Blue Jays interest in Jay Bruce: Opportunity for Saunders?
The Toronto Blue Jays left-fielder told general manager Ross Atkins that it will be the best non-trade he ever made
Blue Jays news has a habit of lingering.
The departure of David Price is a wound that has yet to heal, but on a smaller scale, the Blue Jays once-ongoing fascination with Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jay Bruce has shed some light on the organization’s short-term and long-term goals at the position.
According to team president Mark Shapiro, the most recent round of Bruce interest was primarily based on his added year of team control over Michael Saunders.
More from Toronto Blue Jays News
- Blue Jays: The goalposts are moving in the right direction
- Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays advance to the Championship Series
- Blue Jays: Comparisons for Alek Manoah’s Second Season
- Blue Jays: Adam Cimber, the unlikely decision King
- Toronto Blue Jays: Has the Shift Killed Kevin Gausman’s 2022 Cy Young Hopes?
“That trade was about a second year of control,” Shapiro said at a recent Pitch Talks event. “It wasn’t about not liking Michael Saunders. We love him and want him to be on the field and playing. We actually felt better about Michael’s upside than Jay Bruce’s upside. The extra year of control and maybe a bit more certainty were the reasons behind it.”
It’s an understandable stance on the two players. One of the main selling points with Bruce was his ability to stay on the field and hit for power, despite his recent regressions and largely unearned salary over the past two seasons, in which he’d posted a -0.8 WAR. Gulp.
Looking at this in the context of today, however, and mercifully breaking from the old storyline, this can be seen as real opportunity for Saunders.
Until shown otherwise, the Blue Jays will need to prepare for the worst with Jose Bautista. This means assuming that their star will not return in 2017, and with Saunders due to hit free agency after earning $2.9 million in his final arbitration year, that’s a lot of change for one outfield to take.
Dalton Pompey should be ready, while number one prospect Anthony Alford should be close by the spring of 2017, but he remains extremely raw for his age. Other pieces like Darrell Ceciliani, Junior Lake, or even someone like Dwight Smith Jr. could remain in the picture next year, but that’s an undeniable drop-off. All the while, we’re hoping that Kevin Pillar remains a 3.0-4.0+ WAR player.
So, what does this mean for Michael Saunders? Well, why not a potential extension by mid-season? Finding this “opportunity within the problem” was something that our Jim Scott already looked at last season with Saunders.
This is an idea that would work for both sides, and given the smaller-stakes financial aspect involved, the entire process would become even easier if Saunders plays up to his talent level and remains healthy.
Next: 2016 could be the year of the cutter for the Blue Jays
Given the state of Saunders’ surgically-repaired knee, this is a conversation that should (and likely will) be put on the back-burner for a couple months, but locking up the Canadian, even for one more year, would give the Blue Jays a safety net that could quickly become necessary. If the Jay Bruce attraction was about this extra year of control despite the higher upside in Saunders, then why not attack both?
Saunders has not hit his stride quite yet in the regular season, but an excellent spring has given reason for optimism that the 29-year-old can return to the form that earned him two separate 2.0+ WAR seasons.
Locking him up for 2017, should the opportunity present itself, would give the organization a much stabler baseline to work from as they enter an offseason of great change. As an extension candidate he is being buried behind Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in the headlines, even Brett Cecil and Drew Storen, but there is some legitimate value in beginning those talks early.