Because they have not yet addressed their vacant outfield position(s), the Blue Jays are expected to bring in at least one outfielder before spring training
The calendar has turned to 2017 (weird, huh?), and the Blue Jays continue to evaluate the free agent/trade market in search of at least one outfielder to add to the mix. By now you surely know the Blue Jays are set to potentially lose both Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders from their 2016 starting outfield, so there are moves to be made before opening day.
One of the reported goals of the offseason was for the Blue Jays to become a little more left-handed in their lineup (in addition to “younger” and “more athletic”), and thus far there hasn’t been much progress made on that front. The Jays signed switch-hitter Kendrys Morales to DH, but he is neither younger (33), nor more athletic. The only other significant free agent addition, Steve Pearce, is also 33 and bats from the right side.
Taking a quick scan of the available options in free agency, there aren’t many (if any) players that fit the description of what the front office had sought in the fall. Dexter Fowler, who the Blue Jays reportedly made an offer on, checked off all the boxes but signed with the St. Louis Cardinals in December.
With that in mind, there will have to be some obvious concessions made by the front office. It’s not a “tear it down” type of scenario, so there is still a need to add to a club that could potentially contend in 2017, especially with the AL’s best rotation returning in tact (Liriano in for Dickey, but you know what I mean).
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There have been mixed reports of interest in a reunion with Bautista, but not much else has surfaced beyond Jon Morosi’s tweet last week. Beyond that, the only other outfielders loosely connected to the Blue Jays would be their own free agent in Saunders, and some small chatter around Brandon Moss. Moss, 32, hits left-handed, but also has his own set of drawbacks as well.
Several Blue Jays fans are leery of re-signing Saunders, especially after watching him crater in the second half. At the All-Star break (which Saunders was chosen for), the Canadian slugger was hitting .298/.372/.551 with 16 home runs and 42 RBI through 305 at bats. It led to talk of possibly extending the qualifying offer to Saunders as a free agent, but alas he fell apart in the second half. Here’s a visual:
1st half: .298/.372/.551, 16 HR, 42 RBI, 25 doubles in 305 at bats
2nd half: .178/.282/.357, 8 HR, 15 RBI, 7 doubles in 185 at bats.
It’s well-documented by now, and many fans are reluctant to get excited about a reunion with Saunders with his 2nd half struggles so fresh in their memories.
For the sake of argument, let’s look at Brandon Moss’ splits:
1st half: .256/.344/.566, 17 HR, 40 RBI, 13 doubles, 219 at bats
2nd half: .191/.242/.392, 11 HR, 27 RBI, 6 doubles, 194 at bats.
Moss’ playing time was a little more even across the season, but the totals aren’t all that different. What about the righty-lefty splits?
RHP: .247/.332/.451, 16 HR, 44 RBI, 26 doubles, 381 at bats
LHP: .275/.358/.569, 8 HR, 13 RBI, 6 doubles, 109 at bats
RHP: .223/.303/.525, 25 HR, 52 RBI. 14 doubles, 301 at bats
LHP: .232/.289/.375. 3 HR, 15 RBI, 5 doubles, 112 at bats
Saunders hit surprisingly well against lefties, while Moss struggled, especially in the power department. The former Cardinal does offer more on the defensive end as an outfielder, and positional flexibility with the ability to play first, but is also two years older.
The Blue Jays are still working on the trade front as well, but there are no obvious fixes in that market either, at least that appear within reach of their farm system.
MLBTR predicted three years and $33 million for Saunders (back in November), and it appears his market won’t be anywhere near that range. They predicted two years and $14 million for Moss, which sounds more realistic at this stage, maybe for both players.
The good news is, with the market developing as slowly as it has, it’s possible one or both could fall into a different range. With Rajai Davis signing a one-year, $6 million dollar contract with Oakland on Tuesday, Saunders and Moss could be looking for something similar or not much higher, at least in terms of AAV. If we’re talking about that range, Saunders or Moss could provide a solid platoon partner for Melvin Upton, while also leaving financial flexibility to pursue other outfielders, and/or bullpen upgrades.
If it came down to Saunders or Moss, would would you rather have? The options are dwindling and spring training draws near, so this may well be a question the Blue Jays’ front office is asking themselves.