Filling the Vacancies: Can the Toronto Blue Jays Build From Within?

 

The Toronto Blue Jays have several holes to fill this offseason. Perhaps, they can look to fill them with internal options.

 

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With the hot stove failing to put out the necessary BTUs due to a stalled Collective Bargaining Agreement, the chill of the oncoming winter is becoming unbearable. Thus, there’s no better way to stay warm than speculating on the future of the Toronto Blue Jays and filling in your fantasy for the team’s 2017 lineup.

 

However, we live in reality, and as easy as it is to spend Rogers’ money to bring Joey Votto home to play first base and Dexter Fowler to roam the outfield for the next six years, the reality is that this team will likely be pieced together this winter through a series of budget-minded, short term deals until the likes of Conner Greene, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Lourdes Gurriel are north of the border.

 

Except that those short-term deals and banking on a big trade deadline this July might not be necessary. An array of internal options are prime for their breakouts in 2017, and even boring seasons from a few rookies might be more than enough to supplement a core of Russell Martin, Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki et. al, and one of baseball’s best rotations in 2016.

 

Needs

With the potential departures of Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, the Blue Jays will need to fill holes at 1B/DH and RF. Signing Kendrys Morales helps, but he only brings the Blue Jays part of the way to the production lost by Encarnacion. The good news is that Morales’ lefty bat restores some balance against 2016’s righty-heavy lineup, and he potentially means a reduced amount of time watching Justin Smoak flail at curveballs. That being said, it would still be nice to upgrade over Smoak.

 

Bautista’s departure will be felt more in the lineup than in the field, but his (22 HR and 69 RBI) can be found relatively cheaply (and a full season from BJ Upton should help) though his .366 OBP leaving the bases is a huge hit.

 

In the bullpen, Brett Cecil’s departure to the Midwest hurts. Quality lefties aren’t exactly a rarity, but Cecil’s 2016 was far better than his stat line suggested, and aside from production, he meant a lot to the organization as one of the last survivors of the J.P Ricciardi Era. Plus, I’m not sure the cardiac wards in Canada can handle an entire season of Aaron Loup as the team’s premier lefty.

 

The team also lacks a backup catcher and, well – they have for the better part of the last three seasons – though Dioner Navarro has filled in admirably and to the pleasure of plenty of fans. Navarro is just fine, but he’s likely going to flee the city for a starting catching gig elsewhere in 2017, reminiscent of his departure to Chicago before the 2016 season.

 

Baby Jays Ready for their Shot

If it weren’t for the signing of Kendrys Morales, the 1B/DH/base-clogger position would likely be top priority for the Jays this offseason. We can count on a healthy Morales to DH most of the season and possibly to be a stand by first baseman when necessary, so a corner outfielder becomes a much more pressing need.

 

It might seem redundant to those of you who visit The Couch often, but it’s time for Dalton Pompey to shine. The Mississauga Kid is still only 23 years old, but after a 270/349/353 season with Triple-A Buffalo in 2016, he simply has nothing left to prove to the Blue Jays. In limited show time in 2015 Pompey wasn’t terribly impressive, but certainly wasn’t worthy of his two-level demotion that followed. Perhaps there’s a John Gibbons issue here (purely speculation of course), but there’s no one more deserving of a shot this Spring Training than Pompey.

 

Another chap in the younger-than-expected category is 2013 9th-rounder Chad Girodo, the 6’1″ lefty from Mississippi State. At just a touch over 25 years old, Girodo has shoved in just three-plus seasons in the Toronto minors and compiling a 2.57 ERA over 196+ innings with 187 K (8.6 K/9) and just 47 free passes (2.2 BB/9). While he’s been roughed up a touch in the MLB (4.35 ERA in 10.1 IP), most of that was the result of some less-than-desirable match ups in some late-May mop-up duty.

 

While no longer a prospect, AJ Jimenez remains an option for the backup catching vacancy. Jimenez has had trouble with some wrist injuries in the past, and after three seasons in Triple-A, it seems like at this point, the Blue Jays are treating Jimenez as an Org Guy. He hasn’t managed to hit much in his career (25 HR and 265 RBI over 1990 ABs), but his glove is well-regarded. It doesn’t matter so much that he might not hit at the MLB level, but nearly anyone will be an upgrade over the Josh Thole Reign of Terror and Dioner Navarro’s many shortcomings. Plus, the 2016 backup backstop is likely just a placeholder until the rise of either Reese McGuire or Max Pentecost.

 

Of course, Jimenez, Pompey and Morales still don’t compare to a tandem of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Enter Rowdy Tellez.

 

Tellez has torn apart minor league pitching over the course of three-plus seasons, swatting 45 HR and driving in 221 over 1196 ABs. Last year at Double-A New Hampshire, he hit 23 of those HRs after being consistently challenged with breaking balls for the first time and became more attuned to the strike zone – walking a surprising 63 times in 514 plate appearances for a .387 OBP. While he might require some seasoning at Triple-A Buffalo and mastering first base, there’s not much in the way of bringing Rowdy to The Show.

 

The Potential for a Home Grown Approach

It’s not even December yet, and we have no way of knowing whether or not the new regime has some potential trades or signings working to fill the OF, 1B, C and RP voids. Considering the potential lockout as the players and owners dance around a new CBA, this offseason might be quiet for a while. That said, it’ll be hard to predict where the team goes in regards to building the 2017 roster.

 

While a lot of fans still have dreams of sugar plums and Dexter Fowler dancing in their heads, the Jays could save some serious dough by attempting to fill a few of their voids by freeing Dalton Pompey, giving Chad Girodo what he’s earned and letting Rowdy Tellez learn and adjust at the MLB level. If the experiment fails, there’s always a pair of Wild Cards to fight for and a July trade deadline to exploit.

 

Of course, bringing back Edwin helps, too.

 

 

 

*Featured Image Credit: Buck Davidson UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0

 

 

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Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.

Roy-Z

Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.