Blue Jays Rogers Centre- Credit: DaveMe Images

The Blue Jays’ Ongoing Search for Mediocre Bench pieces

The Toronto Blue Jays seem to have created a revolving door for mediocre outfield bench pieces, hoping one of them sticks


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The Toronto Blue Jays have not found the outfield bench piece they’ve been looking for. Entering the 2022 season, we knew that a left handed hitting, plus defender in the outfield was something the club needed. The health of George Springer is the elephant in the room that necessitates such a focus. Balancing out a right handed heavy lineup is also something they’ve been looking for. And, as of the time of writing, the search continues.

 

Toronto traded the superfluous Randal Grichuk to Colorado for Raimel Tapia, a lefty bat and solid outfield defender. Of course, in making this trade, they traded Grichuk’s power for a skill set they really needed. Tapia is fast and can play multiple outfield positions. So, on paper, it could be seen as an upgrade. Of course, that would mean that you would have to ignore the fact that worms all over North America want Tapia brought to the authorities as so many of their kin have fallen victim to his penchant for grounders. It was a move that has provided some key moments of production and a surprising 5 homers. His wRC+ of 88 may also come as a surprise to some people since it is obviously below average, but higher than what we may have expected.

 

However, the Blue Jays front office didn’t want to rely on this one flyer. On April 7, they also traded Anthony Castro to Cleveland for Bradley Zimmer. Zimmer, another lefty bat, was brought in to be the late inning defensive replacement and a pinch/extra innings runner. Again, his skill set being very specific, Zimmer would join Tapia on the bench. In the case of Zimmer, he was practically collecting dust in that role.

 

Zimmer saw 87 plate appearances for Toronto, culminating in just 13 total PA in July. His batting average only saw one month above .100 and that was May when he hit .174. While he may have served a purpose, or filled a role, it is clear that that experiment was over when the Blue Jays DFA’d him and the Phillies claimed him. Of course, that wouldn’t be the end of the mediocre bench player search.

 

On Aug 9, the Blue Jays signed Jackie Bradley Jr after the Boston Red Sox let him go, which came after the Milwaukee Brewers let him go as well. The Blue Jays had been interested in JBJ for a while and finally got their man. The only problem is that that man comes with a 53 wRC+ in 296 PA. Obviously, his lefty bat is not really the attraction here. JBJ is a veteran who has won and can provide defensive upside. So, if you squint, you can almost see why having him and Tapia on the bench could work for Toronto.

 

However, the search doesn’t end there. No, according to Shi Davidi, the Blue Jays are showing interest in Billy Hamilton, who was outrighted by Miami and elected free agency. Hamilton has long been one of the fastest players in baseball, but could not find a way to keep a consistent bat going. Now, at 31, he’ll look for a chance to help a team with late inning speed and defense. Though he’s a righty bat, there is no illusion that he will be needed for his bat. His -32 wRC+ is all you need to know there. Instead, if Toronto does sign him, they will be banking on the 31 year old not regressing too much from his 5 seasons of 30+ stolen bases, 4 of which saw him collect 50+.

 

Of course, we should probably mention that Whit Merrifield was also acquired at the Trade Deadline, which is further evidence that the Toronto Blue Jays are definitely focused on improving the speed/defense area of their game. In fact, when you look at all of these options together, it looks as though the Blue Jays expect to be playing some tight, important games down the stretch and/or during the postseason.

 

And, that might be the real takeaway. In the surface, it looks like a merry-go-round of mediocre bench guys, which is definitely frustrating in the context of a team that has been struggling over the last few weeks (even though they look to be rebounding). When your team looks as bad as the Blue Jays have recently, moves like these certainly look confusing. However, the reality is that Toronto has been looking for speed and defense, but perhaps with an eye to close games where the need for any of these names is small and specific.

 

It is either going to be genius work, or it won’t. If it does, it could lead to some rather exciting, important moments in October. If it doesn’t, then the surface image of a revolving door of mediocrity will prove true, but at least it wouldn’t have cost much. So, there’s that.

 

 

 


Featured Images Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase

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