A few weeks ago, FanGraphs released its Steamer projections, which featured a whole bunch of numbers to get optimistic about when it comes to the Blue Jays. Earlier this week, FanGraphs dropped more numbers, as Dan Szymborsk’s ZiPS projections came out.
For those who don’t know, ZiPS uses statistics from the past four seasons (with more recent seasons being weighted heavier) coupled with things like ageing trends and injuries in order to project what a player’s statistics are going to look like. ZiPS, like Steamer, isn’t an exact science, but it’s widely regarded as one of the most accurate predictors in the industry.
Anyways! ZiPS, much like Steamer, is excited about the 2021 Blue Jays.
It’s projecting that the team will have 11 (!!!) players produce an OPS+ of 100 or greater. ZiPS is really into both Teoscar Hernandez (121 OPS+) and Rowdy Tellez’s (119 OPS+) breakout showings from 2020 but it isn’t as excited about Vlad Jr. as Steamer was. Still, the 124 OPS+ ZiPS projects for Vlad would be a welcomed showing. ZiPS is also probably the only place you’ll find Derek Fisher optimism. It says he’ll post a 105 OPS+ but it doesn’t say how many times he’ll get hit in the face with the ball.
The pitching projections aren’t quite as sexy. ZiPS is expecting Nate Pearson to have a solid season (4.00 ERA over 100 innings) but it doesn’t believe in any of Toronto’s other young starters, as all of Anthony Kay, Tom Hatch, Trent Thornton, Patrick Murphy, T.J. Zeuch, and Julian Merryweather have ERAs around 5.00.
Hyun Jin Ryu is projected to have a dip from his Cy Young finalist showing, while Robbie Ray is projected to have a very nice bounce-back season. ZiPS isn’t buying into a Tanner Roark rebound, though. It has the Diesel Engine at a 4.93 ERA which, hilariously, is lower than its projection for prospect Simeon Woods Richardson.
So, if we’re going to take a lesson from that, the Blue Jays probably need to do something about their pitching this winter!
Are the #BlueJays being aggressive in pursing free agents this offseason?
— Sportsnet 590 The FAN (@FAN590) November 19, 2020
Speaking of the off-season, you can add Scott Boras — yes, Scott Boras! — to the list of people who are expecting the Blue Jays to have a big winter.
Boras appeared on Writers Bloc with Jeff Blair and Stephen Brunt to talk about the team’s outlook in free agency this year and the tone was very, very different from what we’ve heard from him in regards to the organization in recent years…
“The Jays are what I’ve always hoped the Blue Jays should and could be, and that is that they’re going to be one of the organizations that sits atop the aggressive markets in baseball,” said Boras. “They’re in a definite phase where I think they have the lamp and now they’re looking for the lightbulb.”
A couple of years ago, Boras criticized the Blue Jays for suffering from “Blue Flu” as the team massively slashed payroll as they worked through their rebuild process. Broas’ beef with the Blue Jays goes on a lot longer than that comment, too. It dates all the way back to the Paul Beeston days in which it was widely understood in Toronto that the team wouldn’t have a prayer of signing a Boras client.
In the past year, the Jays have signed Hyun Jin Ryu, one of Boras’ top clients, and they drafted and signed Austin Martin, another Boras client, to a deal with a massive $7,000,000 signing bonus.
You can see why Boras would be excited at the prospect of the Blue Jays being a major player in free agency. I mean, he’s an agent, and the more teams who go out and sign big contracts in free agency, the better for him, obviously. Ultimately, this is a much-welcomed change of scenery for the Blue Jays, who, with Rogers Communications as their owners, should be one of the biggest spenders in baseball year in, year out.
The more this gets pointed out, the better. It shows the front office is active in free agency this year and it also builds an expectation that they need to come out this off-season having made a big splash or two.
So, do we have any news on who that big splash or two might be?
Over at the New York Post, Ken Davidoff provided an update about DJ LeMahieu’s free agency, stating that it looks like the 2020 MVP finalist wants to stick around in New York City…
— Ken Davidoff (@KenDavidoff) November 20, 2020
Davidoff suggests that the most likely scenario is LeMahieu re-signing with the Yankees, but the Mets with their new ownership and their added payroll flexibility due to Robinson Cano’s PED suspension gives him another option to stick around in NYC if the Yankees balk. He also says that the Blue Jays have been in on LeMahieu, but they’re at a disadvantage because of his desire to be in New York.
If that former Yankee doesn’t work out, how about another one? A familiar face, perhaps? Over at SN590, Ben Nicholson-Smith and Arden Zwelling talked about the possibility of J.A. Happ signing with the Blue Jays for a third stint with the team…
Some free agent talk up @Sportsnet with @ArdenZwelling & @alexfan590. Within this chat I highlight George Springer as a great fit for the #BlueJays & wonder … could J.A. Happ return to Toronto for a 3rd stint with Jays? Stranger things have happened. https://t.co/wzzGkVp5ju
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) November 20, 2020
I mean… sure? Happ was actually pretty decent in 2020. Over nine starts, he posted a 3.47 ERA, which is a hell of a lot better than what the Blue Jays got from some of their other back-of-the-rotation veterans.
Of course, he’s 38 years old, so anything more than a one-year deal probably wouldn’t be ideal. I would hope that the team aims higher than adding Happ for a pitching upgrade, but veteran pitching depth is never a bad thing.