The Toronto Blue Jays need to address their center field position and Japanese stand out, Akiyama could be the solution
The Toronto Blue Jays have been busy this offseason and appear to be better for it. That said, there’s work left to do. Whether it is pursuing former Blue Jays Edwin Encarnacion and David Price, as suggested by Rob Longley of The Toronto Sun, remains to be seen. But, there is still the need to address the issue of center field. And, they could return to Japan to accomplish this.
Right now, it looks like the Blue Jays will be relying on some kind of combination of Randal Grichuk and Teoscar Hernandez to man center. Of course, if Anthony Alford of Jonathan Davis manage to impress enough, they could be given a shot. But, as of right now, it looks like Grichuk is the starting CF. That presents some problems.
Offensivley speaking, the duo of Grich-nandez is one that will provide plenty of pop. There will be strikeouts aplenty, but there will also be dingers and such. But, on the other side of the ball, there are some very serious question marks. In 486 innings, Grichuk put up 2 DRS and -0.6 UZR/150. In 2018, his 212 innings were not as attractive. As you would expect, Hernandez put up much worse defense in CF in 2019: -7 DRS and -13.2 UZR/150. So, at this point, Blue Jays fans might want to pray for Alford and Davis to take steps forward.
Otherwise, the Blue Jays will have to look outside the organization to avoid running Grich-nandez out there. They could call up their old friend Ben Cherington and see if he would be interested in trading Starling Marte. But, you can bet the aksing price would be pretty high from a guy who knows the Blue Jays system well. So far this offseason, Ross Atkins has done a good job not tapping into his rather nice looking farm. He may want to keep it that way.
So, it might behoove the Blue Jays to look to the Japanese free agent, Shogo Akiyama. The 31 year old is a lefty bat that provides power, on base ability and some speed:
This would be a center field option that provides 20/20 potential with an ability to leadoff. Akiyama brings a number of elements that check several boxes for the Blue Jays. First of all, he would be very affordable for Toronto. He has no posting fee attached to him and projected by MLBTR to earn 2 yr/ $6M deal. That is right up the Blue Jays’ alley.
Of course, with any free agent, things are not as easy as MLB The Show. There are lots of clubs that have met with Akiyama. Each club would offer something different and there is no telling if Toronto would be of interest to him. That said, the recent signing of fellow countryman, Shun Yamaguchi, could help convince Akiyama to put ink on paper.
With multiple clubs meeting with Akiyama, one has to wonder why he hasn’t signed yet. We know he suffered a broken bone in his foot in November, so perhaps clubs are a little leery of committing to him. But, that seems like the perfect opportunity for Toronto. Let’s say he is a $3M AAV player, the Blue Jays would be banking on his ability to bounce back from his injury. But, they just gave Travis Shaw $4M in the hopes that he’ll bounce back. It doesn’t sound so crazy for a guy who gets on base so much.
If the Blue Jays are going to continue their pursuit of improvement, their next move has to be to address an area of obvious concern. They could get by with Grich-nandez in CF, but they do not HAVE TO. They could look to find a true center fielder, which would allow Grichuk to return to right and Teoscar to return to not using his glove. Akiyama could very well be the affordable answer this club is looking for. He is a lefty leadoff hitter with some speed and power. And, that’s something the Blue Jays need.
In fact, if they could somehow manage to convince Shogo Akiyama to sign in Toronto, the rest of the offseason would be rather easy. The heavy lifting would be finished and the Toronto Blue Jays would be set to be much improved over 2019.
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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.