The time to win is now for the Blue Jays. While they boast a great roster, there are still positions that could benefit from an upgrade. Here are a few realistic moves the Blue Jays could make to solidify their 2017 squad.
Let’s be frank – the Blue Jays are in win-now mode. While they were not willing to open up the chequebook to bring back slugger Edwin Encarnacion, the team still has a team capable of making a run.
However, any team that has a platoon as bad as Carrupton (Ezequiel Carrera/Melvin Upton Jr.) will more than likely not have a whole lot of success in the playoffs. While both are capable fourth outfielders, neither is worthy of a whole lot of playing time.
To go along with Carrupton, the Blue Jays (for some reason that is beyond comprehensible) continue to have confidence in Justin Smoak as a starting first baseman. While Smoak could be a semi-productive guy off the bench (good glove, switch hitter, pop), he simply strikes out way too much to play as much as he is on pace to play in 2017.
In addition to the position players, the Blue Jays have a few question marks in their bullpen. While the team is loaded with depth, they really do not have that bullpen ace outside closer Roberto Osuna. Building a bridge to Osuna will be vital for the team this season, as they cannot afford to be blowing games in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
With next year being a huge offseason, two of their division rivals, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, will more than likely be dipping into the free agent pool. The time is now for the Blue Jays to make a run, and it all starts in March when the team is chosen. There are a few guys the team could pick up to bolster their roster, and it is something the team should look at. It would give them a better chance of bringing the World Series trophy north of the border for the first time since 1993, and ultimately, that is the goal for 2017.
As I have made quite clear, in my eyes a Carrupton platoon is not ideal for a team with a goal of winning the World Series. Want to know an easy way to improve? Sign veteran free agent outfielder Angel Pagan.
Pagan, a switch-hitter from Puerto Rico, is currently playing for his national team in the World Baseball Classic. While he is by no means turning heads in this year’s tournament, Pagan is a switch-hitting big-league outfielder and has proved it over many quality seasons.
With a career slash line of .280/.330/.408 over 11 seasons, Pagan is a threat to knock a base hit each and every time he steps up to the plate. To go along with his good bat, Pagan has stolen 176 bases in his career.
Pagan’s 2016 season in San Francisco was pretty similar to what he has done throughout his career, modeling his consistency. Pagan slashed .277/.331/.418 and stole 15 bases. Another great note is that Pagan set his career high in home runs in 2016 at the age of 34, hitting 12 bombs. Playing every day at the Rogers Centre will only help his power numbers.
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It is shocking that Pagan is still a free agent, but a rumour that he is demanding roughly $5 million per year could be the reason he is unemployed. However, when you look at his career and how consistent he has been, it is baffling that nobody will pay this man $5 million for one year. He even had a great 2016 season, so it isn’t like he is coming off a bad season, either.
It all starts with Pagan – if he signs with the team, the wheels are in motion. The next move the Jays would be wise to make would be to designate Melvin Upton Jr. for assignment. He has one year left on his contract, and a buyout is already an option the Blue Jays might be looking at with or without Pagan on the team.
With Upton Jr. off the roster, it opens the door for Pompey to slide in and take his spot on the team. Why not give a young guy with speed a chance to make his mark? If he doesn’t work out as an everyday outfielder, he can be platooned with Steve Pearce, or sent down to AAA to work on his game. Losing Upton Jr. will not be a loss for the Blue Jays.
To go along with Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera is a very capable fourth outfielder and can come in and play LF, CF or RF when any of the starters need a break. Moving Bautista to first base will not cause any issues for the team – in fact – I think it will help them overall.
While Bautista is still physically capable of playing the outfield, he does not do it a great rate. Considered a poor fielder by many and backed up by statistics, Bautista is at the point in his career where first base may be the best option for him. He has played first in the past for the Blue Jays and has played it as recently as a week ago in the 2017 World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic.
We all know Bautista has a great bat, and playing first will put less of a strain on his body than playing the outfield would. If this move happens, watch for Bautista’s offensive numbers to potentially increase as well.
This move would better the team as a whole, as it means Justin Smoak is no longer a starter. In fact, although the team just signed him, they may be forced to designate him for assignment. He quite simply has proven he is not a major league hitter, and his time with the Blue Jays may soon be coming to an end.
To go along with the bats, the Blue Jays could use some work in the bullpen. While their rotation is stellar, the relievers are looking like they might be a bit shaky late in ball games.
Roberto Osuna is a stud, but outside Osuna the Blue Jays really don’t have a whole lot to offer. While he may or may not be a success with the team, there is someone the Blue Jays should possibly look at giving a shot – familiar face Henderson Alvarez.
He reportedly threw a bullpen for a couple of teams but is yet to be signed. When healthy, Alvarez has dominated big league hitting over his five-season career. In 92 starts, Alvarez has pitched to a 27-34 record while posting a 3.80 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. After a shoulder surgery, Alvarez may not have it in the tank to be a starting pitcher. Why not give him a shot in the bullpen? Even if he isn’t a success, he is a low risk, high reward signing that will not cost the team all that much.
If Pagan and Alvarez sign with the Blue Jays, a 25-man roster could look like the following:
- LF – Angel Pagan
- 1B – Jose Bautista
- 3B – Josh Donaldson
- DH – Kendrys Morales
- SS – Troy Tulowitzki
- 2B – Devon Travis
- C – Russell Martin
- CF – Kevin Pillar
- RF – Dalton Pompey
OF/IF: Steve Pearce
OF – Ezequiel Carrera
IF – Darwin Barney
- J.A. Happ
- Marco Estrada
- Marcus Stroman
- Francisco Liriano
- Aaron Sanchez (rumoured organizational plan to have him start as the 5th starter)
Roberto Osuna (closer)
I don’t know about you, but to me, that 25-man roster is exciting. Not only is it exciting, but it would give the Blue Jays a good shot at competing for one of the biggest prizes in sports – the World Series trophy.