The Toronto Blue Jays could make a big move to address CF and JFtC has some fun guessing who they could add
In some ways it was ‘a tale of two hot stove seasons’ for Blue Jays fans. Starting in a lull, seemingly “being in” on many Free Agent and trade targets, only to come short and be left empty handed. The internet was brimming with animosity for this front office, as it has at times since they began their tenure. The ‘Rogers is cheap’ and ‘they’re ruining our team’ thoughts flourished. But here we are in January, and much has changed. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Shun Yamaguchi, Tanner Roark, Chase Anderson, Travis Shaw. The rotation has had (a much needed) overhaul, the lineup has seen some tinkering, and the collective fan base is considerably more optimistic than in November.
Collectively we ask – what’s next? What will the Blue Jays next impactful addition be? GM Ross Atkins recently stated that some further additions could come in the form of bullpen or utility players. He also elaborated openness to moves of significant impact, but stated they would be more likely to occur via trade if they were to happen.
Now this entire article is just speculative, but I feel the bullpen and utility roles have either been filled or will be filled with under-the-radar moves. Where I feel the Blue Jays next truly impactful move could be, is in CF, ultimately coming in the form of Free Agency or Trade.
Let’s lay some groundwork for what our Center Field baseline was in 2019 – we had 7 players collectively play the position. For the position the Jays ranked 15th in the league with an 88 wRC+, and ranked 24th in the league with a -8 DRS. To give some context defensively in 2019, of the top 8 CF DRS teams, 6 made the playoffs.
|2019 Blue Jay Center Fielders||Innings Logged|
|Kevin *superman* Pillar||39|
|Socrates *Bisons MVP* Brito||28|
This article is highly theoretical and speculative, and there are many factors which would have to align for a real move to occur. To name a few: acquisition cost, opportunity cost (lost playing time for current internal candidates), whether the organization views the player as a clear upgrade, existing contractual status with player, and ability to retain player. Defense up the middle can be so vital to a team’s overall success, and with an offensive lineup of Bo, Vladdy, Gurriel Jr. – to myself offence isn’t a priority and defense was a key factor in my example CF targets.
“Your money is in the bag by the door” (Free Agents)
Billy Hamilton – Low acquisition cost; drastic defensive improvement, offensively weak
At age 29, Billy Hamilton still could bring a youthful and energetic presence to this ball club. His speed is notable, and defensive ability in CF is potentially a clear and impactful upgrade. Since his debut in 2013, he’s accumulated 58 DRS, averaging to 8+ per season (in the above average to great category). At this point in his career, his offense likely is what it is – his anemic career OPS of .623 and wRC+ of 67 paint the picture clearly. This would be a clear upgrade solely on the defensive side, but considering the low acquisition cost (just money, and likely not much of it), this could be an impactful addition.
Jarrod Dyson – Low acquisition cost; defensive improvement, offensively weak
Due to his age (35), Dyson seems more of a stop-gap candidate – being less of a long term fit and increased risk for age-related defensive decline. His career average 6.7 DRS per season puts him in the Above Average category, with his three most recent seasons resulting in DRS values of 10,7, and 5 respectively. Even with projecting some defensive decline, he would bring a clear defensive upgrade to the Jays. Dyson’s offense has never been incredible, however from 2013-2017 he averaged a wRC+ of almost 89 (right on par with the Jays 2019 CF production). Dyson had awful offensive production in 2018 and 2019 (wRC+ of 48 & 69). However, he had a shortened 2018 season, and in 2019 he saw his K% jump almost 5% from his previous 3 seasons. So ultimately, with his glove work, the Jays could take a cheap roll of the dice to see if some of his previous offensive output (still below league average) could return.
“Let’s make a Deal” (Trades)
Jackie Bradley Jr./strong>. – potentially a reasonable acquisition price; defensive improvement; offensively passable; contractually may not be a long term solution
At 31 years of age, JBJ is heading into his final year of team control with the Red Sox. With speculation of the Red Sox wanting to shed salary, and only one year remaining before free agency, one can speculate Bradley Jr. could be had at a reasonable price. Since his debut in 2014, he ranks 35th of 60 qualified Center Fielders with a 92 wRC+ (90 wRC+ the last 3 seasons). Jackie has amassed 34 DRS in CF over 7 seasons, averaging to nearly 5 per season (Above Average). Although he has seen a blip in his DRS in the previous two seasons (-2 and -1 in 2018/2019), baseball savant ranked him 26th (of 92 outfielders) in 2019 with 6 Outs Above Average. Historically he’s been an above-average defender, and the Jays could live with his predictable offensive output – if the price is right.
Manuel Margot – Higher asking price? defensive improvement; offensively passable; contractually is more of a long term solution
It wasn’t too many seasons ago that Manny Margot was one of the many gems in a strong Padres farm system. Considering his rank on so many top 100 prospect lists, since his debut in 2016, his overall production has paled in comparison to his projected ceiling (4.3 fWAR in 4 seasons). In his previous 3 seasons he’s had an 84 wRC+ (not far off from the Jays 88 in 2019), but defensively stayed afloat averaging 3 DRS per season (slightly above average) and in 2019 ranked 7th amongst outfielders with 11 Outs Above Average.
At age 25 Margot still has the potential for some upside, but at the least provides an obvious improvement from the 2019 Blue Jays CF. After 3+ seasons in the MLB, his established floor is still an improvement and more reliable than any of Toronto’s unproven internal candidates.
As he hasn’t lived up to his anticipated abilities, there could be an opportunity to make a transaction. However, with two years of arbitration control following 2020 and the Padres entering into their competitive window, Margot won’t just be given away. Having the two teams find an alignment to pull off a deal, while not impossible, would be anything but straight forward.
Kevin Kiermaier – Higher asking price (?); massive defensive improvement; offensively passable; contractually is more of a long term solution
Although the Rays don’t have a clear motivation to move their defensive stud Center Fielder, there is a scenario where it could happen. The Rays do have a crowded outfield (Austin Meadows, Hunter Renfroe, Randy Arozarena, Joey Wendle, Yoshi Tsutsugo, and Jose Martinez). Although that isn’t reason enough for them to shop Kiermaier, if the Jays could offer a mutually beneficial deal, the Rays are in a continual roster flux and are never attached to any one player.
Defensively, Kiermaier has accrued 117 DRS in CF in his career, averaging to nearly 20 per season (not surprisingly, measuring at Gold Glove calibre). To highlight just how good he’s been, he’s seen a drastic dip in his last two seasons – which is still 14 & 13 DRS per season (wow!). In 2019 he ranked 2nd for outfielders in Outs Above Average at 17. Although his career wRC+ is very close to league average (at 97), his last two seasons have been much worse (79 & 78). His future offensive potential is brought into question by two main factors: 1) Fighting injury to stay on the field, and 2) when healthy, a checkered history with above and below league average offensive output. Although not the most likely trade candidate, Kiermaier’s defensive improvement alone would drastically impact the team. Any offense close to league average would be icing on the cake.
These are just guesses for an impactful addition on one position on this developing Jays team. Atkins and company may surprise us by making the next impactful move being something completely different. Regardless, the next impactful move could be soon, it could also be in a season or two when all our chips are pushed in.
In a season with no imminent pressure to make the playoffs, the Blue Jays may take this one last roll of the dice with the current internal candidates. On the other hand, they are very thin with CF prospects in their farm system, as outlined by fellow writers in previous JFtC posts. They could make another surprising impactful addition this offseason, balancing both immediate competitiveness and long term security in this key position.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Pete is an avid baseball fan – primarily focusing on the Toronto Blue Jays. Once a timid fan in his adolescence, a 54 home run season won his heart over. He could be heard screaming triumphantly one October evening after an infamous bat flip. Approximately 12 months later, he reacted similarly to the Donaldson Dash. He eagerly awaits the next chapter of October jubilation for his team.