The Toronto Blue Jays were notoriously slow in 2017. Adding Curtis Granderson helps in that area, but not enough
The Toronto Blue Jays were a slow team in 2017. Like, really slow. You name the aspect of the game of baseball that requires speed and the Blue Jays were among the worst at it. Stealing bases, avoiding double plays, taking extra bases, busting out triples, they were not effective at the whole speed thing. Previously, I explored just how slow the 2017 version of the Blue Jays was. It isn’t pretty.
So, the hope entering the offseason was that the Blue Jays would add pieces to address this. That is not to say that team speed should take precedent over anything else, but it would be nice to watch a team that was a bit more exciting on the basepaths. Losing Jose Bautista meant that, even if GM, Ross Atkins, did nothing this winter, speed would improve thanks to having younger, faster guys like Anthony Alford and/or Teoscar Hernandez waiting in the wings.
That said, these options are definitely faster, but they are not exactly sure bets to jump into a major league roster every single day. The other aspects of their offense leads to too many questions; too many to simply rely on the increased speed argument. So, to field a faster team AND a more solid lineup, outside help is the way to go. Trading for Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte are solid moves, but they are not so because of the speed element the players bring. We’re left still looking.
Enter Curtis Granderson. As of right now, we can simplify things by saying that Granderson replaces Bautista (in the speed category) with the rest of the familiar outfield faces remaining the same. Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera and Steve Pearce are not exactly the fleetest of foot. That said, Pillar and Carrera offer the most speed of the group at 27.9 ft/sec. Pearce comes in at 26.6 ft/sec. As it turns out, Granderson clocks in at the same 26.6 ft/sec, which may not exactly make you feel better about speed.
Let’s look at the BsR category at Fangraphs. A rating of zero is average while 2 is above average, 6 is great and 8 is excellent. As you can guess, the Blue Jays did not have a single player in the “great” or “excellent” category in 2017. In fact, only two players were “above average”: Carrera: 2.8 and Josh Donaldson: 2.4. Kevin Pillar came in at 1 and then none of what we would consider ‘regulars’ even broke zero. In fact, Marcus Stroman is ahead of all of them at zero.
If this were 2012, we’d be able to say the Grandy Man boasts is a great base runner with scores of 5.8. In 2007, he posted a mark of 9.9! But, sadly, this is not 2012 and we are certainly not under any umbrella’s hey, hey, hey. No, Granderson is a long way from his 2007 score. Over the last three seasons, he has not seen a BsR score of 3 (2.5, 2.1, 2.9). Now, they gave him a Spd score of 4.8. He has seen seasons of 20 or more stolen bases, but he hasn’t even seen double digits since 2015. He also hit three triples in 2017…the Blue Jays hit five…in total.
The point here is that Granderson will provide some speed, particularly more than Bautista, but given that it is on par with Steve Pearce, we shouldn’t expect that the overall speed on this team will be greatly improved. That is especially true if Granderson is used in a platoon situation, seeing more time against righty pitching. Of course, if he is the DH for a day, the team speed takes a significant jump with Kendrys Morales on the bench.
The Blue Jays front office haven’t really done much to improve the overall team speed this winter. Perhaps, they don’t see it as a major issue. Perhaps, they feel that by relying on their younger guys, they can accomplish an increase in speed. Or, perhaps there are more moves to come.
The general consensus among more reasonable folk is that the Granderson deal is a nice one, but in no way does it mean Toronto’s offseason shopping is complete. Now, finding speed usually means finding young(er) talent. Granderson is 37 and showing nowhere near the speed numbers he used to when he was younger. So, it would make sense that the trade route is the most likely way to address this issue. MLBTR has a list of the most likely trade candidates and there are some interesting (outfield, since that is the only area the Blue Jays can make an addition) names on the list. Billy Hamilton or even Jackie Bradley Jr (I know, I know) are a couple speedsters on the list. Not that they’re particularly likely to wear a Blue Jays jersey next season.
Looking to free agency, Lorenzon Cain is STILL out there. He would bring an element of speed and would be an everyday impact player that would benefit the overall roster production. Jarrod Dyson is also available. Though, one would wonder if he is the kind of everyday player to take a chance on. If Toronto wants to find speed without giving up an everyday gig (or a long term deal), guys like Peter Bourjos and Cameron Maybin are out there. Heck, remember how much fun it was watching Rajai Davis go crazy on the basepaths? He’s out there.
As much as I love speed, it is entirely possible that I’m making more of a deal out of this than the Blue Jays’ front office. It is possible that it may not be such a priority. IF it was, it may not be now with what is likely one remaining roster spot. They will likely be looking for the best player they can (*cough* Lorenzo Cain *cough*) for a price they are comfortable with. They may have to be happy with the speed situation as it is. Curtis Granderson helps in that regard. In all honesty, the Blue Jays need all the help they can get.
*Featured Image Credit: Alan Kotok UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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