JAYS FROM THE COUCH LOOKS AT THE SIGNING OF 1B/OF STEVE PEARCE AND WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE TORONTO BLUE JAYS.
The first official day of Winter Meetings saw the Blue Jays and free agent first baseman/outfielder Steve Pearce agree to a 2-year $12.5 million dollar contract, as reported by ESPN’s Buster Olney.
Sources: The Jays and Steve Pearce agree to a two-year, $12.5 million deal.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 5, 2016
Last season, Pearce split his time between two AL East rivals, starting off his year with the Rays, then being reacquired by his old team the Baltimore Orioles. Pearce will most likely serve as a versatile utility piece for the Jays, platooning first base with Justin Smoak, being a DH against left handed pitchers, or even playing a corner outfield position, Pearce also shows the ability to play second and third base when needed to.
Last season Pearce was used primarily in a platoon role with both the Rays and Orioles, only getting 302 plate appearances in 85 games. In that time, he hit .288/.374/.492, with 13 home runs, batting in 35 runs, and finished the season with a WAR of 2. His greatest attribute at the plate, is his ability to hit lefty pitchers. Against lefties in 2016, Pearce hit .317/.411/.622, hitting 7 of his 13 home runs off lefty pitchers. He isn’t just a lefty hitting specialist though, Pearce against righties still hit .275/.357/.434.
Last season, the Blue Jays had their fair share of problems against lefty pitchers. Getting on base and seeing pitches wasn’t the problem as they ranked 7th in the MLB in OBP vs left handed pitchers at .330. The problem was hitting some of those men on base home. Hitting .249 off lefties ranked them 24th in the league, and scoring a total of 173 runs ranked them 20th in the MLB. Pearce’s platoon partner Justin Smoak really struggled against lefties last season, hitting .209/.325/.413 in limited time against them (That limited time was for a reason). Pearce will see a lot of time at 1B and as pinch hitter when a left handed pitcher walks onto the mound.
In addition to his great left/righty splits, Pearce shows great patience at the plate, with a career on base percentage of .333. Last season, Pearce enjoyed a 0.63 walk to strikeout ratio (league average is 0.39), walking 11.3% of the time, and striking out 17.9%. Of players who had at least 300 plate appearances, Pearce ranked 24th in the American League in BB/K ratio, the same as Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion. With the Blue Jays demise offensively being the shockingly high amount of strikeouts, Pearce’s patience at the plate will be a nice addition to the Blue Jays lineup.
It will be interesting to see how the Blue Jays utilize Pearce’s skills defensively. A lot of his playing time will be determined with how the rest of the Blue Jays acquisitions play out. The Blue Jays still need to address their corner outfield positions, and potentially acquiring an everyday first baseman. How the Blue Jays address these needs, will determine where Peace sees most of his time next season.
The only risk in this contract may be Pearce’s age/injury history. Pearce will be turning 34 years old at the beginning of next season, and has a long list of injuries over his career, including the three times he saw the DL during last season, including hitting the 60-Day DL in September with strained right flexor mass which required surgery. This surgery on his flexor mass also may effect the amount of time he sees in the outfield next season. Pearce isn’t someone who is going to sell tickets at the Rogers Centre but in context for a platoon piece, this is a very nice addition for the Blue Jays. At $6.25mil per season, this is basically market rate for a versatile platoon player.
*FEATURED IMAGE MANDATORY CREDIT: C Stem
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