The Blue Jays have already made their big free-agent splash of the off-season, adding Hyun-Jin Ryu to a four-year deal. But there’s still a month-and-a-half left until the beginning of spring training and plenty of names left on the open market. Are there any fits that make sense?
You have some obvious locks, like Vlad Jr. playing third, Bo Bichette playing short, Cavan Biggio playing second, Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire behind the plate, Randal Grichuk and Lourdes Gurriel will be occupying two outfield spots, and Travis Shaw appears to be the first baseman. On the bench, Derek Fisher, Teoscar Hernandez, Rowdy Tellez, and Brandon Drury will likely be around, but how much they play is up in the air.
The rotation figures to be Ryu, Tanner Roark, Matt Shoemaker, Chase Anderson, and one of Trent Thornton and Ryan Borucki. Putting together a bullpen is impossible right now, but you can start with Ken Giles at the back and work out from there with names like Wilmer Font, Anthony Bass, and many more.
The biggest holes right now, it seems, are in the outfield, as the team could use a legitimate centre fielder, the backup shortstop position, and in the bullpen. Here are the options:
And now the All-Unemployed pitching staff:
Fernando Rodney (mandatory annual selection)
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) January 6, 2020
Marcell Ozuna is still the top option left out there. He came into the off-season seeking a big contract but teams have seemingly been reluctant given the fact he’s a complete clusterfuck in the outfield. He’s a name the Jays have been sort of linked to in the past, but it’s hard to imagine them ponying up a bunch of cash given that the corner outfield isn’t exactly a huge need. I mean, Ozuna would be an upgrade over what they have now, but is it worth it to spend a bunch of money on a better version of Teoscar Hernandez when you already have Teoscar Hernandez?
Nick Castellanos is probably the more sensible option for Toronto, given the fact he offers more positional versatility, but, again, the logic is the same. They have so many darts to throw against the board when it comes to engimatic corner outfielders, why open the checkbook in free agency to add another one?
If the Jays are going to add a last-minute big bat to play in the outfield, Yasiel Puig seems to be the smartest option. His value seems to have plummeted into the ground and could end up being a bargain-bin option. The biggest qualm against Puig’s game is his wild nature. He’s done a lot of maturing in the past few years and was an excellent member of back-to-back Dodgers team that made it to the World Series. His energy would be welcomed here.
What about centre fielders? As of right now, that position is up in the air for the Jays. Randal Grichuk apparently likes to play the corner more than centre, which makes his contract all the more puzzling. I doubt we see the Teoscar Hernandez experiment in centre again, but maybe we see Lourdes Gurriel get a chance there? Derek Fisher also has a decent amount of experience in centre, and then there’s always Anthony Alford, too, if the Jays decide he deserves a chance.
Otherwise, the external, free-agent options for centre field are, uh, fairly slim. Kevin Pillar, who was non-tendered by the Giants despite earning himself an MVP vote, is probably the best name out there. One name that sticks out to me is Cameron Maybin. He’s carved out a nice career as a fourth outfielder due to his defence, but a change to his swing last year resulted in him slashing a .285/.364/.494 line as one of the inexplicably good members of the confusing 2019 Yankees. He was, once upon a time, the 10th overall pick and a centrepeice of the trade that sent Miguel Cabrera to Detroit, so maybe there’s something there.
What about a backup infielder? As I said, Bichette and Biggio figure to be the shortstop and second basemen this year, but who’s backing up? There’s Brandon Drury, who works fairly well as a bunch utility type, but there isn’t a true, glove-first guy who can step in and play short effectively since Richard Urena was designated for assignment. The other two guys on the roster are Breyvic Valera, who’s spent more time in the outfield than at short, and Santiago Espinal, who has just 23 games at Triple-A.
I would assume the Jays will scoop somebody up on a minor-league deal before the start of spring training, because that’s a pretty risky group to roll with. Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Iglesias have inked deals in the past few days, but *checks notes* Adeiny Hechavarria and Gordon Beckham are still out there.
When it comes to the ‘pen, one thing this front office has done quite well is finding veteran arms towards the end of winter on cheap, bargain-bin deals, so I wouldn’t worry about that too much. Joe Smith, Seung-hwan Oh, and Daniel Hudson were all good finds, and there are plenty of names still left out there for the Jays to grab before spring training. I’m not even going to try to wrap my head around what the bullpen might look like come April.
So, in sum, if you’re expecting another big addition, I would temper expectations. The big names left out there are players who don’t play positions of need for the Jays, so we more than likely won’t see anything more than bargain hunting from here on out.
Go sign Puig, you cowards!