Jays From the Couch breaks down a potential outfield for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2018
Chances are, you’ve been hearing a lot about the Blue Jays and potential outfielders on the market already this offseason. While there are option available, piecing together a Blue Jays outfield in 2018 while maintaining bench depth and versatility might be a bit more complicated than it seems.
There wasn’t much production to speak of coming from the Blue Jays outfield in 2017, with Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera, Steve Pearce and Jose Bautista combining for a slash and production line that’s really not worth doing the simple addition. The defense was fine, even with Carrera forgetting how long his arms are and perhaps struggling mightily with depth perception at times. In the end, it was underwhelming at best, though with most of the team in the infirmary by mid-summer, we did get to see the debuts of Anthony Alford and Dwight Smith Jr., as well as Teoscar Hernandez as a September call-up.
With Bautista on his way out of town (goodbye, old friend), Teoscar Hernandez should see most of the playing time in right field, with Kevin Pillar in center field and…something in left field. The Blue Jays could seek an upgrade in LF over Steve Pearce and Ezequiel Carrera via free agency or trade, or they could look to up their production in-house.
We’ll lay a few options out right here.
Since the Blue Jays lost to the Royals in the 2015 ALCS, and probably quite a bit before then – Blue Jays fans have longed for a dynamic outfielder that can hit atop the lineup, swipe a few bases, and show off power. Lorenzo Cain is probably the second-best outfielder available in 2018 (with JD Martinez falling wayyyy out of the Blue Jays’ budget) and his fit in Toronto is obvious.
He does, however, have a Qualifying Offer attached to any contract he signs, which would require the Jays to punt a draft pick somewhere in the second round. With this front office, it seems unlikely they’d lose out on cheap, controllable lottery tickets rather than spend over $100 million on a free agent who isn’t getting any younger or any better.
Rajai Davis held down left field in Toronto from 2011 to 2013 – albeit with some mediocrity – and has never been even a league average OF. He does, however, provide some running ability, which he’s shown off on a national stage over the past couple years playing for playoff teams. This season he stole 29 bases at the age of 36 and managed a 0.0 fWAR.
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I’m not too ashamed to admit I wrote most of this before looking at his stats, which are…bad. Still, he can play a decent enough outfield…okay nevermind. Davis provides no real improvement for the Blue Jays in the outfield. I feel like I needed to say that out loud for myself and other who have wished for a reunion and anyone to steal a base over the last couple seasons.
Carlos Gonzalez had a pretty lousy season in 2017, helped in part by a significant drop in ISO (.207 to .192) and BABIP (.346 to .318). His defense retreated a little bit more, he struck out a 2% higher rate and he showed a huge deterioration in Fangraphs’ baserunning metrics. In theory, he fits right into the 2017 Blue Jays lineup.
Gonzalez will likely be seeking a one-year deal to build up his value after after a poor campaign, and hitting fifth or sixth in the Blue Jays lineup…might be a match for both the player and team. Gonzalez would add a lefty bat to balance a skilled right side, and maybe having Anthony Alford or Kevin Pillar playing along side him will push his glove out of sight. A rebound year in the friendly confines of the American League East (inbefore: COOOOOORS) might be just what he needs.
Fresh off winning a World Series in 2018, Cameron Maybin will be searching for a new home this offseason. There aren’t a whole lot of stats that jump off the page at you from Maybin aside from his 33 stolen bases, but there remains no real detractor to his skill set, either. He’ll hit a couple home runs, but not a lot, steal some bases, but slow down in the coming years, and he’ll get on-base at a 32% rate. The 30-year old could look pretty good atop the Blue Jays lineup.
He can also play a serviceable outfield, possibly even a very good left field, with a UZR/150 of 1.3 posted in 913 ourtfield innings in 2017.
Howie Kendrick showed in 2017 that he could still play, and put in a solid season with the Washington Nationals. His 1.4 bWAR season with a 119 OPS+ came after his age-34 season, so while he’s still swinging it, he’s also not getting any younger.
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The thing with Kendrick, though, is that at this point in his career, he can play a significant role as a utility player, earning time in 2017 in the outfield (54 games), first base (four games) and second base (15 games.) Right now, that bench flexibility is something the Blue Jays are lacking – and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. represents the team’s closest approximation to it, and he’s likely a year away from a full-time gig. In short, Kendrick fills two needs on the Blue Jays roster.
Getting Even More Creative – The Trade Market
There’s plenty of options available on the trade market, but the question there is always what it’s going to cost a team in terms of talented assets. As of right now, the entire Miami Marlins outfield is up for trade, with every Marlins outfielder fitting seamlessly into a Blue Jays lineup solely on the fact that they’re all better than the current Jays outfield.
Take your pick: Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich or Marcell Ozuna. You can’t lose in terms of talent coming back, but is it the right time to blow up the farm system that the new regime has spent the last two years reassembling? With this front office, that answer is almost certainly ‘no.’
There are other trade options out there – the St. Louis Cardinals certainly come to mind – but trade speculation on the part of those of us detached from the game is mostly meaningless. While we can go back and forth and agree with other fans and bloggers on who needs what and where a match might come to be – we’re almost always wrong when it comes down to the final details.
Teoscar Hernandez, Anthony Alford, Kevin Pillar and Dwight Smith Jr.
Somehow, the above organization of the Blue Jays outfield in 2018 is rarely discussed. This time of year, we’re so absorbed with players from other organizations becoming available for the first time, that we manage to ignore what’s right in front of us, and that’s the pile of decent outfielders already within the upper echelon of the Blue Jays organization.
The above combination likely isn’t going to hit much, but if the lineup is healthy (and I know, that’s a tremendous IF), the Jays might be able to skirt through 2018 with a young outfield getting a feel for the MLB game – which they’ll have to do eventually. Chances are, they won’t be terribly competitive in 2018, so let these guys see if they can figure it out, and hit the free agent market hard after the 2018 World Series.
This goes without mentioning Ezequiel Carrera, who’s arbitration-eligible through 2019. Or Dalton Pompey, who might never recover from an endless string of injuries. Or a breakout from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. once he finally adjust to time off an the continental game.
There’s an almost endless output of situations for this outfield in 2018. And if you’re up for a conversation, lay out your demands for the 2018 Blue Jays outfield in the comments section below.
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