After the Trade Deadline, the Toronto Blue Jays have 5 outfielders on their roster. We look at how this will work moving forward.
The Toronto Blue Jays made it through the July 31st Trade Deadline by dealing Francisco Liriano and Joe Smith. The end result, with regards to the immediate future, is the club is left with a roster that includes 5 outfielders. Now, we’ve seen teams carry extra relievers or infielders to cover for injuries, etc. Heck, we’ve even seen situations where three catchers were carried for a time. But, having five outfielders creates a bit of a head scratching scenario for the Blue Jays. Or, does it?
Adding Nori Aoki to a group that includes Kevin Pillar, Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera and Jose Bautista might be seen as overkill, creating a logjam. If one wanted to, newly acquired Teoscar Hernandez could even be added to this group as he looks like he could play everyday at the big league level. Toronto won’t do that…not this season.
Instead, they will look to figure out how to maximize the logjam they’ve created. In the interest of full disclosure, this was a topic that came to me shortly after the Liriano trade went down, and it has taken this long to sit down and write it.
With Pearce, Zeke, Pillar, Bautista already on the roster, what happens in next 2 hrs might be fun#BlueJays
— Jays From the Couch (@JaysFromCouch) July 31, 2017
Out of respect, it has to be acknowledged that Jays Journal has just looked at the outfield situation and came to the common conclusion that Bautista could make it through waivers and could be a trade candidate in August. It is true that this would certainly be one way for the club to deal with their hoard of outfielders. But, this doesn’t really cover the whole situation.
Bautista is the Blue Jays’ leadoff hitter and everyday right fielder. We know that John Gibbons will not pull him from the lineup, save for a routine day off, even if he struggles mightily. Steve Pearce is hitting walkoff grand slams and earning himself more and more at bats. So, he’ll start the game in LF and Carrera will go in for him as a defensive replacement, or as a pinch runner for a lineup that features many a slow poke. Pillar’s defense has him solidly in CF, regardless of what he does, or does not swing at.
Adding Aoki to this mix creates some interesting options, though. According to Fangraphs, his Spd sits at 5.2, which right around his career mark. So, the 35 yr old doesn’t appear to have slowed down. This would make him an interesting pinch runner, since his Spd value is actually a bit higher than Zeke’s. Aoki is a guy who can get on base (career OBP of .350), makes contact (86.6%) and has been worth 1 DRS in the outfield this year, which is a major improvement over what we’ve seen this year from Blue Jays outfielders.
The combination of the above might make him an interesting option as a leadoff hitter – he has a career slash line of .285/.353/.385 there, likely thanks to success earlier in his career. Obviously, it would mean that Gibby would have to abandon his Joey love, which is not likely to happen. And, that is fine…I guess. Though, having a lefty bat at the top of the order might be worth a look. Consider this: as a lefty bat, Aoki has a career slash line of .307/.362/.378. His success against lefty pitching is also worth a look. This season, Pearce, a righty, is hitting .224 vs lefties (67 PA), Carrera, a lefty, is hitting (can we call it that?) 0.87, Pillar is hitting .316 and Bautista is hitting .174. Perhaps, utilizing Aoki against lefties is how to get the most out of this situation.
Of course, so much can happen in the month of August. Someone could get hurt…this is the 2017 Blue Jays. Trades can still happen. It is also entirely possible that nothing happens. The Blue Jays could simply allow Aoki to sit on the bench, much like Houston was doing and play in blowouts, or as a late inning runner. They could give him the Carrera treatment. He could provide days off for others, especially against lefties.
In reality, having 5 outfielders in August may not be such a big deal. There are several ways this could go, but it won’t last long. Rosters expand on September 1st and we could see a couple more added in the person of Anthony Alford or Dwight Smith Jr or others. The offseason won’t be much of an issue, either. Aoki very well could be non-tendered, which means he will be removed from the discussion. Bautista very well could be gone (again, a topic for another day).
In short, as initially confusing as it might be, there really is no need to make a big deal over how many outfielders the Blue Jays have right at the moment. The situation may not last all that long, and even if it does, it provides more options for an offense that has looked rather futile at times.
*Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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