriel won't break the bank and would address a few team needs. Another former teammate — Teoscar Hernandez — is also a free agent and could also be in play for a potential return.

Hernandez is not known for his defence but he'd give the Blue Jays a reliable power bat at the plate.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 11, 2023.

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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press