It seems everyone wants to spend wildly to improve the Blue Jays roster for 2021. But Toronto still needs to put 9 players in the lineup for every game. Sometimes quantity does bring quality.
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There is an epidemic running rampant in Blue Jays Nation. Shut downs, vaccines, and face coverings cannot mask the potentially fatal results of the disease. Most frightening of all, this viral menace presents virtually no debilitating symptoms or warning signs that a serious illness is imminent. There a few of us who are trying to spread the word in order to stop the spread of this silent killer, but the clatter of Twitter and J.P. Morosi seems to drown out our calls for caution and restraint in the face of delirious delusion.
I am talking about the Blue Jays off-season.
Don’t misconstrue my intentions or question my fandom. It can be fun to scribble away on any available scrap of paper rotation possibilities and dream team lineups. Especially when the Toronto front office fans the flames of our Hot Stoves with grandiose statements of spending cash and market domination. The unrestrained fervor with which many try to acquire the likes of Francisco Lindor, Trevor Bauer and whatever shiny new toy social media advertises does require equal calls for restraint. Yes, it is intoxicating to know that ownership and the front office have committed funding for roster renovations. But it is sobering to realize the extent of sustainable renovations dictates improvements in multiple areas, not just the purchase of one player the Blue Jays can place like a statue in front of the ticket windows
Episode 239 of the Jays From the Couch Radio podcast highlighted “crazy ideas” for the Blue Jays to get better over the off-season. While a trade for Blake Snell swept all the awards and was a crowd-favorite, your American correspondent avoided trade deal negotiations and looked towards the gaping holes on the Blue Jays bench as a possible avenue to a 2021 playoff spot. It speaks to the feverish pitch of fanbase expectations that such an obvious need would be considered “crazy” by many, here are some suggestions of how our Blue Jays can avoid a failing grade for their off-season efforts…
PROJECTIONS ARE COURTESY OF BASEBALL REFERENCE AND SALARIES FROM SPOTRAC
PRIORITY ONE- sign KiKe Hernandez to 3 year, $12.3 million contract as utility player
Age 29 PA 354 R 43 HR 12 RBI 41 SB 7 ..310/.418/.728
Kike Hernandez is precisely the type of role player every serious playoff contender needs on their bench. Hernandez is a career 10.2 WAR player that has posted positive DRS numbers at 4 different positions ( 12 in LF; 5 in CF; 12 2b, 1 SS) while also not embarrassing himself at shortstop, third base and RF. While every MLB player envisions themselves as an everyday lineup staple, Hernandez has shown a willingness and ability to play when called upon, where called upon. His presence on the bench late in a ballgame immediately gives Charlie Montoyo legitimate options to protect or take a lead.
His appearances in a starting lineup provides plus defense at various positions and flexibility should circumstances require him to shift elsewhere to accommodate a late inning pinch hitter. Kike has been an integral part of Dodgers teams that have made the post-season year-in, year-out, which adds a sense of legitimacy when he speaks in the dugout and clubhouse. PLAN 1b- sign Brad Miller to 1+year contract at AAV projected to be under 3 million. While not the plus defender Hernandez is, Miller does provide 1+ WAR thanks to his power and ability to be called upon to play anywhere in the infield or outfield.
PRIORITY TWO- sign Kim Ha-Seong to 5 year, $60 million contract
Age 25 R 111 HR 3o RBI 108 SB 23 .306/.397/.523 in KBO
How does this improved the Blue Jays bench in 2021? Let me count the ways.
Kim is perhaps the most intriguing Asian import since Ichiro Suzuki. It is rare a player of his talent level gets posted at such a young age. But the most astonishing factoid is Kim has just completed his 7th season at an age many Top 100 prospects are establishing themselves in an MLB lineup. While primarily a shortstop prior to the 2020 KBO season, Kim did appear in 41 games at 3B and more than held his own with the glove. While the KBO is generally considered a AA equivalent league by talent evaluators, Blue Jays fans nearly herniated themselves carrying the AA stats of Vladdy and Bichette into any conversation and MLB teams willingly spend lavishly on Cuban defectors who play more limited schedules against lesser competition.
“But what if he isn’t ready to be a MLB regular?’ A win-win situation for the Blue Jays in 2021. Talent of Kim’s caliber available to spell Bichette is electrifying, while providing a right hand power platoon partner to Travis Shaw at third base-keeping Cavan Biggio at his most comfortable position (2B). Not to mention having the opportunity to ease into a new career in a new country. And what if Kim proves to be an immediate contributor? It wouldn’t suck to have Shaw as an available option off-the bench at reasonable cost and it does allow Montoyo to tinker with line-up combinations and late-inning strategies.
Improving your bench does not necessarily mean you sign atypical bench players. If a player can slide into and accept a reduced role after the acquisition of a premier talent, then the Jays can maximize dollars and performances by signing Kim. Plus the fans who equate dollars spent with value to team can brag about how Toronto stole Kim away from the Yankees, Angels and Phillies. PLAN 2b- Sign Jonathan Schoop to 5.4 million AAV contract. Schoop is a career 17 WAR player who would free Biggio up to fill the utility role, while projecting out to a 15 HR .299/.445/.714 slash line and providing average defensive performance at 3 infield positions.
PRIORITY 3- sign Joc Petderson to 2+ year, $16 million contract as 4th outfielder
Age 29 PA 320 R 46 HR 18 RBI 42 SB 2 .323/.482/.805
Joc Pederson has been discussed behind the scenes at JFtC extensively as a “perfect fit” for several off seasons. Hopelessly blocked by the likes of Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts from a regular role in a loaded Dodgers lineup and farm system, Pederson is anxious to escape LaLa Land and find an opportunity to prove his value. Becoming a free agent in the midst of the international COVID pandemic may just prove to be more nightmarish than redemptive.
Pederson is a career 10.4 player with a 12 DRS rating as an outfielder in 2019, though he projects more as a corner outfielder than a true center fielder (which tempers his everyday impact in Toronto). But projectables coupled with post-season experiences might make Pederson the ideal 4th outfielder in Toronto, offering power and production when he is in the lineup and a dangerous late inning bat when he is not starting. By offering shorter term (with an option just in case), the Blue Jays can offer him the chance to earn above the SPOTRAC projection of $6.5 million AAV while putting himself in position to cash in on successes one more time before his career arcs begins to slope. The shorter term also buys time for the Austin Martin experiment to play out in centerfield. Plus he gets to join with Ross Stripling as he was supposed to do in Anaheim last off-season. Plan 3b- avoid the Anthony Alford mistake and give Jonathan Davis a legitimate shot at showing his bat can prove as valuable as his golden glove.
Please note the AAV of the 3 contracts proposed is less than $25 million. Which would be the approximate annual expenditure for Lindor, Bauer, J.T. Realmuto. So look it in terms of dream vacations during this time of lockdowns. You could spend top dollar for one week at a trendy, five-star resort and have a memorable getaway. Or you could spend your available funds on a 3 week stay at a wonderful destination and enjoy it for even longer. It might impress your friends when you tell them you stayed where the stars stay. But it will make you happier to get more bang for your bucks by spreading the fun out.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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