blue jays hot stove

Blue Jays Targets: The Other Jose Ramirez

The Toronto Blue Jays will be making a big splash when the lockout ends and there are potential targets out there that no one is talking about


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With the holidays nearly over and the MLB lockout far from it, the old imagination has had way too much time to run wild with ridiculous trade and free agent scenarios. While the imagination is running, it always seems to come back to one name. Wouldn’t it be great if the Jays look at making a trade for a switch-hitting, prime of his career player while providing strong defense at a premium fielding position? Move aside Jose Ramirez, this is all about Bryan Reynolds.

 

The Fit

Reynolds debuted with the Pirates in 2019 as a 24-year-old, seeing most of his playing time in left field. He hit a great .314/.377/.503 slash line, near league average BB and K rates of 8.4% and 22.2%, respectively, culminating in a wRC+ of 130. He finished 4th in NL Rookie of the Year voting, with Pete Alonso being near unanimous that year (29/30 first place votes). After a down year in the odd 2020 season, Reynolds came back in 2021, increasing his walk rate to 11.6%, decreasing his strikeout rate to 18.4%, pushed his slash line to .302/.390/.522, finishing with a 142 wRC+. Offensively, his batting profile would fit in the 2-hole perfectly, a switch hitter with great bating ability, above average walk rates and a spring speed in the 88th percentile.

 

Defensively, he finished with 137 of his 159 games played in centre field. Defensive metrics couldn’t agree on how to view him, as DRS didn’t like him (-5), Baseball Prospectus’ Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) thought he was slightly below average (-1.7) and Baseball Savant’s OAA loved him (+9 OAA). It’s probably fair to say he’s closer to average, but there could be room to grow after only having one season in centre under his belt.

 

Will Pittsburgh be willing to dance?

Bryan Reynolds is a good player. He’s a player any team would want on their team. Multiple teams reportedly made offers to try to pry him from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline. And who wouldn’t? He’s entering his age 27 season with four years of team control (pending any changes in the CBA); he is also a Super Two, meaning he will have four years of arbitration, rather then three, he could get expensive pretty fast for Pittsburgh. Earlier in December, Cherington was asked if fans can be assured Reynolds will not be traded. While not giving a straight answer he did say “If we already have players that are performing at that level and have a chance to be here when we believe we can win, we’re going to be pretty motivated to hold on to those guys.” Will Pittsburgh be ready to win in the next 2-4 years while Reynolds is still under control?

 

The George Springer Conundrum

It’s no fun just to shut it down there, so let’s assume Pittsburgh is wiling to move Reynolds. The next question is, should the Jays be interested? That answer is an easy ‘Yes, very much so’. However, there’s the George Springer conundrum. Last offseason, they committed 6 years and $150 million for Springer to be starting at centre. Even in his limited time in the field this year, he still showed to be good enough defensively.  Before Austin Martin was traded, there was a thought that Springer could man CF for the first three years of his deal and then shift off to RF when Martin was ready to take over.

 

Is now the time to make the move? While still a competent CF, you’d lose the value that Springer would bring, even if he ended performing as a top defender in right field. There’s also the human factor as well. The Jays front office seems to have open communication with its players, discussing the (potential) position changes with Bo and Vlad last offseason. Would Springer be willing to move off centre so quickly? During his top years in Houston, he would split time between CF and RF, even shifting to right field late in games as Jake Marisnick came in as a defensive replacement. Springer seems to be well liked amongst Jays players and willing to put the ego aside for a better chance to win.

 

The Cost

Well, assuming Pittsburgh is willing and Springer is content moving off the position, can the Jays afford (or want to pay) the cost of Bryan Reynolds? Caution, math is up ahead.  MLBTR  is projecting Reynolds for a $4.5 million dollar deal next year. The next question is what will Reynolds bring in value? Will he be a 4 WAR player? Is there a possibility of his 2020 season occurring again? Or is he closer to the near 6 fWAR he put up this past season? Even using the trade simulator on Baseball Trade Values, if the Jays aren’t willing to move any current rostered players, the ask starts with Gabriel Moreno and then some. Is that a price you’re willing to pay? Is that even something Pittsburgh would with their own top catching prospect Henry Davis on his way?

 

Final Thoughts

Reynolds is an intriguing player, and would be the starting centre fielder on most MLB teams. However, with four years of control left, he’d be quite expensive and would require giving up a Moreno or Manoah plus some more; a trade would deplete the farm system. You could end up with a great OF tandem the next four years, and if an injury happens again, either one (Springer or Reynolds) could fill CF with no problem. He’s also a switch hitter and his profile would be a near perfect fit in this lineup. However, with some more pressing matters that include starting pitching depth and strengthening the bullpen, Reynolds is a luxury more than a need.  Let’s come back and revisit this in two years, when the imagination is more likely to be reality.

 

 

 

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

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