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Finding Offseason Targets For The Blue Jays

A cautious approach would allow the Blue Jays to easily transition into a rebuild if the team struggles.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Milwaukee Brewers
Neil Walker would represent a major upgrade offensively at second base.
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the 2017-2018 MLB Offseason!

The Blue Jays carry some serious work to do if they wish to contend, particularly in the middle infield and corner outfield positions. With a record of 76-86 last season, and minimal financial commitments after 2020, it is tough to see this team making a big run at a premier free agent like Yu Darvish or J.D. Martinez. Following the departure of Francisco Liriano, adding a starting pitcher is also a major need.

For the purpose of simplicity, we will assume that Josh Donaldson is a Blue Jay on opening day. If the team enters a full rebuild, this list of offseason targets simply becomes a list of top prospects. The Blue Jays are likely to avoid long-term contracts once again, as short-term deals would make it easier to transition into a rebuild if they choose to trade Donaldson mid-season.

Without further ado:

Jarrod Dyson

Dyson continues to be one of the most underrated players in baseball, and he’s been on my offseason targets list for years. He needs to be platooned, but his bat his more than capable against right-handed pitching, and he’s posted 5.2 WAR over the past two seasons. He will never win a silver slugger, but he provides plenty of value as a top-end base runner and gold-glove calibre outfielder.

MLB Trade Rumors projects him to receive a two year, $12 million deal contract, and this would be the bargain of the offseason. Signing Dyson would allow the Blue Jays to sit Kevin Pillar against tough right-handed starters, but playing them together would create one of the best outfield defences in all of baseball. Many teams will be focused on adding a big bat, but Toronto’s corner outfielders struggled defensively last year, and Dyson represents a massive upgrade.

Jurickson Profar

The former top prospect in baseball could be on his way out of Texas this offseason, and the Blue Jays are desperate to add middle infield depth. He’s struggled to the tune of a .229/.309/.329 batting line over 718 career plate appearances, but he performed reasonably well at AAA Round Rock this season with a higher walk rate than strikeout rate. He will turn 25 in February, and is capable of playing all over the field.

Profar possesses enough power to post a double digit home run total, and the offensive bar is quite low for a middle infielder. This is a “buy low” opportunity for the Blue Jays, and he is still only 24!

Neil Walker

Walker owns a career .275/.346/.458 (122 wRC+) batting line against right-handed pitching, and the Blue Jays were one of the worst offensive teams at second base in 2017. He is a below average defender, but his offence made him a 2+ WAR player in seven consecutive seasons. MLBTR projects him to receive a two year contract, and this fits the Blue Jays timeline in case they enter a rebuild.

Blue Jays second basemen hit .241/.291/.367 (72 wRC+) last season, and Walker is one of the best hitters in the league at this position. His bat is strong enough to split time at DH if the team is fully healthy, and Devon Travis has experience playing in the outfield from his minor league career.

Miles Mikolas

Mikolas last pitched in the majors in 2014, but it looks like his game is completely transformed. He is coming off of an incredible season in Japan, as he struck out a batter per inning across 27 starts, while walking just 1.1 per nine! To put this in perspective, no pitcher in the MLB posted a lower walk rate. His ability to generate swings-and-misses looks to be much improved, and MLBTR projects a modest two-year, $10 million contract.

There’s obviously some risk involved here, but this is a short-term gamble with a potentially high reward. If he falters, his contract will not devastate the team’s payroll. If all goes well, not only do the Blue Jays benefit from an improved rotation, but they would boast a solid trade chip if they rebuild.

Jaime Garcia

Garcia’s value is at an all-time low, and the Blue Jays are largely responsible for this. He posted a 4.41 ERA last season, which falls to approximately 4.10 if you take out his two starts against Toronto. He was on track to finish his season strongly, then the Blue Jays roughed him up for 5 earned runs in just 2.1 innings.

He’s started at least 27 games in each of the past two seasons, and the Jays can pencil him in for an ERA in the low to mid 4’s. This signing will not “wow” anyone, but he did post a 2.43 ERA in 2015, and kept his xFIP under 4.00 in 2016. Pitchers can be awfully unpredictable, but he looks capable of being a competent fifth starter.

Drew Hutchison

Remember him?

Brandon Morrow is a former Blue Jays starter who primarily offers a fastball-slider combination, and averaged 93 mph on his fastball as a starter. Drew Hutchison is a former Blue Jays starter who primarily offers a fastball-slider combination, and averaged 93 mph on his fastball as a starter. Rather than paying Morrow after a career year, the Jays should be looking to find the next Brandon Morrow.

Hutchison can always move back to the rotation if needed, but his ability to throw 95+ in relief could be his calling card. The question becomes: is he willing to move to the bullpen? A major league deal could convince him to do just that, but you could always try him again as a starter in spring training. He did not pitch in the majors this season, so this should be a low risk signing.

Dee Gordon

He’s owed $38 million in the final three years of his contract, and he comes with a club option for 2021 that works out to be worth $13 million. The Marlins might even pay a portion of his salary in a potential deal. He’s been worth 3+ WAR in three of the past four seasons, and much of his value comes from his above average defence and base-running.

Acquiring Gordon would require some creativity, as both Gordon and Devon Travis are limited to second base if they play the infield. However, moving one player to the outfield is a possibility, as Travis could potentially spend some time in left field, and Gordon’s speed could give him terrific range in centre.

Howie Kendrick

Kendrick is a career .291 hitter with a little bit of defensive versatility. He’s spent most of his last two seasons in left field, but he could also shift over to second base if Devon Travis is hurt. While we can expect below average defence at second base, his bat should still make him a solid contributor at this position.

Kendrick does not boast a ton of power or a high walk rate, so his bat is not as dangerous as your typical .291 hitter. Nevertheless, he can be a league average hitter against both lefties and righties, and cash in plenty of runners in scoring position with singles. MLB Trade Rumors projects a two year, $12 million contract for Kendrick, which is more than reasonable.

Jose Iglesias

He’s struggled greatly at the plate during the past two seasons, but his strong defensive play helped him to post 3.6 WAR during this span. If his bat can rebound to his 2014 or 2015 form, he would be a terrific addition. The Tigers are rebuilding, and Iglesias is set to become a free agent after next season.

Iglesias would split time with Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis, and given their injury history, you could almost guarantee him 100 games. It should not take much to acquire him in a trade, and the Jays should be looking at players like Iglesias rather than giving up top prospects.

Carlos Gonzalez

If the Blue Jays insist on adding a left-handed power hitter, Gonzalez is a much cheaper alternative to Jay Bruce. He owns terrific career numbers against right-handed pitching, and performs around a league average defensively in right field. Gonzalez will almost surely require a platoon partner, but he could be a solid bargain if he can bounce-back to his 2015 or 2016 form.

Gonzalez looks headed towards a one-year deal in order to re-establish himself, and he will look to prove that he can hit away from Coors Field. A one year commitment makes plenty of sense for the Jays, and Gonzalez could be an attractive trade chip at the deadline. MLBTR projects him to receive a one year, $12 million contract, but I will take the under on this prediction.

Other Notes

  • Signing Steve Pearce looked to provide strong value last season, but Justin Smoak’s emergence at first base leaves Pearce in a tough spot. He’s not great defensively in the corner outfield positions, and he’s set to earn $6.25 million this year. He looks like a candidate to be traded, and he could help a team looking for a big bat against left-handed pitching. He could also compete with Kendrys Morales to be the team’s primary designated hitter.
  • This team should not be investing a ton of money into the bullpen. Roberto Osuna is terrific, and the Blue Jays carry plenty of other needs in the field.
  • The Blue Jays should at least entertain offers for Josh Donaldson. The team could lose bargaining power mid-season, as the Jays would almost be forced to trade or extend him. They can’t let him walk for nothing. There’s also no guarantee that a team will be looking for help at third base at the trade deadline, as Kris Bryant, Justin Turner, Anthony Rendon, Alex Bregman, and Jose Ramirez all play for potential contenders. Opposing teams will go head-over-heels to get Donaldson, but the best time to trade him could be right now.