Another free agent target has slipped past the Toronto Blue Jays as outfielder Dexter Fowler is reportedly signing with the St. Louis Cardinals.
The deal was first reported by Frank Cusumano on Thursday evening and the deal is expected to be announced today.
This could be an unfortunate miss or a dodged bullet for the Blue Jays. That’s not something that will be clear until later this season — or May of 2018 — or July of 2020.
For now, though, the Toronto will need to move quickly to their secondary options, an area where they’ve proven to be willing and able. The candidates could be awfully familiar, too.
Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays appear to have renewed their interest in one another after meeting earlier this week, and with Bob Nightengale reporting that Bautista could be looking for a two-year deal, that unexpected reunion could begin to make much more sense.
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Bautista’s defence continued to regress in 2016, but if he is able to stay closer to 100% healthy by splitting time in one corner with the recently-acquired Steve Pearce, then his bat could surely offset that to some level.
Michael Saunders could also re-enter the conversation. Despite generating little free agent buzz this off-season, the Canadian is on the B-level tier of players available and should find a starting job in 2017. He comes with similar defensive limitations to Bautista and saw his production fall dramatically in the second half of 2016, though he did end the year with a career high 24 home runs and .815 OPS.
Melky Cabrera represents a potential trade target as the Chicago White Sox continue to strip down for a high-power rebuild.
The former Jays’ outfielder has two strong seasons and two poor ones over his last four, but hit .296 in 2016 with a .345 on-base percentage and .800 OPS. For a one-year plug the Blue Jays could do much worse, though his $15 million salary could be prohibitive.
Ben Revere’s name continues to curiously surface, as well. The 28-year-old bottomed out in 2016, posting a -1.2 WAR with a .560 OPS in Washington. He was non-tendered in November, and when his skill set is considered, offers very little that can’t already be provided by Dalton Pompey.
“Spread the wealth” has become the buzz term of this Blue Jays’ offseason, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Teams with the highest floor can find advantages over teams with the highest ceiling over the course of a 162-game season — and over the course of a seven-game series.
Plenty of work remains, though, and with the Blue Jays’ backup plans now representing the current tier of the market’s progression, it should soon be time to strike.