The Toronto Blue Jays have added pieces to a suddenly crowded outfield mix, which leads us to wonder who is on the bubble
The Toronto Blue Jays have created a rather crowded outfield situation by signing Curtis Granderson and trading for Randal Grichuk. Granderson will be able to provide the left handed bat in a platoon situation thanks to his career .854 OPS against right handed pitching. Grichuk brings an everyday bat that has drool worthy power potential, but will likely strike out a lot. They both bring positive defensive value. There is bound to be an awful lot of analysis over how the lineup will be constructed moving forward.
However, the immediate head scratcher is just what the Blue Jays will do with all of the outfield pieces. At the time of writing, there is not enough room for Kevin Pillar, Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera, Granderson and Grichuk. That is to say nothing of Anthony Alford or Teoscar Hernandez, who have been on the outside of this conversation. Now, they appear destined for AAA to light it up there, hope for an injury or poor performance and force their way into the big league outfield. And, don’t forget about Dalton Pompey. If he can stay healthy, he’ll complicate this whole discussion, which is a good thing.
It is possible that Toronto runs with a 5 man outfield, which would mean that the bullpen is likely down to seven arms. In recent years, we’ve seen them prefer to keep their bullpen eight strong. Should they continue their 8 man ways, (especially to start a season when starters aren’t fully warm, stretched, etc) that means that one of the outfielders above is very much on the bubble.
This is where the conversation gets rather heated. There are a few segments of the fan base that are
hoping expecting discussing possibilities. Here, we’ll look at the three most common ideas.
Trade Kevin Pillar
With outfield options in Granderson and Grichuk that can play multiple positions rather competently and Kevin Pillar’s declining defensive abilities, it might be time to consider trading Superman. A deal for him would still be capitalizing on the value that he brings (he’s put up 9.5 fWAR over the last three seasons), even if it is trending in the wrong direction.
His defense is known around the league and he is an everyday player that could help several teams improve their outfield. However, for the Blue Jays, Pillar’s bat has not come around to where fans can stomach watching every day in the lineup. His offensive value, according to Fangraphs, over the last two seasons has been pegged at -11.5 and -10.7 respectively. His minuscule walk rate has led to a career OBP of just .302. To be fair, he will steal you 15 bases and maybe hit 15 home runs, which certainly has value.
It would be interesting to see what a return would look like for a defense first outfielder with a somewhat questionable bat. Perhaps, a bullpen arm to replace Dominic Leone could be found. Though, replacing the 2017 Leone gave the Blue Jays is likely to cost a bit more than a Pillar. Maybe, Toronto could get some prospect capital in return to replace what they gave up this offseason. Though, again, Pillar (or any of the other options) is not likely to net a return equal to Conner Greene, J.B. Woodman and Edward Olivares.
Trade Steve Pearce
Another section of the fan base feels that trading Steve Pearce would allow the Blue Jays to save his $6M salary. And, having missed 60 games this season, you can’t blame fans for not seeing the value in paying him that much. His .757 OPS is underwhelming as his -6 DRS in the outfield in 2017. With Justin Smoak solidifying himself at first base, there just might be nowhere for Pearce to play. His career OPS of 837 against left handed pitching make him a platoon option with Granderson in left field, but with a crowded outfield, perhaps the Blue Jays can dangle him to other teams. Ross Atkins has suggested that he would do just that.
Dangling him may not result in anything since the other team would have to be willing to take a chance on $6M. That likely means that the return would be equally underwhelming. In fact, given his 2017, teams might rather pay for Pillar than Pearce. However, in trade talks, the Blue Jays would likely tout Pearce’s value as a utility man. He can play first base (with a much better DRS) and some second base. Heck, if a team really wants to squeeze some value out of him, he also has time at third base.
In all honesty, it would be a surprise to see Pearce moved. He has a lot of value for clubs, but has definitely reached his ceiling, whatever that is. His history of injuries and his high price tag make him tough to move. Obviously, the Blue Jays could make it easier by eating money, but that would defeat the purpose of trading him. They’d be better off keeping him in the mix.
Fire Ezequiel Carrera into the Sun
Listeners of Jays From the Couch Radio likely know which way this writer is leaning, but Ezequiel Carrera might be the most interesting part of this discussion. Obviously, firing him into the sun is not an option, but trading him certainly could be. Since Atkins is listening on him, and it would make me very happy, we should explore the idea of Zeke as a trade chip.
Firstly, it needs to be pointed out that Carrera was one of the more productive Blue Jays hitters in 2017. He hit .285 with an OBP of .356. That is more of a comment on the rest of the team than it is on Zeke, but it shows the kind of value he brings. It certainly shows the kind of value the Blue Jays front office sees in him. Let’s also add the fact that he is very affordable as a bench/platoon/pinch hitter/injury replacement kind of player.
That said, you can hardly blame fans for wanting him traded. His mental miscues, whether on defense, or on the basepaths are frustrating to watch. Missing cutoffs, throwing to the wrong base, or simply falling off third base for no apparent reason are all part of the Ezequiel Carrera package. They are the parts that make fans uninterested in any talk of the value he brings; they simply would love to see him traded.
But, what can the Blue Jays hope to obtain in return? The argument can be made, despite the bitter rage among fans, that Zeke very well could bring in a nice return for Toronto. It certainly won’t be a 5th starter, or a proven bullpen arm, but it could be pitching depth that might fit in future plans. Can’t have enough pitching depth, right?
When all is said and done, whatever the return is, it is not likely to be significant. When teams negotiate with Toronto, they will likely point out that any pieces the Blue Jays are offering were the same pieces the club felt needed upgrading. They all have flaws and varying degrees of minimal value. Essentially, Atkins is not in a position of leverage. Even if he says he is open to starting the year with five outfielders (injuries do happen), we all know that idea is not very appealing.
So, let’s have it. Who would you trade?
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