The Toronto Blue Jays Do Not Need to Acquire a Centerfielder
If you have not noticed, our sister site, Tip of the Tower, occasionally will venture into baseball in Toronto. Today, Braydon Holmyard wrote a theoretical piece on possible trade targets for the Centre Field position.
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Later today at 2 PM, here at Jays Journal, we’ll have another
Jays Nest Podcast featuring Dalton Pompey
. So in keeping with today’s theme, I thought I would respectfully debate Mr. Holmyard’s article. The Toronto Blue Jays do not need to acquire a centerfielder.
If you have not read it yet, you should. It’s thought out, however I’m not sold on the ideas. Braydon downplays the idea of Kevin Pillar and Dalton Pompey being the everyday CFs for the Blue Jays. As his article suggests, he targets the Colorado Rockies’ Drew Stubbs, San Diego Padres’ Cameron Maybin, and St.Louis Cardinals’ Peter Bourjos as players not as relevant to their respective clubs due to offseason transactions.
The question that instantly came to my mind was “why?” I’ll be quick to say that yes, two relatively inexperienced guys like Pompey and Pillar does make me a bit nervous. However, you do not gain experience by not getting any playing time.
Rather than break this down player by player, let’s break it down with three key categories with former Blue Jays CF Colby Rasmus as the baseline: Defense, Offense, and Cost.
[table id=74 /]
Thanks to Fangraphs.com for this helpful information. Defense is where Bourjos shines. Notice where the Blue Jays players are off in the distance. Bourjos is well known for his speed and he clearly uses it. It gives him incredible range and with that, standout defense. He’s the far superior CF based off most stats… but is he?
His UZR/150 is the stat I’m paying attention to for two reasons. 1.) UZR is considered to be a more complete defensive grading system and the 150 simply means factored over 150 games. 2.) The 150 is important for a guy like Pompey, with only 27 innings under his belt playing CF at the major league level.
Take notice to Pompey’s UZR/150. It sits at 15.2. That’s second best on this chart and shows that Pompey and Bourjos are interchangeable defensively. If you look at Defensive Runs Saved, Bourjos also stands out here at 7 DRS, but Pillar is at 3 and has a better arm. Pillar’s UZR/150 isn’t too shabby either, placing him 3rd on this list.
While Maybin’s defensive stats show him to be quite suitable, they don’t make him stand out in comparison to Pompey and Pillar. Sure, it’s still an upgrade over Rasmus, but negligible to Pompey and Pillar. Stubbs UZR and UZR/150 are a bit baffling. He has the best arm on the list and also makes less errors, yet outside of Rasmus, he grades out being the worst.
One player not factored into Holmyard’s article for inhouse CF options was Michael Saunders. After conducting this defensive review, it’s not hard to see why. If you thought Rasmus’ defense was (uncharacteristically) bad, Saunders wins the Mayor Ford award for being the trainwreck of this defensive CF list. In 2012 and 2013, he was a -19 and -14 DRS respectively and carried a wonderful -5.3 and -19.7 UZR/150. So if Saunders is the fallback plan, it might be worth looking for another plan.
[table id=75 /]
Fangraph.com’s customizable charts can be hours of fun and I want to thank them for making me appear intelligent, “ill-be-it” we know this to be false… maybe.
Point being, based off of this graph, Holmyard’s case for Stubbs is justified here. Of all the players on this list, Stubbs had the best 2014 while playing a combination of 4th OF/Full Time (due to injuries). What’s not pointed out is outside of stealing bases, Stubbs has never been much better than Rasmus. In fact, he’s as much of an enigma as Rasmus.
Sure, you could say Stubbs “put it together” last season, but he did this in Colorado, a place where decent players find uncharacteristic power and trick you into believing in them. Stubbs one and only season in the AL was in Cleveland and it went a little something like this: better than career average BB% and K%, yet .233 BA. More PAs and GPs, yet less HRs (10) and wRC+ (87). He was not just an offensive liability (-2.6), but a defensive liability (-6.3) as well. He was replaceable (0.7 WAR) and that’s what Cleveland did.
Let’s turn our eyes to Maybin. Offensively, at 77 wRC+, a BABIP that is below his career average (.313) over the past 3 seasons, and an ISO (.097) that makes Chris Getz chuckle. I haven’t even factored in the cost ($8M in 2015 plus whatever prospect that’s going there, $1M buyout for 2016… he won’t be renewed for $9M). Maybin can be written off at this point among trade ideas to improve Toronto.
Bourjos offense screams 4th OF, but since the Jays already have a few, then why trade for Bourjos? Pompey, in his limited PAs, has shown the potential to be offensively better than Bourjos and as good defensively. Bourjos has been trying to place his offensive stamp at the MLB level for five years, with 2011 being no different than, say, 2006 Reed Johnson. Sure, Blue Jays fans would take that, but Pompey has shown better MiLB numbers than Bourjos, Bourjos hasn’t done anything close to his 2011 since, and Pompey’s 2014 wRC+ (104) was higher than not just Bourjos (82), but Rasmus as well (103). Even FanGraph’s Steamer/600 wRC+ projections show Pompey to be on par (81) with Bourjos (86). So, at worst, the Blue Jays have the same 4th OF as the Cardinals. Why give up a minor league player if that’s the case?
Speaking of Reed Johnson, Pillar has shown an ability to hit on every level. Before somebody says “Yea, well Travis Snider did too,” have you seen Snider’s numbers from 2014 and his projections for 2015? That’s a story in itself, but listen; Pillar grades out to be Reed Johnson with a weaker arm. Is there one person reading this article that wouldn’t take a 2004-2006 Reed Johnson? Again, at worst, a 4th OF, but with enough plate appearances, the potential to be better than that is high.
According to anybody who will listen to Rogers Communications, the Blue Jays WILL increase payroll. If ever there was a time to do so, last season, near the trade deadline, would have been it. Rogers wallet didn’t open. Disgruntled players spoke up and were later sent packing.
To further this point, the most pressing needs the Blue Jays have are at 2B and 1B. The solutions so far? Not inspiring: Maicer Izturis and Justin Smoak/Danny Valencia respectively.
To acquire Drew Stubbs from Colorado, Holmyard says it may cost Dioner Navarro and a prospect. Essentially, the swap would make Stubbs $5.8M negligible as Navarro is around that price and then you factor in the MiLB player. Making a move like this would also mean R.A. Dickey gets his wish and Josh Thole starts the year with Toronto. In this sense, making a move for a one hit wonder also makes sense. Toronto wouldn’t be crazy enough to overpay for a one-hit wonder though would they? (SEE: Russell Martin)
With Cameron Maybin, the cost would be $8M and… well… I’m moving on from Maybin.
Peter Bourjos, again, is intriguing. He would come at a low cost of $1.6M. There’s one more arbitration year to go before he hits free agency. He’s attainable, though maybe less so with St.Louis’ loss Oscar Tavares.
Again, however, Pompey is essentially Bourjos at worse. Pompey is also younger and under team control. With more playing time, the complaints of “Pompey’s not experienced enough” go away because the Blue Jays and fans find out whether or not he’s ready. Same goes for Pillar as well.
Whatever the outcome may be, it may be a far cry from the problems that crop on on the right side of the infield. Pitcher and catchers report in two weeks. Questions will start to be answered then.