The Toronto Blue Jays have some work to do this offseason, but addressing the outfield should not be at the top of their list
The Toronto Blue Jays have a lot of work to do this winter. They have stated their goal is to get younger, more versatile and more athletic. That sounds all well and good – it should be every team’s goal – but it lacks specificity. Exactly how will they go about accomplishing this three sided goal? If we set aside that vague mission, we can come up with a list of specific needs the club should look to address.
GM, Ross Atkins will have to figure out how to add quality starting pitching depth. This might be the most difficult task in baseball. Everyone wants it. Every team will be trying to build depth in their rotation. The Blue Jays will need to compete with all of them to avoid having to give starts to the Mat Latos‘ of the world. We’ve seen this year that reclamation projects are not exactly reliable. As well, the club might want to consider adding some bullpen pieces.
The more obvious place to look is where Nick Ashbourne of Yahoo! Sports went. The outfield is going to need some serious attention. With Jose Bautista leaving a hole, the size of which varies depending upon who you ask, it is not immediately clear who will take his place. Ashbourne suggests some names that, frankly, seem a bit beyond where the Blue Jays should be looking. With guys like J.D. Martinez, Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson getting varying degrees of attention from the Yahoo! scribe, it kind of sounds like addressing the outfield needs from free agency is not a good idea.
Instead, Toronto has a number of outfield options already in house. Teoscar Hernandez put on a September show and has what this team needs. He brings speed and versatility in a younger body than we’ve seen over the last few years. An outfield of him, Kevin Pillar and a combination of Steve Pearce and Ezequiel Carrera (you know they will tender him a contract this winter, right?) could round out an acceptable defensive outfield. That is not to mention Dalton Pompey, Anthony Alford and Dwight Smith Jr all providing some level of insurance should the above four falter. It is not a great situation by any means, but it is a situation that moves the need to address the outfield from the top of Atkins’ list.
Instead, a more glaring need is present. That is the urgency to do something about the middle infield. We know that Devon Travis has been the subject of just about the worst news an athlete can hear: he won’t be healthy for a full season. That leaves a giant hole at second base. Then, you have to consider that Troy Tulowitzki is likely not going to play a full season. If he does, that would be great, but we know better than to place our bets on that pony. As stated in the most recent episode of the Jays From the Couch Radio podcast, it would be shocking to see these two combine for a full 162 games, let alone come anywhere near playing that many games each.
As we saw this season, when these two are out of the lineup, the likes of Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney are asked to fill in. Consider that Goins put up a wRC+ of 69 and an fWAR of -0.3 (there is no point in bringing up his success with runners in scoring position…it means nothing) while Barney put up 58 wRC+ and -0.6 fWAR. That’s a combined fWAR of -0.9. That can’t happen again. The prospects of this means that the Blue Jays need to be looking for a solution.
Whether it is trading for Dee Gordon (YES, PLEASE!!!!!), or looking at guys who could be available, depending on options, etc. They could look to free agency for a guy like Howie Kendrick, Jed Lowrie, Logan Forsythe, Neil Walker or even Brandon Phillips, the Blue Jays are not in a position to make any other position a priority, assuming things happen linearly, which they rarely do. More likely, they will have several fires burning at once. But, second base/ shortstop needs to be the fire they add the most wood to.
This team doesn’t have the infield options knocking on the door of the Rogers Centre like it does outfield possibilities. Despite seeing Richard Urena in September, he is not ready to challenge for a big league job. One could argue that Lourdes Gurriel Jr is close, but he isn’t as close as we would like him to be. No, there really aren’t any internal options…and no, Goins doesn’t count as an internal option in this case.
So, while the outfield very well may be a fire that burns this winter, it should not be the one that gets the most attention. The need to figure out the middle infield is much more pressing. It should be this team’s biggest focus this winter. We can’t go another season repeating the 2017 solutions. Not if the Blue Jays plan on competing.
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