According to reports from Fox MLB reporter Jon Morosi, the Blue Jays are still looking for a left-handed leadoff man with a strong on-base percentage for the 2017 season. Two names he suggested were Dexter Fowler, through the free agent market, and Adam Eaton, through the trade market.
This comes a day after Shi Davidi reported utility man Sean Rodriguez was a possibility for the Jays on a short term financially rewarding deal.
Fowler is reportedly seeking a multi-year deal in the neighbourhood of $15-$20 million per season, which shouldn't surprise many given that he rejected a qualifying offer of $17.2 million over one season. Yes, that means that if the Blue Jays or any other team were to sign Fowler, it would cost them a first round draft pick in the 2017 amateur draft.
Now it's not as if Fowler is a fringe level player who doesn't merit a first round draft pick. He's an impressive player coming off an impressive season. In a career year by fWAR, Fowler hit an impressive .276/.393/.447 while manning the Chicago outfield for the Cubs as a plus defender. His on-base percentage was second only to the AL MVP winning Mike Trout, which is remarkable considering he didn't make a substantial jump over his .366 career on-base percentage atop a stacked Cubs lineup.
In Fowler, the Jays would no doubt be getting a quality lead off man who can get on base while replacing Michael Saunders in the outfield. The question is whether they would be willing to part ways with a draft pick to do it. With each day it seems the likelihood of either of Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista returning becomes more grim, meaning that the Jays would have three first round picks in next year's draft.
The front office has been quite vocal about trying to restock the farm system while remaining competitive so it's unclear whether they would be willing to sacrifice even a single draft pick to pick up another player. If they do, having Fowler on a three to four year deal wouldn't be the worst thing in the world while still being ahead with two first round picks rather than three.
The second name Morosi mentioned is one that makes you scratch your head more, sitting in your general manager's arm chair at home. Adam Eaton is a good player. If he can replicate his 2016 he might even be a great player. He hit .284/.362/.428 with 14 home runs while being one of the best defensive outfielders in the game, saving 20 runs by Fangraphs' records. Having him in your outfield alongside Kevin Pillar would boast as one of the best, if not the best, defensive outfields in the entire major leagues, regardless of who's standing in left field.
The part that makes you scratch your head isn't why the Jays would be interested in Eaton, but rather, why would the White Sox be willing to part ways with him? At 27, Eaton is only now working into the prime of his career, as evidenced by his peak year in 2016, and is fresh off signing a five year extension that goes until 2019 for $23.5 million. In his contract, he will be making $4 million next season, followed by $6 million in 2018 and $8.4 million in his final season with a club option for the 2020, 2021 seasons valued at $9.5 and $10.5 million per season.
For someone who is 27 and is coming off a season where he was worth 6.0 fWAR, that salary is nearly unfathomable. Even if you don't believe he is a 6.0 WAR player, and is closer to his two former seasons at around three wins per season, that's still a massive underpay. It could be one of the most valuable, team-friendly, contracts in baseball. Why the White Sox would be even willing to listen to trade offers for Eaton is beyond me.
That said, acquiring Eaton may require a pretty shiny penny. Not only are you getting a quality player, you're getting a quality player at a rock-bottom financial price. My guess is that you would have to sacrifice, at least, a major league player off your roster in addition to a top-five prospect. As a possibility, I'd consider either Marcus Stroman or Devon Travis in addition to one of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Anthony Alford, Rowdy Tellez, Connor Greene or Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
In the end, that might not even be enough. After all, you are buying a talent that has reached its highest stock level to date. I'm no market expert, but one is typically advised not to purchase stock at its highest price, especially when its valued twice as high as it was in year's past.
Given the Jays aforementioned desire to restock the farm system, this deal might not even begin to make sense. Maybe Morosi is completely off in this tweet. Maybe it was a typo. It does make you wonder though.
What if, right?