So far in this series of Bluebird Banter staff picks we've had Scott Kazmir and Brian McCann selected, which both would be pretty big signings for the team. I'm more of a bargain bin hunter myself and usually get excited about players that could bring value to the team without stretching the payroll of the Blue Jays much more than it already is. To be clear, my first choice for this series would definitely be Mark Ellis, but since I already wrote about him here I thought I'd find an alternative to avoid rehashing the same argument I made a few weeks ago. As I noted in that piece, I would offer Ellis a two-year contract worth somewhere around $13.5 million, hoping he keeps up his tremendous defence for another few seasons.
That being said, the next player that I would like to see Alex Anthopoulos go after would be outfielder Nate McLouth. A 32-year-old native of Michigan, McLouth most recently played a year and a half in Baltimore as their starting left fielder. In 2013 he played in 146 games and hit .258/.329/.399 with 12 home runs and went 30-37 in stolen base attempts. The left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing McLouth would be brought to the Blue Jays for one main reason and that is security.
Nate McLouth put up 2.5 fWAR this year, which is his best season since 2009 and he was paid $2.0 million by the Orioles for his efforts. His defence is considered fairly average, but he did win a Gold Glove in centre field back in 2008 when he had -23 Defensive Runs Saved, which is quite the accomplishment. He is prone to doing things like this occasionally so his overall average play is disguised slightly:
McLouth can't hit lefties to save his life getting on base at a .283 clip against them this year making him more valuable when used as a platoon piece. The problem with him fitting into the Blue Jays team is that Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus, Anthony Gose, and Adam Lind also all struggle against lefties making it difficult to put McLouth in a strict platoon situation in Toronto.
What McLouth does bring to the table is the ability to take a walk. He hovers consistently above the league average in BB% as you can see:
The walks would be a nice addition to a team that seemed to be a little too free swinging at certain points in the year. The ability to lay off bad pitches along with his great stolen base percentage would be great assets to have in a part-time player for the Blue Jays. McLouth would often come off the bench to relieve Melky Cabrera as a defensive replacement so his speed and defensive skill are definitely pluses, but his possibility of being LOOGY'ed late in the game is a definite downside. Another negative is the possibility of McLouth being shifted as he is a dead pull groundball hitter:
I still haven't completely figured out how McLouth would fit into the current team, but with the amount of injuries that seem to riddle the Blue Jays yearly along with the uncertainty of Melky Cabrera's status, having a capable outfielder in reserve would not be a bad idea. It seems Anthony Gose will be the back-up centre fielder, but McLouth could spell both Jose Bautista and Melky Cabrera when they needed a day off. Bautista can play third base as well, so McLouth would add additional positional flexibility if Brett Lawrie decides to jump into a camera well again. I know many people will not consider McLouth and the Blue Jays a perfect fit, but the possibility of acquiring a valuable piece for a low price tag will likely cause Alex Anthopoulos to at least inquire about the current price of the Michigan native.
MLB Trade Rumors has McLouth ranked as the #41 free agent and predict him to re-sign with the Baltimore Orioles. Steamer projects McLouth to be worth slightly above one win next season, which seems fair and would make McLouth's fair salary equal to about $7 million. Although Nate will definitely receive a pay raise from his $2 million in 2013, it seems unlikely he will get an average annual value of $7 million. MLBTR predicts a two-year $10 million contract and I really can't argue with that. Personally I'd like to see Alex Anthopoulos offer McLouth a one-year $5 million contract with a 2015 team option worth $5.5 million and a $1 million buyout. So Alex, first get Mark Ellis and then work on Nate McLouth.