It's now December 23rd, and the Blue Jays still have plenty of work to do. The average fan seems to be getting frustrated, but let's remember that patience is a virtue. This "ten thoughts" feature is inspired by Elliott Friedman, as his "30 thoughts" pieces are always a terrific read.
1) Jose Bautista did not grade out well defensively in 2015, yet still managed to post a 4.4 WAR season. He's projected for a higher on-base percentage than Dexter Fowler, and he would be an ideal candidate to lead off for the Blue Jays in 2017. At this point, a reunion makes a ton of sense for both sides, especially if the Blue Jays can get him on a short-term deal.
Let's predict a two-year, $34 million deal for the veteran slugger. John Gibbons can compare the defensive abilities of Bautista and Steve Pearce, and ultimately decide the best possible arrangement. Given the injury history of both players, there could be plenty of time to share at first base. Ultimately, the Blue Jays have plenty of money to spend, and Bautista now represents the best player on the market.
2) Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan are the best left-handed relievers on the market, but let's hope the Blue Jays opt to spend the money on a bat. The price of relief pitching is through the roof, and it's smarter to target cheaper alternatives. Flying under the radar is J.P. Howell, as his 4.09 ERA from last season limits his market. Taking a closer look, Howell posted a 3.08 ERA following his first three appearances, and he's managed to keep his ERA under 3 almost every year. Logan tends to give up a ton of hard contact, and Blevins could cost the moon. Ross Atkins should target Howell and save his budget for Bautista, Curtis Granderson, or Brandon Moss.
3) Chris Iannetta has been linked to the Jays this offseason, and signing him would make plenty of sense. Despite a low batting average, his ability to draw a walk would be a welcoming addition at the bottom of the lineup, and he could see his power numbers improve in the American League East. Iannetta remains one of the better offensive catchers against left-handed pitching, so the Blue Jays can pick and choose his spots effectively. If Russell Martin heads to the disabled list, Iannetta would make a strong platoon partner for the left-handed hitting Reese McGuire.
If Iannetta can get back to pre-2015 form the Jays would get incredible value. Ultimately, no roster spot should be overlooked, and strong depth at catcher could surely come in handy. Best guess: 1 year, $3.5 million.
4) Jorge de la Rosa struggled to the tune of a 5.51 ERA last season, but could make plenty of sense as a possible swingman. Pitching in Colorado is a nightmare, and his walk rate looks bound to improve based on the number of pitches he throws in the strike zone. Lefties have hit just .229 against him over his career, so he could also factor in as a left-handed reliever when he is in the bullpen. Toronto's front office traded for three pitchers with major command problems last season in Jason Grilli, Joaquin Benoit, and Fransisco Liriano, so there is a precedent here. If he comes as cheap as expected, he's worth taking a flyer on.
5) Jay Bruce grades out as a below-average defender at this point in his career. The Blue Jays are clearly in the market for an outfielder, and given the fact that Toronto nearly acquired him last offseason, it is easy to see why MLB insiders are making the connection. However, Bruce's defensive stats look even worse this time around, so do not be surprised if this front office changed their stance. Brandon Moss is an average defender with a similar offensive profile, so it is difficult to see a trade for Bruce making any sense. I'll be surprised if Toronto is actually interested.
6) Dalton Pompey could become a solid platoon partner for Melvin Upton Jr., but expect the Blue Jays to bring in some competition for spring training. With above average defence and base running, Pompey does not have to hit all that much to become a decent MLB player, and he is better against right-handed pitching. Ezequiel Carrera is typically better against southpaws, but did receive plenty of playing time down the stretch. Alejandro de Aza and Chris Coughlan would be strong fits to compete with Pompey in spring training, and Darrell Ceciliani could even surprise. All in all, the Blue Jays should certainly look to add one outfielder, but the team can probably manufacture one decent platoon option as is.
7) Ben Revere is expected to sign with a team this afternoon, but Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet tells us the Blue Jays are not expected to be involved. Many fans seem to remember Revere as a .300 hitter, but his lack of power and low walk totals consistently make him a below league-average bat. I expect a bounce-back season from Revere, but i'm not convinced that he's any better than Pompey. If Toronto is going to add a cheap outfield option. it makes more sense to target players that crush right-handed pitching, which allows Melvin Upton Jr. to impress versus southpaws.
8) Defence always seems to fly under the radar, but it is worth noting that the World Series Champion Cubs led the league with 82 defensive runs saved last season. Chicago's rotation benefited greatly, as four starters posted an ERA under 3.50. The Blue Jays finished eighth in defensive runs saved with 28, despite Michael Saunders and Jose Bautista costing 19 runs in the outfield. If neither player returns, the team defence could be outstanding, and expect some impressive ERA's throughout the pitching staff. I'll take Bautista back at the right price, but running an elite defence also carries value.
9) Ryan Goins is out of options, as per the Blue Jays Option and Outright Status Table. The question becomes: is he worth keeping on the 25-man to protect him from waivers? Goins is just one season removed from a 1.5 WAR season, and his glove is a clear asset at times. However, given his lack of offence, I would take the risk if everyone is healthy. Ezequiel Carrera is another player who is out of options, but I'd be surprised if he was given away for nothing. Still, it's tough to see much of a purpose for Carrera if Pompey makes the team out of spring training. To protect from a loss of depth, the Blue Jays should look to be active on the minor league free agent front.
10) Edwin Encarnacion's departure hurts as a Blue Jays fan, but I have a hard time placing much blame on the front office. Toronto made a strong offer early in the offseason, and it made plenty of sense to move on once it was declined. However, I am not as high on Kendrys Morales, and giving him a three year contract still seems excessive. Fortunately, Steve Pearce could end up providing tremendous value, and there's still plenty of money to spend. There will certainly be some late-offseason spending by the Blue Jays, so let's avoid heavy criticism until we see how it all plays out.