The Toronto Blue Jays are stockpiling outfield talent at or near the MLB level. Trade or not, this is good business after the left field situation in 2015
Friday’s claim of former Cubs and Orioles outfielder Junior Lake stacks another piece of outfield depth on top of an already impressive pile. This depth goes past the Major League level through AA and AAA, but regardless of Toronto’s next move, this is smart business in the present.
Lake’s addition re-invigorated the conversation around Toronto’s surplus of MLB-ready outfielders, an area that many see as a valuable trade tool in adding a middle-of-rotation starter or better. Kevin Pillar and Dalton Pompey both offer a very high market value while Michael Saunders or Ben Revere could start on many rosters. Lake and the names around him don’t push Toronto’s hand in any way, but their presence does give the Blue Jays one less reason to say no.
For the sake of inventory, let’s take a look at the current outfielders Toronto holds that have the potential to play at the AA New Hampshire level or higher in 2016.
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After Jose Bautista, Pillar and Revere on the MLB roster, it’s likely that Saunders sticks in a reserve role. This leaves a generous group of outfielders to fill AA and AAA throughout the season. Top prospect Anthony Alford headlines the group with Pompey, Roemon Fields, Melky Mesa, Ezequiel Carrera, Dwight Smith Jr. and Junior Lake. When we also factor in still-developing prospects like D.J. Davis, impending MiLB signings and the less-impactful depth pieces that will fill the cracks around them, this is an area of undeniable wealth.
With this, the question of “Who would replace them?” will not play a heavy factor in any trade talks Toronto has. Trade Pillar? Enter Pompey. Trade Revere? Enter Saunders. Trade Pompey? Enter Lake. Along those loose lines, it continues down.
That being said, “See depth, trade depth” is too often the only reaction to situations such as this. Given factors such as health, uncertainties around players like Lake and the volatile nature of prospects, why not enjoy what Toronto has? A look to the first four months of 2015 can quickly show the value in doing so.
After the injury to Saunders and the quick demotion of Pompey, Toronto was soon left with Carrera and even Chris Colabello fumbling around in left field. With the current depth makeup, Toronto is two injuries away from Pompey seeing regular action and three injuries away from Lake. By season’s end, assuming all goes well, they will also have names like Fields, Smith Jr. and Alford within the realm of possibility. Simply put, there will be no Outfield Colabello with this depth.
It’s happened quietly, and 95% of the praise should remain with Alex Anthopoulos, but Toronto has built a true plus position from the AA position upwards. With their MLB-ready infield and pitching depth/prospects further off, having these outfielders in place is of great value to Toronto. Not to mention the fine people of Buffalo and New Hampshire.
So while we shouldn’t treat the Lake addition like something it isn’t, Toronto’s depth is now without much fault. If the right deal comes along, that’s one less thing to worry about. If not, then Blue Jays fans can find solace in the organization’s deepest position.