If the Blue Jays are serious about improving their defence ahead of the 2021 season, they already have a very good option in house.
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Recently, Jays From the Couch’s Bob Ritchie wrote a very good piece entitled “Two Players Who Can Improve Outfield Defence” for the Blue Jays. In a nutshell, he suggested that it is worth keeping Lourdes Gurriel Jr.and Teoscar Hernandez as corner outfielders for their offence and that it could help the Jays move forward to trade Randal Grichuk.
In an attempt to avoid “reinventing the wheel” I’m not going to reiterate his arguments since I pretty much agree with Bob up to that point in his article. If you are interested and haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend his piece.
Where I disagree with Bob is in the best way to replace Grichuk and upgrade defence in centre field.
My thought is instead of spending money to sign an established MLB free agent, why not give the opportunity to Jonathan Davis?
Many people believe Davis’ ceiling in MLB to be a fourth outfielder. His defence is well above average but there are questions at to his ability to consistently produce offensively.
Here is Davis flashing the leather back on September 27th, taking a home run away from Baltimore’s Cedric Mullins
🚨 CATCH OF THE YEAR 🚨 pic.twitter.com/b8Cjq3Q7xR
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) September 27, 2020
Davis has played for the Blue Jays in parts of the last three seasons. His career wRC+ to date is a mere 61. However, most recently in 2020 it was a robust 123. I’m not suggesting that it will definitely be 123 (or close to that) for the rest of his MLB career. But even if it regresses to, say, 100, that and his excellent defence would make him a valuable asset to the Jays.
One option mentioned by Bob to upgrade centre field is free agent Jackie Bradley Jr. Bradley has played for the Boston Red Sox from 2013-2020. He has a career wRC+ of 93. His 119 in 2020 was very good; however in his three seasons prior it was no higher than 90.
While it is certainly possible that Bradley would be better overall than Davis, would he add enough extra value to the team to justify the money they would need to spend to sign him to a free agent contract? Might that money be better spend on other needs such as solidifying the starting rotation? Also, Toronto has several young players who will be arbitration eligible in 1-2 years. If they want to keep a majority of this young core together and try to win with them, it would help for them to save some money in other areas.
Another factor to consider is age. Bradley is 30 years old. Davis is two years younger at 28. I’m not suggesting Bradley is “over the hill” in MLB terms by any means. It’s also true that people age at different rates. But at some point, players start to slow down. All things being equal, it’s possible that Davis remaining days as an elite defensive OF might be longer than Bradley’s.
The Blue Jays have other players capable of putting runs on the board. Take a look at some wRC+ numbers from 2020:
Alejandro Kirk 169
Teoscar Hernandez 146
Lourdes Gurriel Jr.138
Rowdy Tellez 136
Cavan Biggio 127
Bo Bichette 125
Kirk in particular did what he did over a very small sample size. It’s certainly possible there will be some regression in terms of his future offensive production. The point is that even if Davis proves not to be a good offensive player, he could bat 9th and let the other guys take care of scoring runs.
Davis is under team control through the end of the 2024 season. Making the commitment to giving him the starting CF job will allow management to solidify plans for other areas of need.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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