Photo credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
OK, look. I’m sure everybody here knows that there’s a vast chasm of difference between a team having “had internal discussions about possible interest” in certain players and them actually going out and acquiring them. Or getting close to acquiring them. Or even *thinking* about acquiring them.
“Hey Ross, do we have any interest in Beltran or Melvin Upton?”
“Ahhh, well, gee, I’d better go ask Mark.”
That literally could have been the extent of the discussions Jim Bowden — i.e. this guy — is “reporting” the Jays have had this afternoon. And yes, I put “reporting” in quotes, not only because it’s Bowden, not only because it’s conveyed in the flimsiest of flimsy rumourspeak, but also because it’s one of those dumb ESPN Now things that it takes you five minutes to realize are in the sidebar and which are, approximately, the length of a tweet.
And yet I’ll totally take this bait, because Beltran! Upton! Sure, why not?
The Jays, based on the rumours we keep hearing, seem to have noticed that Justin Smoak is probably not having the late-career blossoming that his numbers back in May might have suggested. They also may not yet be willing to buy the improvements they’ve seen from Ezequiel Carrera, and understandably so. Carerra, with his newfound abilities at the dish, makes a hell of a fourth outfielder, and adding a guy like Upton — who, ICYMI, is having another strong season in San Diego after years of being kind of a joke — or even Jay Bruce would allow Carrera to move back into his more natural role of *not starting*, and would give the club someone to take playing time away from Smoak once Jose Bautista is healthy.
Beltran, a switch hitter (not to mention a fucking boss), is a clear upgrade on Smoak — enough to offset the defensive downgrade of having Edwin Encarnacion at first — and he can play a little outfield, too, if need be. If the price is right, I think that’s a move that makes sense.
Upton, however, is much less of a DH, so that’s where it gets a bit complicated.
Bautista will at some point return, and will surely want — and be allowed — to reclaim his spot in right field. In an interview with the Fan 590 today, Ross Atkins said that he expects Jose to return as an outfielder, and that “right now, as of today, Jose’s our right fielder.” He was almost emphatic, even! But having someone like an Upton or a Bruce here would at least allow the club to ease Jose back into outfield duty in the near terms, would perhaps get him back in the lineup sooner by giving him DH at-bats (though I suppose they’ll do that regardless), and still gives them a nicer mix of players to rotate through DH, first base, and right field (and maybe even left field) than they currently have.
And, I think crucially, both Upton and Bruce are under contract for 2017.
Granted, they both carry not-insignificant payroll hits — Upton is due to receive $17.05-million, while Bruce has a $13-million club option with a $1-million buyout — but I suspect that the season Michael Saunders has had, and the dearth of good hitters on the market this coming winter, means he’ll be commanding that kind of a salary next year anyway. I’d rather pay Saunders that kind of money than Upton, I think, but there’s a whole lot of value in the certainty of having an Upton or a Bruce locked in, as well as in the fact that they won’t require a multi-year commitment the way that Saunders will.
A deal for a guy with term, in other words, might spell the end of Saunders’ tenure here, but it would help them in the short term (Jose can be convinced to DH and play first base a bunch, I’m sure), and maybe Saunders ends up re-signing anyway, as a consolation prize when Bautista walks away.
That is, if any of this actually happens. Which it surely won’t. It’s a Jim Bowden report for chrissakes!