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Where Do The Jays Go From Here?

The Blue Jays inked Curtis Granderson to a one-year deal last night, giving them a veteran depth presence in the outfield. Granderson is far from perfect, but he’s got some pop in his bat and he can play all three outfield positions. He’s also, in baseball terms, cheap as dirt.

Realistically, this acquisition should be viewed as a positive. Granderson was worth 2.1 WAR last season and, like I said, he comes cheap. But what I noticed browsing Twitter last night was a frustration that this signals the Jays aren’t going to be making an impact addition to their outfield.

According to Shi Davidi, the Jays are looking to make upgrades in the outfield. Davidi says “[signing Granderson] doesn’t preclude GM Ross Atkins from further additions and the club is believed to still be looking to another outfielder to a group that includes Kevin Pillar, Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera and Teoscar Hernandez…” Jon Heyman echoed this by saying the Jays are looking to add another piece to the outfield.

While the floor of the roster has been massively increased with security blankets meant to protect the team from fairly inevitable Tulo and Travis injuries, there hasn’t been a major addition this off-season.

Here’s what we’ve got so far…

C: Russell Martin (R), Luke Maile (R) or another backup 

DH: Kendrys Morales (S)

1B: Justin Smoak (S)

3B: Josh Donaldson (R)

IF: Troy Tulowitzki (R), Devon Travis (R), Yangervis Solarte (S), Aledmys Diaz (R)

OF: Kevin Pillar (R), Zeke Carrera (L), Curtis Granderson (L), Steve Pearce (R)

That’s your 13-player roster assuming the team operates with five starters and seven relievers. Beyond that, I imagine Teoscar Hernandez will start the season at Triple-A and he along with Dalton Pompey, Anthony Alford, and Dwight Smith Jr. will be available for recalls barring injury in the outfield. The infield depth kind of starts and ends with Richard Urnea, but I imagine the Jays will add some players on minor-league deals closer to spring training. Ryan Goins, anyone?!

Where do they go from here?

The outfield is the spot the Jays need to upgrade most when it comes to position players. Kevin Pillar is very likely going to be your centre fielder. Steve Pearce is a righty who crushes lefties (he has career .836 OPS against LHP) and Curtis Granderson is a lefty who crushes righties (he has a career .854 OPS against RHP), so that’s a nice platoon option that can play in one of the corner outfield positions. Then is, uh, Zeke going to play every day?

As of right now, based on the way the roster looks, Carrera is going to be playing every day in right field, unless the platoon is Zeke and Steve Pearce and Granderson is playing every day. There’s a good chance, like Stoeten pointed out, the Jays are adding guys like Solarte (who hits righties well) to spell Kendrys Morales (who drilled lefties last year) in the DH slot. There are a lot of combinations as to how John Gibbons can use these players.

Regardless, I’m trying to figure out how the Jays can add another outfielder. Maybe…

  • Kevin Pillar is traded. I really doubt this given that Pillar brings quite a bit of value with his defence in centre field for an extremely cheap price tag. Maybe another team sees that and the Jays deal him for a starting pitcher. Again, I doubt it.
  • Kendrys Morales is on the way out. I also doubt this. I don’t know who would pick up an expensive guy signed for 2018 and 2019 who doesn’t play a position in the field coming off of a sub-.800 OPS season. It would be great if the Jays could jettison this contract because it would A) open up more money and B) open up a rest slot for Devon Travis, Josh Donaldson, and Troy Tulowitzki. I just don’t see it happening.
  • Steve Pearce is on the way out. This makes more sense because Pearce is actually thoroughly solid and he’s only signed for 2018. But given the Granderson signing creating a perfect platoon with Pearce, I have a difficult time seeing it happening.
  • Zeke is on the way out. He just inked a cheap one-year deal with the Jays following a season in which he had the third-highest OPS on the team. He’s a pretty good fourth outfielder, but based on the roster composition, seems to be on his way to a lot more playing time than he should be given. I dunno. Are they just going to release him? Try and shove him through waivers? I doubt it.
  • Someone else is on the way out. There was fear that acquiring Solarte meant Donaldson was gone. I doubt it. I figure Solarte is here to platoon with Morales and serve as a versatile infield backup and insurance net. Who else could go? Tulo? Nope. Travis? I don’t see it.

So, yeah, after all of that thinking out loud I’m having a hard time seeing where the Jays make an upgrade to the outfield. I could be wrong, but I doubt the team is going to trade Pillar, I doubt it’s possible to trade Morales, and I feel that Pearce and Granderson is a platoon by design. It would be nice to upgrade Zeke to a better player like Lorenzo Cain or J.D. Martinez, but the Jays also have a need for an upgrade in the starting rotation, so it probably makes more sense to spend the money there.

Because right now, Toronto’s pitching looks like…

SP: Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, Joe Biagini 

Biagini was a bit of a mess as a starter last season. It’s fine to have him as your depth insurance in Buffalo, but starting with him as your No. 5 starter is a massive risk. Furthermore, Aaron Sanchez isn’t a sure thing. Neither is Marco Estrada given how he performed for a big chunk of 2017.

Another middle-of-the-rotation pitcher would shove Biagini either to the sixth starter slot or the ‘pen, which is a good thing.

  • The Humungus

    You wrote “trade Pillar” and I heard AD’s trouser’s get tight in the living room of my country home, with scarcely a neighbour for a few hundred metres in any direction.

  • Tom Flawless

    Nice thought piece, Cam. If I could waive my magic wand, I’d sign Cain, then trade Pillar and Morales together to KC with some cash, hoping to get back past-his-prime Herrera + his $8 million one-year contract, but perhaps willing to settle for less.

    I’d like to see *some* kind of creative deal from this front office because, as you suggest, they’ve raised the floor but they still need to raise the ceiling.

    • best-case scenario is a worse contract & a worse player coming back. but herrera is somewhat interesting, but since he just re-signed with them and avoided arb doing so, it would seem they’re keen on keeping him. KC finished ’17 with a pretty bloated payroll, so i’m guessing they’re looking to bring that back down to reasonable levels (starting by losing moustakis, hosmer – both boras clients – & cain)…can’t imagine they’d be too interested in taking on morales, and they don’t have anything i’d want back. they are trash.

      • Tom Flawless

        Getting an underpaid, controllable Pillar to play their giant center field would be their reward for eating Morales’ two remaining years and platooning him with Moss. Not saying it’ll happen, just that something like that *could* make sense for both teams.

    • ice_hawk10

      ah yes, let’s trade our cheap and decent CF for a declining bullpen piece, so that then we can have the privilege of signing a 32 year old CF for 5 years at $15mill+ AAV.

  • i can’t help but feeling that an OF spot is not going to be filled via FA (just not seeing a fit), nor via trade (ditto), but rather, one will be dangled for hernandez & alford to battle for in ST, and like cam mentions, going with a granderson/pearce regular platoon, with zeke moving back to a more comfortable role – match-up specific starts, pinchrunning, etc…and if neither alford, or hernandez (and to a lesser degree, pompey/smith) are able to prove ready for a regular job, then you fall back to zeke.

    at this point, while OF is probably more glaring, if they’re able to use the remaining budget on a decent 4th/5th starter type, and either (or, with luck, both) a quality reliever & backup catcher, then that seems to be a better way to spread those resources. even if cain was gettable for ~$15M per, you still don’t have a 5th starter, you’re still a little light in the BP, and you’re running out handsome man once a week to catch (not that there are really many better options in the back-up C market, but w/e).

    • Kris

      I think the Market will decided who the Jays sign ie either a RF or another starter. It is getting late in the game and there isn’t a ton of money out there. So who ever drops their price, if that Cain or Cobb or whoever.

      I don’t think the Jays should sign either a reliever or catcher (other than minor league deals) I think it is the perfect time to work in Jensen as the backup. He is close to ready and the Jays have a good defensive catcher with great framing skill. Martin can show the young guy some tricks. Work in the the young guy as the backup and save some cash.

      And with the price for relievers I would prefer giving guys from the minors a chance. Unless another Smith drops in their laps for cheap go low cost. The Jays have a done a good job building up the upper minors for potential relievers. There a number of guys with good stuff and good K numbers that be be middle relievers. Leone and Barnes made the jump last year. I think Mayza will do it this year.

      • yeah, i can get on board with that; i was thinking about jensen, just think he might be a bit farther away…there’s risk in rushing guys.

        agree re. signing a reliever or catcher, they can generally be found cheaply; point was that if you only have X amount of money to spend, but multiple holes to fill, you have to choose where to allocate X; split it up and get multiple pieces that will each contribute marginal value, or splurge in one area where you think you’ll get a greater individual return, but in so doing, have to patch the other holes with what’s left over or internally.

      • breasteve

        Casali was released by Angels after inking a minors deal with them in Dec. He could be had for league min and ML ST invite. Could do worse and keeps Jansen developing/backups backup.

  • Shawkr

    The Jays may have a large number of major league outfielders, but they’re all of the fringe-average variety. Only Alford holds potential of being a plus player, and likely not in 2018.

    As such, I think the answer is to acquire a true everyday OF (read: Cain!), and backload it a bit so the payroll hit is only ~$10M this year. Then flip Teoscar (plus extras?) for a 4/5-ish SP who’s also pre-arb for at least one more season (Daniel Norris fits here?). That way you still have a few millions to grab a RP or two. Basically, we need to creatively re-arrange the assets a little bit.

  • ice_hawk10

    nobody’s on the way out. they’re not going to call Morales dead money after year one, Pearce fits Granderson like a glove, Pillar stays for the reasons you mention. they can totally add another OF and just move Zeke to the bench. it’s not going to be someone good i dont think. Maybe Carlos Gonzalez or something. On any given day your bench would be Zeke, Pearce, Solarte, Maile/hopefully better backup C + whoever, if they want a 5 man bench. Diaz to AAA. if you dont like that, wait a couple weeks for someone to get hurt.