The Toronto Blue Jays might want to call the Pittsburgh Pirates because Josh Harrison is the perfect trade target this offseaon
The Toronto Blue Jays need infield help. They need roster flexibility. They also need something more than hope in the outfield. As the saying goes, there are many ways this cat could be skinned. This offseason could see Ross Atkins go the free agent route to fill certain needs, or he could find more interesting options via trade. One such option exists in Pittsburgh. Josh Harrison might be available AND he might just be the answer to all of the above needs.
Before we continue, I must acknowledge that I am fully aware that I am the person who said ‘Bring Me Dee Gordon‘. And, I still think that Gordon would be a great piece in Toronto. The Harrison idea is not a weak attempt at writing up Hot Stove content to shamelessly bring eyeballs to Jays From the Couch. Rather, in the latest episode of the Jays From the Couch Radio podcast, I explained that Harrison makes so much sense for the Blue Jays that I am actually leaning toward him being THE target of this offseason. This isn’t being wishy washy. I promise.
Instead, the idea came from a chat I had with Jason Rollison of Pirates Breakdown. Jason and his crew do an excellent job of covering the Pirates and I knew that he would be able to give me some insight into the likelihood of Andrew McCutchen being available. You can find the interview HERE. What I didn’t expect was the idea of Harrison being planted in my brain.
Essentially, the idea is that the Bucs might be interested in getting out from under the financial commitment they have with Harrison. When you hear that, you would think that he must be owed an extreme amount. If you’re a smaller market team like Pittsburgh, $10M in 2018 might be too high. For the Blue Jays, though, it is very reasonable, especially when you consider how useful he is, which we’ll get into in a bit. Harrison’s deal includes 2 team options that max out at $11.5M in 2020. For a 30 yr old that has averaged 2.5 fWAR over the last 4 seasons, that is not an expensive deal.
It is a deal that the Blue Jays would do well to consider. Harrison is a guy who can play 3B, SS, 2B and the outfield. Granted, his playing time in the outfield is not exactly a large sample, but he can do it. The greater need for him, though, is in the infield. In 2017, Harrison put up 6 DRS at second, 2 DRS at third and 0 at short. That’s 8 DRS over 3 positions. He is more than capable of filling for an absent Devon Travis, Troy Tulowitzki, or a DH-ing Josh Donaldson, which means tremendous value.
But, it isn’t just his glove that makes him worth trading for. Offensively, he would be a massive improvement over the ‘back ups’ the Blue Jays have had to rely on over the course of the last few years. Last year, he put up a line of .272/.339/.432 with 16 HR and 26 doubles. He also can steal double digit bases. Ryan Goins can’t boast any of this. On a one to one basis, Harrison is a better player, no question. What makes him that much more valuable is that he can offer roster flexibility.
Where Goins was a backup player playing everyday, Harrison is a straight up everyday player. Given Toronto’s situation, there wouldn’t appear to be any trouble figuring out playing time for Harrison. Goins played 143 games. There would be lost of playing time for Harrison, especially when you can put him in any one of four different positions. The more they use him, the more positive impact he has on the club, where the opposite was true for Goins.
Here’s where Harrison proves to be even more useful for the Blue Jays’ situation: With only one guaranteed year, Toronto could buy the time for the likes of Lourdes Gurriel Jr to progress to the point that he is ready for a big league job. If that is only one more season, then the club need only decline the 2019 option and Harrison becomes a fee agent at 31. If the team feels they need more time, they can pick up the options and buy themselves security until at least 2020. At the most, they’d be paying $11.5M for his on field production and buying time for others to develop.
While there may very well be several options for the Blue Jays out there, Josh Harrison just might make the most sense. He would provide roster flexibility, insurance and production all for a price that might be too much for Pittsburgh, but it might be too much for the Blue Jays to pass up.
*UPDATE: Harrison certainly fits what Atkins is looking for:
Primary focus this offseason, Atkins wants middle infielder who can be offensive threat. Need versatility and depth in position players.
— Hazel Mae (@thehazelmae) November 13, 2017
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.