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.