The Jays’ options for signing a left-handed batting outfielder are dwindling.
Within minutes of each other, two of these options, Joey Gallo and Andrew Benintendi signed for the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox respectively.
At the start of free agency, those two plus Michael Conforto and Michael Brantley were the four outfielders I saw as replacements for Teoscar Hernández on the free agent market.
Let’s look at the two outfielders that signed on Friday afternoon.
I was most intrigued by Gallo, as he had a 122 wRC+ in 2021. Yes, he has a ton of swing and miss in his game (career 37.3 K%), but he also walks a ton (career 14.8 BB%) and mashes homers (177 home runs in 2811 plate appearances).
Furthermore, between 2020 and 2021, he had a Defensive Runs Saved of 25 and an Outs Above Average of nine. Would I have wanted the Jays to commit a one-year deal worth $11,000,000 for Gallo? I’m not too sure about that.
He would have been a nice addition to the Jays, who are apparently looking for run prevention. However, Gallo has some upside with the bat, and it would’ve just been a good fit all around.
I viewed Andrew Benintendi as the best offensive talent out of the four options for a left-handed batting corner outfielder. Last season he hit .304/.373/.399 with five homers in 521 plate appearances. He had a 122 wRC+ and a 2.8 Fangraphs WAR (fWAR).
Defensively, there’s a little bit to be desired. First off, Benintendi has only played left field since 2020, and the Jays already have that spot locked down with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Benintendi is a fine outfielder in terms of DRS (career 32 DRS in left field), and a below-average outfielder in terms of OAA (career -15 OAA in right field).
Benintendi would have been a good addition to the team. However the term is fairly long at five years, and it comes with an annual average value of $15,000,000. Not too worried about the Jays passing on Benintendi.
Looking at who is still available:
So with Benintendi and Gallo off the market, I think it’s important to look at what both Michael Conforto and Michael Brantley offer.
The reason why Conforto doesn’t intrigue me is that he missed all of 2022 recovering from a shoulder surgery on his dominant arm. There’s no telling what kind of player he’ll be once he returns from that injury.
Furthermore, he struggled offensively in 2021, posting a 106 wRC+ with only 14 homers. 2020 was his best season to date, but it was the plague year and an incredibly small sample size. That leaves us with 2019 as his most recent full season where he was “good”, at least in terms of wRC+ (he had a 127 wRC+.)
If the Jays get that version of Conforto’s bat, obviously that’s good, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Shoulder injuries can really hamper bat speed, look no further than Cody Bellinger.
Then comes his defense, which has been at best average since 2019. In 2020, he posted a 0 DRS and -4 OAA in 438.1 innings in right field. In 2021, it flipped to a -4 DRS and a 1 OAA in 956.1 innings.
However, this doesn’t factor in his shoulder surgery on his right shoulder, which also happens to be his throwing arm. His already questionable defense could be a whole lot worse, and there are concerns about his bat.
It depends on the contract, but I wouldn’t be upset if he signs elsewhere.
Brantley’s bat is legit, as he slashed .288/.370/.416 with five homers in 277 plate appearances with the Houston Astros in 2022. In general, I’m not concerned with the bat at all, as he hasn’t registered a wRC+ below 120 since 2017.
If the Jays were to sign Brantley, I think it would be in a purely DH role, as he’ll turn 36 years old in May. Not just that, but he only plays left field, and is an average defender at the position.
I’m not opposed to it, but I think that the Jays would be looking for an outfielder who could regularly play in the field, and they just don’t get that with Brantley.
So what could the Jays do to add an outfielder:
With their free agent signing option dwindling, what must the Jays do to add a second left-handed batting outfielder? Personally, Michael Conforto and Michael Brantley don’t really intrigue me, so in an ideal world, it would come through a trade.
Some options include Max Kepler of the Minnesota Twins, Daulton Varsho of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Ian Happ of the Chicago Cubs.
It’ll be interesting to see what they do to improve the team further.
Carlos Rodón signs with the New York Yankees:
On Thursday evening, Jeff Passan announced that the Yankees signed Rodón to a six-year $162 million contract.
Does it make the Yankees better than the Jays on paper? Absolutely. However, baseball isn’t played on paper, as the Jays supposedly had a better team coming into 2022. Furthermore, the core of the Yankees are old, and there’s quite a bit of room for regression. Hell, Gerritt Cole has a 3.69 ERA and 3.44 FIP in 292.1 innings pitched since spider tack was banned on June 21st, 2021.
The Yankees are better than their 2022 sleeves on paper, but the division certainly isn’t won because they signed Rodón.
It will be an exciting few months leading up to spring training!
As always, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Brennan_L_D.