On April 1st the Blue Jays made their most recent roster acquisition, bringing in Chris Coghlan on a MiLB contract. Coghlan will report to Triple A Buffalo to start the season.
Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins have shown that they’re always on the look out when it comes to improving their team, and struck once again on April 1st, bringing in Chris Coghlan on a minor league deal. Folks are naturally skeptical of news they read on April Fool’s day, but it turned out to be true.
In a quiet, yet valuable move, the Blue Jays strengthened the depth at several positions in their organization, with one minor league contract. Coghlan is primarily a left fielder, but has also played in right field, as well as first, second, and third base. None of those positions were cameos either, as he appeared in no less than 6 games at any of those positions.
The move allowed the Blue Jays to cut ties with Melvin Upton Jr. as well, which then allowed them to keep Ryan Goins in the fold. The decision was debatable for sure, but with the Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki having a history of nagging injuries, keeping Goins on the infield depth chart likely helps the Jays’ brass sleep better at night.
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Coghlan gives the Blue Jays a replacement on the outfield depth chart, and also reinforces the infield as well, all on a minor league contract. He had initially signed with the Phillies earlier this offseason, but ultimately left because of a reported disagreement over a contract stipulation. The Phillies’ loss is the Blue Jays gain in this case.
Because Coghlan was willing to sign a MiLB contract, the Blue Jays have the luxury of starting his season in Buffalo, which allowed them to keep as many depth options as possible. As mentioned above, Goins is out of minor league options, which means he could have been picked up by another team on the waiver wire. The same goes for Ezequiel Carrera, who the Blue Jays started in left field on Monday in the opener.
Coghlan was the 2009 NL Rookie of the Year, but things haven’t gone quite as well since. Last year he finished with a slash line of .188/.290/.318 over 99 games between the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A’s. After moving to Oakland, his performance fell apart, as he went .146/.215/.272 in 158 AB’s with the A’s. This performance ultimately lead to his having to sign an MLB deal.
Looking at the upside, he was sitting at .252/.391/.388 with the Cubs prior to the trade, and performed very well in 2015, .250/.341/.443 with 16 home runs and 41 RBI’s in 440 at bats. Combine those kind of numbers with his positional flexibility and you’ve got a valuable player indeed. Add in the fact that you have the flexibility to stash him in the minors, and it’s a real boon for the Jays.
If you’re thinking, “he’s not a difference maker”, I would point to someone like Darwin Barney in 2016. Barney filled in admirably all across the infield, hitting .269/.322/.373 in 104 games. Without his steady presence filling in for the injured regulars, the Blue Jays likely don’t squeak into the playoffs last year. “Little” things like that aren’t so little when you look back at an entire season.
Which is why Coghlan’s addition has a lot of quiet value for the Blue Jays, and is yet another sign of the extensive work being put in by the front office. While you or I might not always agree with the decisions that are made, there’s no disputing that the club has been willing to pull the trigger on additions this offseason.
Hopefully Coghlan can find the type of stroke he had with the Cubs in 2015, as there’s plenty of potential for him to contribute with the big league roster this season. If and when he does, he could be the type of quiet deal, like Barney last season, that makes the subtle difference between a playoff team, or a club on the outside looking in.