Currently, the Toronto Blue Jays have minimal concerns when it comes to CF, but how much longer can that last with the depth they have?
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The Toronto Blue Jays landed George Springer last winter on a 6yr/$150M deal, signalling their intent to win. The first year of his contract, his age 31 season was really a tale of two seasons. There was the injury season and the positively electric playing season. In just a short time on the field, Springer proved his deal was well worth it and gave Blue Jays fans something to look forward to for when he is 100% healthy. Entering his age 32 season, Springer has the full time job in Cf locked down, but the Blue Jays may have a situation brewing in that their lack of depth behind him could cause some problems in the short and long term.
Before going any further, I need to acknowledge that this ‘situation’ is not a dire, emergency type of thing. We are talking about a small problem in the grand scheme of things, but one that could become bigger as time goes by. So, this piece is not to sound any alarms, but since the lockout is dragging on, it is something that the mind wanders to.
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In what amounts to just under half a season in 2021, the Blue Jays saw immediate returns on their investment, or at least their investment showed them why they were smart to pull the trigger. Springer showed the energy and skill he brings to a baseball team. In fact, if anything, his half season made us think about just how good he could be if he were healthy, making what we did see seem that much better. “Imagine what he could do if he had played a full season” was a familiar refrain. His 22 HR, .907 OPS and wRC+ of 140 in 78 games is downright drool worthy. Heck, even his defense netted him 1 OAA and -1 DRS, which is more than acceptable considering his oblique/quad/knee injuries.
Despite the excitement that Springer’s 2021 season brought us, the injuries highlight an issue that the Blue Jays will need to be thinking about moving forward. They got half a season out of their star CF and as he ages, and starts to slow, a move to a corner outfield spot is likely in order. When that comes is anyone’s guess, of course. But, considering what is available behind Springer, one needs to hope the change won’t happen for a long time.
Looking at the club’s 40 man roster, we see Randal Grichuk, Teoscar Hernandez and Josh Palacios available to back up Springer, which is fine. Looking for back up, or ‘just in case’ options isn’t supposed to be overly difficult and the Blue Jays have a few of them. In fact, last season saw them use 7 different options at CF, including Springer, Grichuk, Hernandez, Palacios, Jonathan Davis, Corey Dickerson and Jarrod Dyson. Moving forward, the Blue Jays could very well go into the 2022 season with a similar plan, which might be just fine. In the short term, they can cover the defensive side of a Springer absence. But, what about long term?
For a second, let’s assume that the Blue Jays’ CF of the future is to come from within. Looking at their Top Prospects doesn’t make that a comfortable route. Their 5th best prospect, Otto Lopez has seen some action in CF over the last year, 146 innings, to be exact. Beyond that, you have to go all the way down to their 17th best prospect, Samad Taylor to find another outfielder. Since 2016, the 23 yr old Taylor has collected 155.2 innings at CF. The 20 yr old Canadian, Dasan Brown does have just over 500 pro innings at the position. He has the experience and speed for the position, but his bat will need to catch up in order to enter this conversation.
One way to address the future problem is to bring in a CF prospect in future trades. Let’s say the Blue Jays are able to pull off a trade for Jose Ramirez. Cleveland has Steven Kwan, but at 24, he’s likely a bit old for this timeline. And, he comes with a 50 FV from Fangraphs, so that expensive package just got more so. Now, Oakland has Pedro Pineda (45+ FV/ ETA 2025) and Brayan Buelvas (45 FV/ ERA 2024) that Toronto could look to add to a trade package for Matt Chapman and/or one of the several starters that are said to be available this winter. In fact, Oakland has quite a few CF prospects who should at least be given a thought, including Pineda, Buelvas, Luis Barrera, Denzel Clarke and Michael Guldberg. If the Blue Jays want to insert a long term CF possibility, perhaps a deal with Oakland makes even more sense now.
Again, I will point out that this piece is not an alarmist call for a new CF in 2022. That would be idiotic. Instead, the idea here is to think about the Blue Jays longer term. There is no red flag being waved, here. Simply, thinking about the Blue Jays in the middle of a lockout takes the mind down roads of thought that are sometimes unexpected.
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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.