We know the Blue Jays are looking to add a “super high impact player” this off-season and we know Cleveland is going to trade star shortstop Francisco Lindor. On paper, it’s a perfect match. Lindor is an impact player on both sides of the ball, the Blue Jays front office knows him very well from their time in Cleveland and Rogers has the money to give Lindor the massive contract extension he’s looking for.
As great as it would be to get Lindor, you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. You need other options in case something falls through. So here are other high-impact players the Blue Jays could target this off-season.
The National League Cy Young award winner is coming off of a remarkable season in which he had a 1.73 ERA and 2.5 WAR in 73.0 innings. He struck out 36% of batters he faced and walked just 6.1%. He’s a high strikeout arm having posted double-digit strikeouts per nine in each of the last four seasons. He’s also been durable having made at least 25 starts and throwing 150.0 innings every season from 2014-19.
As with Lindor, there is the obvious Cleveland connection. This is a group that acquired Bauer in Cleveland so they know about his unorthodox training and all his work he does with Driveline. They would also know about Bauer’s personality, and how he can rub people the wrong way, as Gideon Turk wrote about last month.
We know the Blue Jays at least have some interest in George Springer.
As a traditional centre fielder, he fills a huge need on the club. He’s not an elite defensive centre fielder in the mould of Kevin Kiermaier or Jackie Bradley Jr., but he is a plus defender having saved 13 runs in centre over the past two seasons. You don’t acquire Springer though because of his glove.
You go after Springer because of his bat. He’s hit .270/.361/.491 for his career. He has a good eye at the plate having a double-digit walk rate in each season of his career. He is the new prototypical leadoff hitter, someone who can draw a walk but can also hit the ball out of the park.
Yes, he was helped out by the trash can banging but his best season offensively came after 2017 in 2019 when he had a 156 wRC+. He had a strong 2020 campaign as well hitting 14 homers with a 146 wRC+ in 51 games.
Cam covered all the details about Kim when it was reported that he was coming over to the MLB last month.
Kim has some lofty projections and fills a positional need for the Blue Jays being able to play both shortstop and third. Plus the obvious connection with Hyun-Jin Ryu. It has to be a positive factor to come to a team where there is at least one other player who speaks your language. Especially one who is as big a star in Korea as Ryu.
It should be mentioned that J.T. Realmuto is the top free-agent position player available and is certainly an impact player. For the Blue Jays, however, with Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire and Alejandro Kirk they don’t need to add a catcher.
The Cubs: Kris Bryant and Javier Báez
With Theo Epstein leaving the Cubs, the team looks to be in a transition period. That transition period looks like it might be fire sale and Cam wrote about the impending blowup that could follow. He suggested the Blue Jays could go after Yu Darvish or Kyle Hendricks. Both impact starters who would look great atop the rotation alongside Ryu.
If they are looking at hitters Kris Bryant or Javier Báez are ideal trade targets.
Bryant and Báez are both entering the last year of their deals and it doesn’t look like the Cubs want to re-sign them. Tom Ricketts, the Cubs owner, has been one of the more outspoken owners in the league about the loss of revenue from the 2020 season. This is the perfect excuse to save money and trade some of the big-name players on the roster.
The Cubs farm system isn’t great either. Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs ranks them 24th in the league. The Blue Jays aren’t where they once were but still ranked 12th. There could be a match here.
Bryant in particular looks like he’s on his way out. Having filed and lost his grievance against the Cubs for service time manipulation, both sides could be looking for a fresh start.
As for on the field production, both players are coming off of career-worst seasons. Given the circumstances, it’s hard to take much stock in this. Bryant put up just a 76 wRC+ with a decreased walk rate and an increased strikeout rate. ZIPS however projects him to be worth 3.9 WAR next season, which for the Blue Jays represents a significant upgrade over the Travis Shaw, Santiago Espinal platoon, ZIPS forecasts them having at third next season.
Bryant also brings some versatility having played a little bit of both outfield corners in his career.
Báez also brings some position flexibility having played a ton of second base early in his career, though he hasn’t played the position since 2018. Báez however is an outstanding defensive shortstop. He put up seven defensive runs saved in this shortened season after saving 26 runs last year. Those 33 defensive runs saved rate first among shortstops and tied for third among all MLB players.
Báez, like Bryant, is coming off a season in which he struggled offensively. Báez had a 57 wRC+ in 59 games. He’s always been a high strikeout hitter but this season he climbed over a 30% strikeout rate for the first time since 2015.
Given everything that went on this season, you can forgive players for having off-seasons. Given their track records you would expect both players to rebound back to their career norms next season. The obvious risk with either player is they are only under team control for one more season.
Like Báez and Bryant, Arenado had a down season. Arenado had just a 76 wRC+ in 48 games. His power was down significantly, he only hit eight home runs and his average exit velocity was down close to two miles per hour. Part of the reason for that was a shoulder injury that he suffered in the fifth game of the season. Not realizing the severity of the injury, Arenado tried to play through it before being shut down in September. The injury didn’t affect his defence, Arenado led the league with 15 defensive runs saved, and won his eighth consecutive Gold Glove award.
Arenado doesn’t seem too thrilled to be playing in Colorado as they continually are unable to put a good team around him. Talks were heating up last offseason between the Rockies and Cardinals but as Craig Edwards of Fangraphs said at the time, the presence of an opt-out clause in Arenado’s contract kills almost any negotiations.
This one is a bit of a stretch but with Oakland sometimes you just never know. Chapman is entering his first year or arbitration and this is the same situation in which they traded Josh Donaldson. Per MLB Trade Rumors arbitration projection, they see Chapman earning $4.3M. That isn’t much especially for a superstar like Chapman, but a team like the Athletics, already a small market team before the pandemic, might be looking to cut costs. And Chapman is easily the player that would bring the most back in a trade.
The Athletics farm system is the third-worst in baseball. Moving Chapman could bring back a couple of really good prospects and add high-end talent to their system.
Chapman, playing through a hip injury that limited him to just 37 games, and required surgery, still managed to put up a 116 wRC+. His average and OBP dropped but he maintained his power and played his usual elite defence at third.
Oakland is also dealing with the potential loss of Billy Beane which adds another wrinkle to this situation.
The Blue Jays are in a good situation this offseason. They have the desire to add an impact player and have the money and prospect capital to get it done. In an offseason where teams are looking to cut costs and shed payroll, the Blue Jays are in a prime position to take advantage.