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Photo Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

Why Adding Aledmys Diaz Shouldn’t Change the Jays’ Offseason To-Do List Much

Rather than start this one with some meandering preamble, let’s get straight to the nut:

This, I think, is a great question. Arden’s reply was that Núñez had probably been knocked “down a few spots on the Great List of Alternatives.” I don’t doubt that’s true, but actually… I wonder just how much.

Let’s think of the Jays’ main 2017 position players and where those positions have gone or are going.

C1 Russell Martin
1B Justin Smoak
2B Devon Travis
SS Troy Tulowitzki
3B Josh Donaldson
LF Steve Pearce
CF Kevin Pillar
RF José Bautista ==> TBA
DH Kendrys Morales
C2 Luke Maile ==> TBA
OF Ezequiel Carrera
IF Ryan Goins ==> Aledmys Diaz
IF Darwin Barney ==> TBA

I think that a lot of fans would look at that list and groan a bit about there not being a “TBA” next to Pearce or Carrera. I certainly get why it would be very satisfying to see them go and replaced by a Franken-leftfielder that seemed a little more able to avoid tripping over its own shoelaces, but there are a couple of reasons why in this thought experiment I’m going to leave them where they are.

For starters, I don’t think the Jays will necessarily want to replace Carrera with, say, Teoscar Hernández, because in addition to losing one of their very few left-handed hitters, it would mean having the youngster spend significant time on the bench rather than continuing to hone his craft (and his approach) in Triple-A. When the time comes for Hernández or Alford or Pompey to take his job, Zeke will be easy enough to jettison, but keeping him here as a placeholder makes some sense.

Secondly, Pearce can still be pretty useful. He’s not much of a defender in left field, but he was one of the better hitters on the team from his mid-June return from a DL stint until the end of the year — he slashed .270/.341/.461 from June 16th onward, which was good for a 112 wRC+ over that span. I don’t think they have to keep Pearce, and if they find someone who will trade them something useful for him — like a decent reliever, back-end starter, or an everyday right fielder — then they should do it. But on a roster that’s better setup to play him where he works best — as a lefty-mashing bench bat, only occasionally playing in the outfield, but more often pinch hitting or providing cover at DH or first — he’s certainly not a bad piece to have.

And the thing is, with the acquisition of Aledmys Diaz, the Jays are moving toward building just that kind of roster. They’re just not there yet.

Finding a pair of legitimate everyday-quality players to take the Goins and Barney spots will give the Jays options in left field that won’t require them to play Carrera or Pearce out there nearly as much as they did in 2017. Because he’s yet another right-handed hitter, Arden is probably correct that Núñez doesn’t really look like the best fit any longer (and it’s for that same reason that we maybe shouldn’t be holding our collective breath for Lourdes Gurriel to grab that spot either). But say the club adds a lefty bat who also has positional versatility, like a Dee Gordon?

With Gordon, Carrera, Pearce, and Diaz on the roster you have left field covered, you have second and short covered for when the inevitable happens, you’ve got your guy to play centre in a pinch, you can cover for third, and first, and DH. You can pick and choose what you want out of your left fielder on a matchup-by-matchup basis (at least when everybody’s healthy), and have some pretty good bench options for later on in games, depending on the situation. You’re pretty well set, really.

Granted, Gordon is a hefty ask here, given that he’ll cost prospects and dollars, and that in this scenario I still think the club needs to add a proper right fielder (ideally a left-handed hitter, too!), as well as a fifth starter and perhaps also some swingman-ish depth. But they’ve got some money to play with to do so, and someone with a similar shape I think would make a whole lot of sense. All of which is to say: I don’t think Diaz is the guy who Ross Atkins has long been talking about. Or, at least, he shouldn’t be. With Diaz as your third middle infielder, and someone like Gift Ngoepe or Richard Ureña behind him, that’s pretty meh. But if Diaz is your fourth middle infielder, that looks a whole lot more like the concept of “championship depth” the front office likes to talk about.

There are ways to do it, too. There’s Gordon. There’s free agent Neil Walker. Surely there are other trade options. And if you’re less worried than I am about left-right balance, there are guys like Zack Cozart, Howie Kendrick, or Brandon Phillips. Granted, either they or Devon Travis would have to be willing to spend some time in the outfield to make it all work, but there are options, at least. And if the Jays manage to do it, having Pearce and Carrera (and, frankly, Morales and Tulo and Travis) on the roster would feel like a significantly smaller problem.

Adding Diaz was a great first step, especially since the difference in cost between him and Goins is going to be negligible. But if his addition means that the club turns its attention to the right field and starting pitching markets exclusively, I don’t think it’s going to be enough. They shouldn’t be done fishing in the versatile infielder pool just yet.

    • Ed Sprague Jr.'s kids

      This is where you flip Diaz to them and take on the Harrison greater salary. The Jays should use their financial strength as much as possible.

  • Cecilrosa

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jays fill their other infielder slot with a glove first guy like Hechavarria or Alcides Escobar (providing neither of them gets a starting job…with the Padres or Royals? Not many teams looking for shortstops).

    I personally feel Jarrod Dyson would be a fantastic platoon mate to Pearce but I have a feeling he’s going to get a lot of interest as a centerfielder starter somewhere (like the Giants). If the Marlins can’t get a trade done with Stanton I’d love to see Atkins dangle Bichette for Yelich and see if the Marlins are interested.

      • Cecilrosa

        They do need to get better offensively (they were 24th overall in wRC+ last year) but they also need to get better defensively too (22nd in DRS with -24 and 26th in UZR with -15). If the Jays are projected to be a .500 club then you need every win you can get to get to those wild card spots whether through run scoring or run prevention.

        A side note: Hech’s 83 wRC+ last year with a good glove would probably be fine for a backup infielder.

      • Cecilrosa

        I meant more as the headliner, I agree it would probably cost Bichette +, the question is how much more especially if Yelich was available a lot of teams would be in on him.

        • there’s certainly nothing wrong with yelich, i’m just not sure he’s the kind of guy you trade a top prospect
          (not just a top org prospect, but a top overall prospect) for. don’t get me wrong, i think he’s very very good, and he’d definitely help in the short term & long term (his contract has to be among the best in baseball)…there’s just something about bichette, i dunno. i feel yelich has essentially plateaued as a player, and while he does pretty much everything really well, i just don’t think he’s a guy you give up you 1a prospect for – not when that 1a has as much potential as bichette.

    • Nice Guy Eddie

      I agree that the ‘limited resources’ is ‘thanks (to) rogers’. After all, every other child’s parents are going them whatever they want this Christmas! I can see why you’re so indignant.

      • AD

        You really are going to argue with me that rogers is commited to spending whatever it takes to win? Not a matter of being entitled but rogers is a crappy owner, wish we had someone like Ilitch.

        • Nice Guy Eddie

          No owner is “committed to spending whatever it takes to win”. The nonsensical opinion that only Rogers pays attention to what it spends while other owners spend ‘unlimited resources’ (the opposite of the ‘limited resources’ that you complain about) is the invention of Toronto fans who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about.

          • AD

            Thats horseshit, if you want to argue semantics thats fine. But what I mean by “whatever it takes” its not an unlimited amount of $. Its putting necessary $ forward to put as good of a product on the field as possible. You are going to tell the me the red sox, yankees, dodgers, cubs etc owners arent committed to spending whatever it takes to win? Just try and compare them to Rogers. Sure, they have a limit of course but they care a HELL of a lot more about winning then rogers.

          • the issue with most fans, i think, isn’t so much how much rogers commits to the jays, it’s how much they commit to the jays relative to their overall wealth, and how much relative to the income derived from the jays & jays-related property – mainly, the ‘free’ content that they’d otherwise have to pony up tens (hundreds?) of millions for each year. there is always the appearance that rogers artificially deflates the payroll relative to what it COULD be.

  • Nice Guy Eddie

    Lemme see.. Dee Gordon. a 30 yr old drug bust with a .695 career OPS owed $40 million. Yeah, that’s someone you’d want to trade serious prospects for.

    Next.

    • Player to Be Named Later

      I see your point, but I don’t think it’s that cut and dry. First, he wouldn’t be expected to slug, so OPS isn’t really the necessarily best metric to consider. His on-base in his last two full seasons (2015 and 17) of .359 and .341 looks better — and then that picture has to be augmented by his speed. If he can get on base at a decent clip and then steal 60 bases (as he did in 2015 and 2017) then there’s much more value here. Plus he’s a left handed bat. Plus his not insignificant defensive value, both in terms of ability and versatility. $40 mil owed is a lot, but it is spread over three years of roughly $11, $13 and $14 for his 30, 31 and 32 year old seasons (with a cheap option for the next season too, I believe.) Perhaps the cost in prospects would be too high — though they might also get Miami to eat some salary. I don’t know. I think there’s potentially more here. Not a hard pass for me.

  • The Original Mark

    Personally, I’d rather having Lynn’s innings eating ability than Cobb’s lost split finger or Chatwood’s shittiness, but the Toronto media seems to be focused on Cobb and Chatwood. Not sure why unless they’re greasing the skids for who the front office thinks they’ll get. In any event, Darvish or Arrieta would be the best way to go, but yeah…

  • Terry Mesmer

    I’d love another middle infielder who can play a little outfield in a pinch.
    I liked Carerra as a fourth outfielder and pinch runner, but he’s just like Goins — when they are getting regular at bats, it means you need to upgrade, fast.

  • vic

    Pearce for Profar? Pearce seems to be the type of player Texas likes having around, and Profar is a gamble that might have some upside. Then you have a bench of Profar, Diaz, Zeke, and Maile. Two infielders who can cover 2B, SS, 3B, and maybe the corner OF spots. Adds a bit more versatility, but the risk would be two back up infielders who may not hit. Still, if you’re going to gamble, gamble with upside.

  • ErnieWhitt

    I definitely agree they need to keep looking for infield depth. Diaz is the type of player where at the end of the year we could all look back and say “yeah we probably shouldn’t have expected him to be good in retrospect”. He could be awesome but if he’s not the reasons will seem obvious in a way that they always were with Colby Rasmus. The potential and flaws are both so clear that the end of season wrap up column on the player could be written for both cases in spring training. Good trade for certain, but adding more protection is still very needed.

  • Flash McLennan

    “C1 Russell Martin
    1B Justin Smoak
    2B Devon Travis
    SS Troy Tulowitzki
    3B Josh Donaldson
    LF Steve Pearce
    CF Kevin Pillar
    RF José Bautista ==> TBA
    DH Kendrys Morales
    C2 Luke Maile ==> TBA
    OF Ezequiel Carrera
    IF Ryan Goins ==> Aledmys Diaz
    IF Darwin Barney ==> TBA”

    Let’s all step back for a minute. If one were not a Jays fan, taking a look at that list, I think one would conclude that the 2018 Blue Jays are going to be somewhere between middling and abominable.
    I really don’t care what fill in pieces they add to make 2018 slightly more palatable. I just don’t want them to trade any of the future.

    • yeah, you kind of have to look at each guy with a fair bit of optimism to feel positive – that smoak wasn’t a one-year-wonder, that tulo not only avoids prolonged injury but isn’t actually terrible now, that travis can stay healthy, that pearce can survive in LF, that carrera is actually viable getting steady playing time, that pillar doesn’t get worse, that donaldson doesn’t have the weight of his impending FA cause issues, that martin defies the aging curve for catchers. i mean, it’s almost certain that guys who had injuries/down years in 2017 will bounce back, but it’s also plausible that guys who took a step forward last year regress to their norm. maybe the optimism stems more from getting quality years out of their 4 starters (and whoever they get for the 5th/6th), and just having the off/def tick upwards a hair?

    • 0noggin

      Hate to admit it, but you’re probably right. Even without the injuries in 2017, the Jays needed everything to click in order to make the playoffs, and the changes they’ve made so far this offseason don’t signal that management intends to do any better than 4th in the division. All 3 outfield spots are below MLB average offensively and 2/3 significantly below defensively. 1B and 3B are probably the only two solid spots overall, and while they’ve acquired some IF depth, Tulo is definitely in decline, and the chance of injury to him and Travis is very high.

      To contend this year, they really need a top tier starter (both for depth and to keep Biagini in the bullpen where he he’s both quality multi-inning relief and more rotation depth), a major upgrade to IF (even if it means trading, say, Travis) and a major bat in the OF. So, Odorizzi, Neil Walker and Jay Bruce to start. Another lefty reliever wouldn’t hurt, either.

  • Holly Wood

    The way I seen it in 2017, The Tulo, Travis, Sanchez injuries scuttled the season. I know it’s relatively early in the off season but surely these situations will be addressed prior to spring training. I shudder to think of Steve Pearce with a glove in his hand. He can hit but the Jays already have Morales so please don’t tie up a roster spot with someone unable to provide anything close to average defence. Russell Martins durability is another area of concern. At 35-36 I don’t expect him to rally and play 125 plus games next year. Most of their problems are in the middle of the diamond and until now management is just picking at the corners