Former Blue Jays players suggests that the path to the big league outfield is not very wide open, which may confuse some people
The Toronto Blue Jays have cleared a lot of space in their infield to allow for young players to earn their spot in the future of this club. They’ve opened up playing time by casting off Troy Tulowitzki, Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte. While making way for Lourdes Gurriel, this offseason has also made a more direct path to the big leagues for Bo Bichette. While it is far from a direct line, there are fewer obstacles in his way now than there were before.
The outfield is a different story.There hasn’t really been any subtraction from the group that includes Kevin Pillar, Randall Grichuk, Teoscar Hernandez, possibly Dalton Pompey, Anthony Alford, Dwight Smith Jr. Billy McKinney and maybe even Jonathan Davis. Obviously some on this list are going to have an easier time receiving playing time than others, but this is definitely an overcrowded group.
So, when former Blue Jays’ prospect, Harold Ramirez told Baseball America (hat tip to MLBTR for passing it on) that he rejected Toronto’s $32,000 bonus (which was the highest of the 15 teams interested in him) because there wasn’t an immediate path for him to the big leagues, it makes sense. Signing with the Marlins is far more logical since just about any random person off the street may be in line to see playing time there this year.
Setting aside that Ross Atkins offered $32K for Ramirez to return to the organization (!), it makes you wonder about just what the path to the Blue Jays outfield looks like now and over the next little while.
Obviously, the immediate answer is that the outfield is full. We know that Pillar will be back to manage CF while earning $5.8M. Even though he has been the subject of many fans’ offseason crystal balling and his future in Toronto has been questioned in the past, he is currently the Blue Jays’ center fielder. There is still time for this to change, but it is unlikely another team will look to trade for him.
After rebounding from an unbelievably bad start to the 2018 season, Randal Grichuk should be rather exciting in 2019 and is as close to a lock as one can get. Right field looks to be his, certainly this coming season anyway. Left field is the spot that comes with the most question marks. Can Hernandez improve upon his defense to keep his bat in the lineup? Sure, the DH spot is an option, but…Kendrys Morales. Assuming Hernandez can continue his production with the bat, he will be given opportunity to show improved defense. But, we know that the club is not going to simply run a guy out there if he is disappointing. There are lots of other options.
Given that he is out of options, perhaps Dalton Pompey will finally get a serious look at claiming the left field job in Toronto. Fighting with your AAA manager could be put aside if his 2018 numbers can be replicated. This past season, he slashed .272/.352/.418 with 11 stolen bases. Sure, his power numbers were low (12 doubles, 5 HR), but an Ezequiel Carrera type 4th outfielder is something the club will consider carrying.
Toronto does not have to rely on Anthony Alford, who could use a fresh season of health to regain his presence at the plate. They certainly do not need to force Billy McKinney into a big league job just yet, even if he showed signs of being rather good during his 2018 stint in Toronto. He’s likely seen as a long term solution in the outfield, so he won’t be rushed. Dwight Smith Jr.is the real question mark moving forward. He has shown that he could be a 4th outfielder, but not a priority over those already mentioned.
Perhaps Ramirez was correct in that the immediate path to the Blue Jays outfield is rather crowded. A minor leaguer’s dream is to play in The Show and giving himself the best shot at that meant signing in Miami, not Toronto. He’s right. The Blue Jays do have several options for their outfield in 2019. They will use this coming season to figure out the direction in which they look to move. It is entirely possible that 2019 will be the final year in Pillar’s Blue Jays career. Grichuk only has a year after that remaining. By then, the field will be wide open. One can see why Ramirez would look elsewhere for an immediate path.
Time will tell if that holds true with the Blue Jays looking to try young prospects like Cavan Biggio in the outfield. Expanding their repertoire could create some interesting competition over the next few years. Maybe the path to the Blue Jays outfield will remain crowded for a while.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of R Mueller- JFtC
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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.