On Saturday we heard that the Jays had shipped off Ben Revere for relief pitcher Drew Storen. Some were happy to see the Jays add depth to the bullpen. Others were sad to see the Jays leadoff hitter leave. Some, like myself, weren't really sure what to think about the trade at the time. Regardless of what you think of the trade there's no denying that it has a great impact on the Jays in 2016.
Drew Storen obviously helps the Jays add depth to a bullpen which had many questions regarding 2016. Before the trade the Jays' rotation was as follows:
1) Marcus Stroman
2) RA Dickey
3) Marco Estrada
4) JA Happ
5) Drew Hutchison OR Jesse Chavez
This also meant that the bullpen consisted of Roberto Osuna, Aaron Sanchez, Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, and some combination of guys like Steve Delabar, Ryan Tepera, and Bo Schultz, among others.
The addition of Drew Storen changes how the Jays set up their pitching staff. With the addition of Storen to the back end of the bullpen it gives the Jays the ability to give Sanchez a look as a starter again, and join the competition for the fifth rotation spot. Many know the story of Sanchez as a top prospect who provided value for the Jays' bullpen in 2014. In 2015 he started the year in the rotation and started 11 games before going on the disabled list. When Sanchez returned to the team in July, the teams' bullpen was such a mess that they had to reinsert Sanchez back into the bullpen
If Sanchez were to enter the competition for a job in the starting rotation then Hutchison almost assuredly starts the year in Buffalo (barring a great showing in spring training). Sanchez could slate as a second young gun who the Jays are hoping to build the rotation around going forward.
If Sanchez stays in the bullpen then the original rotation would stand but the bullpen would have the potential to be a very strong group as the Jays would have 6 of the 7 bullpen spots filled by Sanchez, Storen, Osuna, Cecil, Loup, and a long man (either Chavez, Happ, or Hutchison).
Storen also provides a man who has experience in the closer role if Osuna isn't able to repeat his incredible 2015. Or, although highly unlikely, if the franchise decides to pursue Osuna as a starter then Storen still provides strength at the back end of the Jays pen.
Ben Revere was slated to start in left field and bat leadoff for the Jays. Initially, the idea of losing a career .295 hitter who can consistently steal 30-40 bases can sound scary but when looking deeper this might not be so bad. Before the trade the Jays outfield most likely would have consisted of Revere, Bautista, and Pillar while Michael Saunders looked to be the fourth outfielder returning from injury. Fan favorite Dalton Pompey would have started the season in Buffalo with Ezekial Carrera and Junior Lake. However, with Revere leaving that opens up a position battle for left field. While Carrera and Lake will officially be a part of that battle, this will most likely come down to Saunders vs Pompey.
Before the departure of Revere, Pompey had little chance of starting the season in Toronto as there was no starting spot available and Pompey would benefit from seeing regular playing time in Buffalo. Now with Revere gone, not only does Pompey have a chance but, he'll be considered the favorite. The Jays are ready for Pompey to be an every day contributor and the Jays will be looking for him to make an impact this season. If Pompey does get beat out by Saunders then look for either Carrera or Lake to fill the fourth outfielder spot on opening day.
It's easy to not worry about who will man left field as Revere grades as a poor defensive player and any of the other options should be able to play just as well, if not better defense in left. Where the worry about losing Revere factors in is the vacancy at the leadoff spot. Revere would have been the Jays leadoff hitter so regardless of who fills that role there will be a change for the Jays.
Revere certainly looks to be every bit of a great leadoff hitter. As mentioned earlier, his high AVG and ability to steal bases makes him attractive as a leadoff hitter. But the Jays should be able to find someone to fill that role. Revere's career .295 batting average is very misleading. As a leadoff hitter, especially hitting in front of Donaldson, Bautista, and EE, the most important thing is the ability to get on base. Revere's career OBP is .328. This is a much less appealing number. Of the 10 Jays last year who had 200 PA in 2015 (not including Revere), 6 had higher OBP marks than Revere's career OBP.
Revere's stolen bases might also not be a great asset for the Jays. While the Jays were a very good base running team this year they don't have a great track record of stealing bases. Gibbons is reluctant to risk stealing bases with guys like Donaldson, Bautista, EE, and Tulowitzki hitting behind them. Revere had 29 stolen base attempts for the Phillies in 96, that's a stolen base attempt every 3.3 games. In 56 games in Toronto Revere had 9 stolen base attempts, or an attempt every 6.2 games. This a a drastic difference and speaks to the Jays' leadoff hitter needing on base skills rather than stolen base skills.
Jays have some different options at the leadoff spot. In an ideal world, Dalton Pompey would win the LF job and immediately step into the leadoff spot. But, that's a lot to ask of a guy who still isn't guaranteed an every day job so he probably bats lower in the order. Tulowitzki got a look in that role for a little bit in 2015 and while he didn't impress there's reason to believe that he could handle the job if need be (career .369 OBP). But, both Tulo and Gibbons have expressed their preference for him to hit lower in the lineup. Devon Travis could be a nice option when he gets back from the DL as he filled that role for a brief stint before his injury. Ryan Goins could start as the leadoff man. His OBP was .361 after the all star break and his left handed bat would be a nice change from the row of right handed hitters to follow.
A less obvious candidate could be Kevin Pillar. His OBP in 2015 was only .317 so this appears to be a step down from Revere. But, Pillar enters only his second season as a full time player and might be ready to take a step forward at the plate. In the minors Pillar holds a career line of .322/.364/.477 so there's reason to be optimistic about him developing into a leadoff type hitter. An added bonus is that in 2015 fangraphs rated him as plus 8.1 base running runs scored (BsR). This ranked second in the league behind Mookie Betts and is .1 higher than Ben Revere. This says that while he might not steal as many bases, he is considered a slightly better all around base runner than Revere.
Long shots for the leadoff spot include:
Donaldson or Bautista: both of these guys provide a ton of value in the middle of the lineup but with so many other power hitters the Jays could opt to utilize the fact that these two guys get on base a lot (Donaldson .371 OBP in 2015, Bautista .377)
Russell Martin: Martin doesn't fit the mold of a traditional leadoff guy but takes a lot of good at bats where he sees a lot of pitches. His .329 OBP in 2015 isn't great but his career mark of .352 suggests he could bounce back.
Acquiring Drew Storen doesn't answer all the Jays questions. In fact, it might raise even more but it should still be a beneficial trade for the Jays as this teams looks to repeat magic in 2016.