The staff of Jays From the Couch have chosen their own free agent targets for the Toronto Blue Jays this winter
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The Toronto Blue Jays are in a great position heading into the offseason. They have one of the best lineups in baseball and money to spend. The playoffs should be an expectation. How they maneuver the winter months will go a long way to living up to said expectations. JFtC staff would like the Blue Jays to go shopping and we have a list for them. We will also have a list of trade targets as well. It should be noted that we understand the upcoming CBA talks could have a heavy impact on free agency. We share our list knowing this, but ignoring it for the
fun purposes of the list.
Jim Scott: The Jays could use an upgrade at third base. Bryant will likely demand crazy money, and the A-tier shortstops will want even more. Marcus Semien likely wants to play on the West Coast anyway. So who is left? Ideally, I would want a FA who is uber-level defense at third but potentially available at a reasonable price – or on a Semien-style pillow contract. That is why I like Javier Baez. He has a holy–cow-Batman +14 career DRS/1200 at third base (and is pretty dang good at 2B and SS too!) but his poor 2020 and good-but-not-great 2021 (3.6 fWAR) should push him into the second tier.
Perhaps 5/$80m (yes, I know – a far cry from the $180m he was rumoured to be offered after 2019!). Or perhaps, like Semien, he would like a one-year “show me” contract in a hitter’s park in a hitter’s division, with a strong hitting team around him to inflate his RBI and runs scored numbers? Javy was playing at a 5.5 fWAR/600 pace after his trade to the Mets, and he would be fun to watch on the basepaths.
Bob Ritchie: Bullpens are similar to houses: they can always use a little work. For the 2021 season, the Blue Jays’ bullpen ranked 8th in Win Probability Added (WPA) among American League teams. It is easy to forget that Toronto relievers were terrific in April with a 2.38 WPA, which led the American League. However, in May, June and July, the Blue Jays’ bullpen posted negative WPAs of 1.24, 0.50 and 0.28, respectively. When Adan Cimber, Trevor Richards and others were onboard for the August to October period, Toronto ranked 8th in bullpen WPA (1.09). From July to October, Toronto’s bullpen was 12th in OPS and xOPS against and 12th in xERA. The Blue Jays need better bullpen performance if they want to contend for a 2022 division title.
Raisel Iglesias is what the free-agent doctor prescribes. He was a closer for Cincinnati (2017-2020) and joined the Angels in 2021. Iglesias posted a WPA of 3.55 in 2021, second only to Jordan Romano (3.75) in the American League. In the April-June segment, Iglesias’s WPA was 1.34 (#13) and 2.21 (#3) after June 30. For the 2021 campaign, among American League relievers with a minimum of 120 batters faced, Iglesias’s percentile ranking in OPS, xOPS and xERA was 80th, 93rd and 96th, respectively. In terms of K%, BB% and K%-BB%, Iglesias was fabulous in 2021. Of the 92 American League bullpen arms with a minimum of 40 innings pitched, Iglesias was 5th, 3rd and 2nd, respectively. The Jays were middle of the pack among American League teams in K%, BB% and K-BB%.
The 2022 season will be Iglesias’s age-32 season. Spotrac estimated that Iglesias could garner a 3-year, USD 45 million contract, a reasonable deal for a high-quality, high-leverage reliever. However, Spotrac stated that a likely contract could be 4-years, USD 64 million.
Jason MacDonald: The Toronto Blue Jays should sign Nelson Cruz to a one year free agent contract this offseason. The Jays organization needs to take that next step in order to make the playoffs and a legitimate run at the World Series. Cruz is the missing piece to the puzzle and the Jays should not rest until he is inked to a deal.
Cruz is a monster with the bat and his presence will make just about any lineup better. Over his 17 year career his 162 game average consists of a .277/.346/.527 slash line as well as 39 home runs and an OPS+ of 133. These numbers play well in the middle of the batting order and his presence behind the young core will add some much needed protection in the lineup.
In the clubhouse Cruz will be the veteran presence needed to help guide the young core into and through the playoffs. By all accounts he will not dominate the clubhouse and change the culture of the team, rather he will provide steady leadership through the usual ebb and flow of the season.
I understand that Cruz is a full time designated hitter and I don’t buy the argument that the DH should be used to rotate other players into the lineup. A playoff contender needs its best hitters hitting, and using the DH spot to allow less talented players to take away at bats from an all star caliber player is just foolish. The same goes for rest days – players can rest on the bench, not in the batter’s box. If someone needs an off day, give them a full day off.
In terms of dollars, give Cruz what he wants to play in Toronto. He likely deserves somewhere in the 12-15 million range, but on a one year deal the Blue Jays can afford to go higher if needed without impacting other acquisitions. The Jays have money, and they want a World Series. Signing Nelson Cruz is one way to turn those loonies into a trophy.
Shaun Doyle: The Blue Jays really do need an everyday option at third base. While Santiago Espinal is fine, he should be considered Plan B. I would love to see them grab a big free agent, but with only a small number available, and their price expected to be rather high, they should focus elsewhere. They could look to someone like Chris Taylor, but that’s not aiming very high. If a trade becomes available, I’d rather they trade to address the hot corner and use their money to beef up their pitching.
It would be a cop out to choose Robbie Ray and/or Steven Matz, I think. Their return is a no brainer. So, I’ll look elsewhere. The bullpen cannot be ignored, despite ending the year stronger than it was in May. For that reason, and because Bob chose Iglesias, I would like Toronto to pursue Kendall Graveman. The former Blue Jays draft pick is coming off a rather nice season where he struck out nearly 30% of the batters he faced and walked 9%. He saw a WHIP of 0.98, a 3.19 FIP and a 1.1 fWAR. He also posted a WPA of 2.96.
The Fangraphs projections aren’t believing that he can repeat this kind of success, though. That is likely based on the fact that 2021 was a career year for Graveman. Could he turn the breakout into a multi year payday? Could Toronto believe in his 2021 enough to be the team to pay him? This wouldn’t be the only move they need to make, but it could be a good one for them.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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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.