Keeping an eye on the changing values of the Blue Jays set to hit free agency
The Blue Jays have several key players set to hit free agency in a few months’ time as well as a handful of complimentary pieces. We’ll be keeping an eye on the trends and potential market values of these impending free agents until the bidding opens up this fall.
The main focus right now should, of course, be on the present as the Blue Jays are preparing to play meaningful baseball down the stretch but it’s hard not to turn one’s mind to the intriguing upcoming offseason occasionally. So let’s take a few minutes to indulge our speculative urges and then get right back to enjoying the current ride.
We’ll take a look at each major league Blue Jays’ player set to become a free agent and summarize their general market vector at the moment.
Jose Bautista: Way Down
2016 actual salary: $14m
Estimated 2016 value: 0.76 predicted WAR (bWAR and fWAR have been averaged together and assuming he keeps up his year to date pace), $6.12 million (assuming 1 WAR = ~$8m [on open market])
Bautista’s value is at its lowest ebb perhaps since he first became a Blue Jay. Bautista gambled with hard ball negotiation tactics this past offseason and the cards have turned definitively against him. For a player hoping to get paid like a superstar, he might have to eventually accept getting paid like a league average player.
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Bautista may have actually turned into a buy low candidate.
Nearly every defensive metric (even the ol’ eye-test at this point) is strongly suggesting that Bautista shouldn’t be roaming the outfield anymore. His power numbers have tapered off as well but he’s still getting on base at a high clip and his .229 BABIP suggests some bad luck is involved.
Bautista has two more months to rebuild his value and it’s hard to imagine it staying this low but at the same time it’s very difficult to imagine any team giving him anything anywhere close to what he desired.
Michael Saunders: Down Lately, Way up overall in 2016
2016 actual salary: $2.9m
Estimated 2016 value: 3.22 WAR, $25.76m
No, Michael Saunders is of course not getting anything close to $25m per year this fall but in spite of a recent slump, he’s worth more than he’s ever been. Teams will be sceptical of him being able to replicate this production in subsequent years and of his injury history.
With a strong finish, and perhaps a strong playoff showing, Saunders could be considered a top 10 free agent.
2016 actual salary: $10m
Estimated 2016 value: 3.76 WAR, $30.05m
Encarnacion has been due for a raise for a long time and will be getting a large one this offseason. He isn’t currently as hot as he was in June but with every RBI (not an endorsement of RBI but many decision makers still value it) and HR he adds to his league leading totals his potential bounty grows.
Encarnacion is having the opposite contract year to Bautista. He’s shown his bat is as potent as ever and that he remains serviceable part-time at first.
His age and fondness for Toronto may be limiting factors on his total haul.
R.A Dickey: Down
2016 actual salary: $12m
Estimated 2016 value: 0.4 WAR, $3.2m
Like Bautista, R.A Dickey is having a rough contract year and like Bautista it could make him a buy low candidate. For a cheap rotation insurance policy, you could do a lot worse. One thing Dickey has not lost, nor is likely to, is his durability.
If he’s hoping to get paid like an average MLB starter, he’ll have to have a remarkable finish to this season. His 16.8 HR/FB is inflated but his walk rate has increased and his BABIP is not due for much regression.
Josh Thole: Down
2016 actual salary: $0.8m
Estimated 2016 value: -0.66 WAR, $0m/league minimum
Thole’s fortunes are tied to Dickey’s. Without R.A, Josh won’t have an major league job
Joaquin Benoit: Up
2016 actual salary: $8m
Estimated 2016 value: 0 WAR, $0m/league minimum
The numbers here a deceptive. Benoit has been a 0 WAR player overall this season but a 0.3 WAR player since joining the Jays. Based on his time in Toronto, his maintained velocity and considering his long track record of success, he should be able to secure a modest relief deal for 2017.
Scott Feldman: Down
2016 actual salary: $8m
Estimated 2016 value: 0.44 WAR, $3.52 m
Feldman was a starter last year and is now a swingman. That alone means his value has decreased in 2016 but he proved quite effective in the role for Houston. He’s had a rough start to his Jays career but Feldman still should be able to find a MLB deal as a cheap swingman next season
Jason Grilli: Up
2016 actual salary: $3.5m
Estimated 2016 value: 0.89 WAR, $7.13 m
Picking up his $3m 2017 option once seemed like a long shot but is now almost a no-brainer. Grilli has done an about-face since being traded to the Jays.
Brett Cecil: Down
2016 actual salary: $3.8m
Estimated 2016 value: -0.31 WAR, $0m/league minimum
Cecil had been an excellent reliever for several years before 2016. It was once feared Cecil would pitch out of the Blue Jays price range but now he could become a cheap, low-risk, rebound (consider his .368 BABIP and 18.2% HR/FB in 2016) signing for 2017. Cecil still has a dozen or so opportunities to try and rebuild his value somewhat (perhaps more in the postseason).
Gavin Floyd: Down
2016 actual salary: $1m
Estimated 2016 value: 0.2 WAR, $1.6m
Another injury for Gavin Floyd will hurt his value but he was adequate in ‘pen for the Jays and could still find a MLB deal similar to one he signed this year.