Blue Jays Rogers Centre- Credit: DaveMe Images

What Can Blue Jays Do If Plan A Does Not Work?

The Blue Jays are said to be prioritizing starting pitching and an upgrade at third base this offseason. What can they do if that game plan does not work out?


Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase


 


 

 

Conventional wisdom is that the Blue Jays’ first priority this offseason is to find an “ace” starting pitcher and a solid rotation-filler.  Second priority is an upgrade at third base, followed closely by an upgrade in the bullpen.

 

But you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men.  What options exist if the Jays are unable to execute on that game plan?

 

What if no third base upgrade is available?

Suppose (“for the sake of the argument”, as we Irish say!) that the Jays are unable to upgrade at third base.  Kris Bryant is too expensive (and does not have the defense that the Jays need).  Matt Chapman is traded elsewhere, Javy Baez signs elsewhere,  and the Guardians’ price for Jose Ramirez is just too much to contemplate.

 

What then?

 

Under the Chapman paradigm, the Jays would be using Cavan Biggio at second base and Matt at third.  Cavan was a 3.7 fWAR player over his first 159 games, and a negative fWAR player in 2021.  Suppose his “true value” is somewhere in the middle, and that he would be a 2-2.5 fWAR-ish player playing second full time in 2022.  And suppose that Matt would generate 3.5 fWAR at third, as predicted by Steamer.  So, combined, they would earn something like 6 fWAR.

 

Sports Illustrated recently suggested a trade whereby the Jays would acquire Ketel Marte from the Diamondbacks:

Blue Jays get: Ketel Marte
Diamondbacks get: INF Cavan Biggio, INF Jordan Groshans, RHP Adam Kloffenstein, OF Josh Palacios

 

Putting aside the specific players involved, what would be the effect of this trade?  Marte had a 7 fWAR in 2019 and a 4.7 fWAR/600 in 2021, despite being asked to play centre field (a position for which his -30 (!) DRS/1200 clearly indicates that he is not suited).  He is projected to earn 3.9 fWAR in 2022.  Suppose the Jays played him at second and Santiago Espinal (with his projected 2.0 fWAR/600) at third in 2022.  Their aggregate fWAR would be roughly 6 – the same as projected for Cavan and Matt.  And as good as Cavan + Matt would be defensively, Marte + Espinal could well be even better.  Plus, Marte is under team control for 3 years (Chapman only has two years) and arguably Marte’s upside is even higher than Chapman’s.

 

What if there are no aces in the deck?

Suppose the Jays strike out on the top free agent pitchers (Scherzer, Ray, possibly Gausman – though personally he would make me nervous).  And suppose further that the Marquez and Castillo and Alcantara and Lopez level trade options are either not available or extortionately expensive.  What then?

 

The Jays could sign or trade for a couple of mid-tier starters – think Jon Gray or his brother Sonny, or Alex Cobb, or Alex Wood, or Michael Pineda.  Their rotation would still be competitive, led by Jose Berrios and assuming a rebound from Ryu and continued success from Alek Manoah, though it would not be uber.

 

But the bullpen might.

 

Suppose the Jays took the money they were planning to spend on a Ray or Scherzer, and used it to build a super-bullpen?  Add Iglesias *plus* some combination of Jansen / Kimbrel / Knebel / Neris.  Try for something like KC’s 2015  “three headed monster” to close out games, and enough middle-inning talent to have the luxury of not needing starting pitchers to pitch deep into games (facing the dreaded “third time through” monster).  Consider the impact on the Jays’ 2021 record in 1-run games (a dead-average 15-15) and in extra inning games (a “lets talk about something else” 3-9).  We learned in 2021 how important a single win can be.  Yes, I know – veteran pitchers like Kimbrel like to close games (as his 8th inning experience in 2021 demonstrates).  But at 34 years old in 2022, might he welcome a bit more rest and possibly a less demanding role – if that role were on a serious World Series contender?

 

The bottom line

With luck, the Jays will be able to find the ace and the uber third baseman that they are said to be seeking.  But a win is a win, and there are more ways than one to earn one.

 

 

 

*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.

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Jim Scott

A Jays fan since pre-Series, Jim’s biggest baseball regret is that he did not play hooky with his buddies on 7 Apr 77. But hearing “Fanfare For The Common Man” played from a rooftop on 24 Oct 92 helped him atone.