I have a feeling we’re going to see a lot of ‘The Blue Jays have shown interest in _________’ this winter.
Most recently, the said-to-be-very-aggressive Blue Jays have reportedly shown interest in the two top centre fielders on the free-agent market, George Springer and Jackie Bradley Jr. Jon Heyman talked about it on MLB Network’s Big Time Baseball on Monday and Tim Kelly of WEEI (a Boston radio station) pointed it out.
Anyways, this type of report is no surprise because, through the first couple weeks of the off-season, all we’ve heard is that the Blue Jays have been aggressive and that they’re poised for a big splash. Both of these free agents are names who makes all kinds of sense for the team to add because of the glaring hole at centre field.
As of right now, Randal Grichuk is the team’s centre fielder. He had a decent offensive season in 2020, slashing a .273/.312/.481 line (112 wRC+) with 12 home runs across 231 plate appearances. His defensive metrics suggest that he was poor in centre field but, personally, I figure the eye-test says otherwise. Grichuk, bat and glove considered, is a fine centre fielder, but he isn’t great.
Springer is the bigger name of the two. He’s ranked as MLB Trade Rumours’ third-best free agent behind only Trevor Bauer and J.T. Realmuto. MLBTR projects Springer to ink a five-year deal worth $125 million.
While many Astros have had their careers and accomplishments tarnished by the Garbage Bin Scandal, Springer isn’t one of them. He slashed a .265/.359/.540 line with 14 homers and 32 RBIs in 2020 across 51 plate appearances. He played both centre and right field for Houston, ranking as above average in both positions statistically.
Adding Springer would be interesting for the Blue Jays. He’s 30 years old so there’s some risk that the later years of the deal are ugly, but he would certainly be a huge addition to their current group. Springer would push Grichuk out of centre field and to a corner outfield spot, which could subsequently shove Teoscar Hernandez into a DH role.
And then there’s Jackie Bradley Jr., who’s projected to get a much, much smaller deal than Springer. MLBTR has him getting a two-year deal worth $16,000,000 in total.
Bradley is known mostly for his excellent glove but he had a great season at the plate in 2020, slashing a .283/.364/.450 line with seven homers and 22 RBIs. That showing was a bit of an anomaly, though, as Bradley had posted an OPS in the .730 range in each of the past three seasons.
For the Blue Jays, Springer would be the big splash addition, whereas Bradley is the lower risk, raise the floor addition. Personally, I think Bradley makes more sense as the Blue Jays badly need somebody who can provide plus defence in centre field. Adding Bradley on a cheaper deal raises the floor defensively while also leaving money for a bigger upgrade, perhaps in the starting rotation or in the infield.