The Toronto Blue Jays signed Chris Coghlan to a minor league deal, which has the potential to be a very good deal for the team
On Saturday afternoon, the Blue Jays announced the minor-league signing of former Cubs outfielder/utility-man Chris Coghlan. As with any minor-league signing, but especially one in which a major league veteran agrees to report to AAA, there is virtually no downside with this signing. Worst case scenario, he plays terribly for the Buffalo Bisons and never sees the Rogers Centre turf. But there are a variety of alternate scenarios that range from decent to good to great.
Any positive scenario involves Coghlan improving on his 2016 performance, particularly at the plate, as he could only muster a 66 weighted runs created plus (wRC+) in his 300 PAs. That said, there is a lot of reason to believe that his 2016 was significantly affected by his late February trade from the Cubs to the A’s. Which makes sense. The A’s were terrible last season. The Cubs won the World Series. That affects a team’s fans and I’d imagine that it must affect players to some extent as well.
Let’s compare his 2016 with the A’s and Cubs:
- With the A’s he produced a 31 wRC+ in 172 PAs. A .170 batted average for balls in play (BABIP) likely played a huge role.
- With the Cubs he produced a 113 wRC+ in 128 PAs. A .325 BABIP, slightly above his career average (.307), likely drove a slightly higher than career average wRC+ (101).
- The A’s used him at 2B (130 innings), 3B (135 innings) and LF/RF (105 innings), with Coghlan saving a below average number of runs (UZR) at each position. His playing time in the infield may have actually contributed to his issues. Before 2016, he played a total of 177 innings in the infield across his seven big league seasons.
- The Cubs used him mainly in his usual LF/RF spots (199 innings), with only 1 inning at 3B and 27 innings at 1B. He saved an impressive 4.8 runs above average in his limited OF action with the Cubs (30.5 UZR/150).
- Base Running
- Coghlan’s base running was slightly above average throughout the 2016 season, with a BsR of 0.6 for each of his teams.
Looking at his performance with the Cubs (2014-2016) provides us with an idea of the high upside this minor league signing (!) provides the Jays:
- In 1063 PAs, Coghlan produced a wRC+ of 119. This would put him tied for 25th among 120 outfielders with 700+ PAs.
- Importantly, he did so with a .310 BABIP, in line with his career .307 BABIP.
- In 1735 innings in LF, Coghlan accumulated 13.5 UZR, which would be good for 6th among the 49 left fielders with 700+ innings played.
- Base Running
- Coghlan accumulated 6.1 base running runs above average (BsR), good for 47th among the 120 outfielders with 750+ PAs.
The one caveat, with regards to his hitting, is that he tends to hit better against RHP:
- vs. RHP
- He ran a 126 wRC+ in 897 PAs with the Cubs.
- For his career, he has a 108 wRC+ in 2247 PAs.
- vs. LHP
- He ran a 78 wRC+ in 166 PAs with the Cubs.
- For his career, he has a 72 wRC+ in 570 PAs.
Fortunately, this fits in perfectly with the Jays LF situation. Upton is a solid hitter vs. LHP (109 career wRC+), while Zeke has that weird reverse platoon split (which may or may not be real, given that he only has 231 career PAs vs. LHP) which has led to a 98 career wRC+ vs. lefties.
All told, the Jays may have just picked up an above average hitter (particularly vs. RHP), left fielder and base runner on a minor league deal. This front office seems to keep giving Jays fans more and more reasons to believe that they are not only competent, but perhaps one of the best in the league. Sure, they aren’t perfect. They probably could’ve been more generous with Sanchez’s 2017 contract and more patient with Edwin. But they’re list of wins is long:
- the theft of Liriano/Ramirez/McGuire
- signing Pearce for $6.25M/year
- their top-notch 2016 draft class
- resigning Jose for 2017 with no long-term risk
- handling Sanchez’s IP limit better than most teams have handled their young pitchers
- signing Howell/Smith for $6M with no long-term risk in an off-season in which teams gave very average relievers gobs of money and term
- picking up Biagini in the 2016 Rule 5 draft
- signing Happ/Estrada instead of Price
- the mid-season Grilli/Benoit trades
- adding Ben Cherington to the front office itself
- being on the forefront of off-field advancements (e.g. the High Performance team)
Let’s hope that this signing is yet another feather in their cap. If it is, my optimism for 2017 will only increase.
*Featured Image Credit: Tyrone Islington Photography UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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I’m an economics professor in the GTA whose lifelong love for the Jays was reignited by that magical August of 2015 and the amazing moments since.