Toronto Blue Jays free agent options: Under-the-radar outfielders

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Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Blue Jays enter free agency with at least one starting corner outfield job available

Shortly following the conclusion of the World Series, the Toronto Blue Jays will begin the daunting task of retooling a roster with numerous openings.

Calling them ‘holes’ would be a disservice given the talent of the existing roster and the potential for several of the Blue Jays’ own free agents to return, but Ross Atkins, Mark Shapiro and co. have their work cut out for them.

A primary area of need comes in the corner outfield — perhaps both of them. With Michael Saunders and Jose Bautista hitting the open market, at least one starting outfield job has been left vacant. Either player could return, of course, and the Blue Jays do have the trio of Melvin Upton Jr., Ezequiel Carrera, and Dalton Pompey ready to compete for increased roles on the 2017 roster.

If free agency is Toronto’s route of choice, their options are plentiful. Whereas the starting pitching market is worryingly thin, the outfield market presents opportunity at several different levels. This lines up well for the Blue Jays.

Last week, we explored some of the big-name options that will be on Toronto’s radar in free agency or trade. This week, it’s time to take a look at the options more grounded in reality.

If the Blue Jays choose to address other areas with greater aggression — be it their bullpen, first base (Edwin Encarnacion), or general depth — the outfield market could make better sense to them financially at the ‘B’ level. Here are some names that you can expect to hear:

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Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Moss  –  33 years old
2016 team:  St. Louis Cardinals

The Blue Jays corner outfield decisions could hinge largely on their confidence in re-signing Edwin Encarnacion, and someone like Moss could embody that.

While he may not offer much value with his defence or speed on the bases, Moss does represent affordable power if the Blue Jays front office deems that to be desirable. Moss is not longer be the offensive force he was with the Oakland Athletics from 2012 to 2014, where he posted a 2.0+ fWAR and 20+ home runs each season, but he’s not far off.

2014 ★30OAK1475805007011723225811067153.234.334.438.772
10 Yrs8983120277137866714517138423911291840.241.319.455.773

One of the foremost appeals of Moss is that he is a left-handed hitter. Outside of the switch-hitting Justin Smoak, whose role remains uncertain in 2017, the Blue Jays are lacking when it comes to lefty bats.

The question is, can Moss do enough against left-handed pitching to remain an everyday impact in the lineup? He posted an .828 OPS versus right-handed pitching in 2016, but lefties held him to a .664 mark with a poor K:BB ratio. His career splits are much closer, however, and his 2015 splits are actually reversed in terms of OPS, so 2016 could be an outlier.

Defensively, Moss has split his time between the corner outfields and first base. His metrics suggest that he’s stronger in the outfield, where he posted a 5.3 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) compared to a -3.3 mark at first. His career numbers balance out to suggest the same, so while he’s not necessarily Kevin Pillar, he’s not Jose Bautista, either.

Moss’ 28 home runs this season were the second-most of his career, but did come alongside a low .225 batting average and .300 on-base percentage. Therein lies a problem for Toronto, as his 141 strikeouts in 128 games don’t necessarily align with their goal to become a stronger contact team.

Up Next:  The outfield market’s ultimate wild card

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