New Year’s Wishlist (part three): Looking at which free agent outfielders could fill the Blue Jays’ fourth outfielder role
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11 months ago
The Blue Jays had a massive turnover in their outfield this off-season, but there’s a good chance they aren’t done.
With Lourdes Gurriel Jr. heading the other way in the Daulton Varsho trade, there is a gaping hole in the fourth outfield spot. Let’s look at the state of the position and which current Blue Jays could have a shot, as well as some free agents who could be a good fit.
The state of the outfield:
The Blue Jays’ outfield moves this off-season have been pretty transparent. They traded Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernández, two hitting outfielders with some defensive issues. Furthermore, they were set to hit free agency after the 2023 season.
To replace them, the Jays brought in Kevin Kiermaier and Daulton Varsho. Kiermaier is below average with the bat, but when healthy, he’s one of the best defensive centre fielders in the game. As for Varsho, he was statistically the best defensive outfielder in 2022. What’s more, there’s a lot to like with his bat, as he hit 27 homers (more than Hernández’s 25).
Signing a full-time centre fielder and trading for a left fielder will also allow George Springer to move to right field, which may be easier on his body.
However, the depth drops off after that. If we were to look at their current 40-man roster (which has 39 players), the only pure outfielder who is currently ready is Nathan Lukes. In fairness, Lukes had a great 2022 with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons, but he has never had a major league plate appearance before.
Cavan Biggio and Whit Merrifield have also spent time playing in the outfield, but they’re better suited to the infield. Furthermore, prospects such as Otto López and Spencer Horwitz have either spent some time in the outfield or are learning the position, but they fall in the same boat as Lukes.
With all that being said, it makes sense that the Jays could be looking for an outfielder who can fill in for George Springer when he plays as the DH. Moreover, the focus could shift from a left-handed batting outfield (their priority early in the off-season) to a right-handed outfielder. Let’s look at some contenders for the role.
I went in-depth on Pollock in News and Notes on Friday morning, but he’s definitely my favourite (well, at least until the last outfielder in the article.)
Last season, the 35-year-old slashed .245/.292/.389 with 14 homers in 527 plate appearances for a 92 wRC+. That doesn’t look great, right? Well, let’s look at his splits.
Against left-handed pitching, he slashed .286/.316/.619 with 11 home runs in 133 plate appearances. Yeah, that’s bonkers. Moreover, he had a career high 137 wRC+ in 422 plate appearances in 2021.
Pollock is also a plus defender in the outfield statistically, at least in left field. He had a 4 DRS in 751.2 innings pitched, so he’s still playable in the outfield.
While he may not agree to be the fourth outfield, there would still be plenty of pathways for Pollock to get at bats.
He’s not the player he used to be, but McCutchen still has value, mainly as a DH with some innings in left field.
Last season, he slashed .237/.316/.384 with 17 homers in 580 plate appearances for a 98 wRC+. He also provided plus defense in left field, posting a 5 Defensive Runs Saved and a 2 Outs Above Average. Just like we did for Pollock, we’ll look at the 36-year-old’s splits against left-handed pitchers.
His .221/.303/.434 slash line with seven homers in 165 plate appearances against left-handed pitching doesn’t look great, as he actually had reverse splits last season. However, he slashed .293/.405/.622 with 15 homers in 195 plate appearances for a 169 wRC+ against lefties in 2021.
Plus it’s Andrew McCutchen, who doesn’t love him? He’s nothing but good vibes. Please watch the video, it made me smile. Just pure fuckin’ vibes.
I love switch-hitters, so the fact that the Jays haven’t had one since Jonathan Villar (except for Tyler Heineman) makes me sad.
I’ll be honest, there’s essentially no chance the Jays could sign Profar as a fourth outfielder. He slashed .243/.331/.391 with 15 homers in 658 plate appearances for a 110 wRC+ in 2022. He also played in 152 games with the Padres, with 146 games being played in left field.
Perhaps as the off-season continues and he doesn’t sign, he could consider becoming a fourth outfielder? I find it unlikely, but it’s also confusing as to why he wasn’t brought up often prior to the Varsho and Kiermaier acquisitions.
Hey, look, another switch-hitting outfielder.
Last season, the 33-year-old slashed .209/.310/.311 with seven homers in 477 plate appearances for an 82 wRC+. Not great.
However, he had a fantastic 2021, where he slashed .239/.357/.415 with 23 homers in 671 plate appearances for a 116 wRC+. Moreover, he had a pretty insane 14.6 BB% while keeping his K% down to 23.1%. Pretty great numbers.
Grossman was also gross against left-handed pitchers last season. He slashed .320/.436/.443 with a single homer in 149 plate appearances. The 33-year-old also had a 16.8 BB% and a crazy 37.9 line drive percentage as a right-handed batter. This led to a 157 wRC+ (compared to a 48 wRC+ as a right-handed batter).
Defensively, he was average, posting a 3 DRS and 0 OAA between left-field and right field in 2022.
The Jays have had a track record of rebuilding a Robbie’s value in the past. Furthermore, they’ve already shown interest in the past, and he was even mentioned by Dan Shulman in passing, although this is likely speculation.
If they can’t get Pollock, Grossman is my guy. He may even be my guy regardless.
Who’s the best fit:
If you’re looking at the best player here, it’s definitely Profar. However, it seems incredibly unlikely that he’d be willing to accept a role as a fourth outfielder.
Andrew McCutchen is definitely a name I’d be interest in, but he just wasn’t able to hit lefties last season, and he rarely played in the outfield. The vibes are awesome though, and I hope he is able to chase a ring that he very much deserves.
That leaves Pollock and Grossman. Pollock has more pedigree, but Grossman’s numbers against left-handed pitching are just way too intriguing for me. As a switch hitter, he provides versatility, plus he plays in both left field and right field, which Pollock doesn’t.
Furthermore, it seems more likely to me that Grossman would be accepting of the role of the fourth outfielder compared to Pollock. So yeah, Grossman is my guy.
This didn’t even consider left-handed batters such as Corey Dickerson, Raimel Tapia, David Peralta, and Tyler Naquin. However, my belief is that they’re looking to add an outfielder with solid defense who could hit lefties.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Brennan_L_D.
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