After recent comments from manager, John Gibbons, Jays From the Couch looks at how the Toronto Blue Jays can beef up their offence
In 2017, the Toronto Blue Jays ranked 26th in all of Major League Baseball with 693 runs. They only scored three more runs than the Phillies. That’s how bad things went this year. Part of their inability to score runs has to do with the incredible lack of speed this team displayed. Not only did they manage only five triples, they stole 53 bases all year. That’s good for 29th, 19 more than the last place Orioles. Heck, they couldn’t even use their speed to stay out of double plays:
In 2017, Ryan Goins grounded into 14 double plays.
Goins is 4th#BlueJays
— Jays From the Couch (@JaysFromCouch) October 15, 2017
Recently, John Gibbons took to explaining his take on what the team needs to do this offseason. He joined Prime Time Sports and said “No. 1, I think we got to beef up the offence. We still have basically the core group but I think to add a little offence and hopefully a little bit more team speed.” He took it a bit further and specified what he would be looking for: “We’ve been hunting for a leadoff guy for a while now in Toronto. That would be ideal but I’m not sure if those guys are available.”
Before that, Ross Atkins commented on the topic as well. He said that the Blue Jays would be ‘open to trades’ and that team speed is ‘really hard to address in free agency’. Putting all of this together, the logical assumption is that this front office will be looking to addressing the speed component via the trade route. So, what options does that provide?
The immediate answer would be to call up whoever answers the phone in Miami and swing a deal for Dee Gordon. But, I’ve already explained that HERE. I’ve already talked about how well it would work. Atkins did also say that he needs to find someone to help in the middle infield since Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis bring questionable health. But, rather than beat that dead horse (BRING ME DEE!), let’s take a look at some other options.
Ian Kinsler has been mentioned as a second base option that could leadoff. The Tigers have a $10M team option for the 2018 season, so they’ll have to decide whether they’re going to keep him, or buy him out for $5M. Obviously, the possibility of trading him would play into this decision. On the surface, it would appear an easy decision. The first three years of Kinsler’s tenure in Detroit have been quite good. 2017 hasn’t been so kind. He put up the lowest wRC+ of his big league career: 91.
He put up just 2.4 fWAR, slashing .236/.313/.412. You want a better OBP than that from your leadoff guy. His career mark of .342 is much better. He did hit his share of home runs (22) and stole 14 bases. He hasn’t stolen more than 15 since 2013. Gordon can give you 50, but whatever. Fangraphs gives Kinsler a Spd value of 5.6, which would be welcome. But, there are better options out there.
St Louis Blockbuster?
Jedd Gyorko is a name that many people have thrown around to address the infield depth issue. He plays all over the diamond (3B, 2B, 1B) and even some outfield. His bat would certainly give the offense a boost with his .271/.341/.472 2017 slash line. He also struck for 20 home runs. He would provide the versatility and depth Atkins is looking for. But, his speed isn’t the top of the order type that Gibby wants. But, perhaps adding Randal Grichuk to the deal would help offset the speed factor. As explained previously, Grichuk brings some power and speed in an outfield position. The combination of these two would definitely “beef up” the Blue Jays offense, if not providing a prototypical leadoff guy.
Obviously, when you expand a deal like this, the cost escalates pretty quickly. It has been said that the Cardinals have their eye on Josh Donaldson, but Toronto is not about to get beefy by subtracting its top sirloin. Gyorko and Grichuk are not enough to balance the loss of an MVP candidate. We could hash out a deal a million different ways, but this option might be a bit much to think too long on.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have quite a few middle infielders on their 40 man roster. Ketel Marte has experience playing third, second, short stop and some outfield. He brings versatility this team needs. He’s 24 and comes with four more years of team control, which is a nice bonus. In 73 games last season, he put up an OBP of .345 thanks to a walk rate of 11.4% and a K% of 14.5. He won’t hit for a ton of home runs, but brings decent speed. He just might be the right choice for a backup that can play more if needed.
Nick Ahmed is another option from Arizona. He’s currently on the 60 Day DL thanks to a fractured right hand. Like Marte, he doesn’t have a big bat. In fact, Marte’s might be preferable. Ahmed doesn’t get on base enough and he strikes out too much. He’s a middle infielder, though. That could have some value to Toronto. Chris Owings (also on the 60 day DL) is another guy that Arizona could look to shop. But, again, his OBP isn’t great, neither is his overall offenseive value. His defense is what some might call “average”. He can also play the outfield in a pinch. But, if I were going shopping in the desert, I’d be after Marte.
These are just a few options that could be considered. When it comes to trades, possibilities become nearly endless. For the right deal, anyone can be traded for. That doesn’t mean that the Toronto Blue Jays will go for those players. Instead, you can look for them to fill their need with a solid option that maybe none of us have even thought of.
There is no guarantee that Atkins is even linking speed with the middle infield. So, we very well could be barking up the wrong tree. As well, there is more than one way to “beef up a lineup”. Speed and beef don’t always come from the same place. It can be difficult to piece together an offseason game plan from comments made here and there. But, that’s why it’s so much fun.
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