Dexter Fowler, Yoenis Cespedes, and Ian Desmond all signed in the New Year last offseason. Although the Blue Jays are getting criticized for a boring offseason thus far, this comes to show you that the best deals are often found after December 31st. With plenty of money left to spend, it should be an entertaining couple of months leading up to spring training.
Steve Pearce was a terrific signing for the Blue Jays. Over the past five seasons, Pearce owns a 118 wRC+ against right-handed pitching, which is right up there with Albert Pujols, Manny Machado, Troy Tulowitzki, Francisco Lindor, and Starling Marte during that span. Given that Pearce is known for his hitting against left-handed pitching, many fans will be surprised at just how dangerous this bat will become.
The question becomes: where does Pearce play? Essentially, the offseason game plan revolves around this question. If you view him as an outfielder, it could make sense to acquire a first baseman. On the other hand, if you view him as a first baseman, the Jays have a major need for an outfielder.
I went back and watched some of Pearce's defensive play in game action, and I question his speed in the outfield. He should be a better defender than Jose Bautista at this point, but I believe his range is average at best. However, he does look like a plus defender at first base, and should be able to fill in occasionally at second. Despite what you hear from Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler, Justin Smoak is not a plus defender at first base, and I'm confident that Pearce would represent an upgrade in this area.
I'd take the above-average glove at first base, and only let Pearce play the outfield as a Plan B. The Blue Jays can test his ability in the outfield when an injury occurs, rather than gambling on his questionable speed. This option offers more flexibility throughout the season, and Justin Smoak should only play against the toughest right-handed starters.
Looking For An Outfielder (Or Two):
Let's start with a name that's been mentioned a lot around here lately: Brandon Moss. The left-handed slugger finished second in the majors in batted ball distance, and many of his 28 home runs were no-doubters. If he plays 145 games in the American League East, I wouldn't rule out a 40 home run season.
Moss will not be the fastest outfielder in the majors, but expect league average defence in a corner. I'd take a shot on his adequate outfield defence for one year, but a two-year deal also makes sense if it is around the $14 million guaranteeestimated by MLBTR. Moss' bat should play so well in the Rogers Centre that the Blue Jays will find a trade partner down the line if needed. Two years, $14 million looks like quite a good deal.
The other free agent option that makes plenty of sense is Colby Rasmus, but it's tough to tell if either side would be interested in a reunion. Rasmus was worth 20 defensive runs saved in the outfield last season, and I'd expect his bat to bounce-back against right-handed pitching. If we look only at on-field production, Rasmus should provide tremendous value, but I'm skeptical that both sides will be open to a reunion. If the Blue Jays don't mind his presence in the locker room, I'd sign him and Moss, rather than giving up value in a trade.
Exploring Trade Options With The New York Mets
There are three starting spots for Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, Juan Lagares, Jay Bruce, and Michael Conforto in New York, so clearly something has to give here. Bruce, given his poor range, does not make much sense for Toronto.
Granderson, Conforto, and Brandon Nimmo represent great fits with the Blue Jays. Toronto is able to absorb the entirety of Granderson's $15 million salary, and could offer a bullpen piece such as Jason Grilli to headline the return. I'd count on average defence from Granderson in a corner, and he could even be used as a strong leadoff option against right-handed pitching.
My best guess: the Mets offload Bruce to a team such as the Orioles or Rangers, allowing them to keep Granderson to play some centre field. This gives Conforto a greater opportunity to earn playing time, and the young outfielder could breakout in a big way.
Even if the Mets do trade Bruce, Brandon Nimmo is still likely available. The left-handed hitting outfielder will be 24 at the start of next season, yet does not have a clear path to playing time in the Mets organization. Nimmo's been in their organization since 2011, and it's possible some "prospect fatigue" has set in here. This reminds me of the Devon Travis trade: he's a prospect coming off a strong minor league season, but with no clear path to a starting spot.
Nimmo is an extremely patient hitter, maybe even too patient, which consistently leads to a fair share of base on balls. He grades out as a strong defender in a corner, and could even spend some time in centre. He managed to hit 11 home runs in 97 games at AAA last year, but his ability to get on base should be his calling card.
The Mets could use help in the bullpen, and the Blue Jays could dangle Jason Grilli or even Joe Biagini in trade talks. Ezequiel Carrera could also be sent the other way as a replacement for the backup outfielder role. Ultimately, Nimmo and Pompey could compete for a job in spring training, and the Blue Jays should find solid production from at least one of the two options.
Current Wish List:
- Curtis Granderson
- Jose Bautista (Assuming he comes cheaper than once expected)
- Brandon Moss
- Brandon Nimmo
- J.P. Howell
- Colby Rasmus
- Chris Iannetta
- Jose Lobaton
- Hank Conger
- Scott Feldman
- Jorge de la Rosa