Blue Jays’ Pearce has been a bargain after all

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 23: Steve Pearce
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 23: Steve Pearce /

When Steve Pearce signed with the Blue Jays this past offseason, many Blue Jays fans didn’t know the value that he could bring to the table, especially on a modest salary. Since he’s been fully healthy this year, he’s been worth every penny and more.

The Blue Jays have had a lot of unexpected performances this year. Most of their lineup has struggled, and half their rotation has been on the disabled list for a better part of the season. Things just haven’t gone the way we all drew them up.

One of those players who battled injuries early in the season was Steve Pearce, who had been brought in during the offseason to serve as as first baseman/outfielder on a relatively modest two year deal. The 34 year old veteran had finished the season on the disabled list in 2016 with the Baltimore Orioles, and came to Toronto expecting to compete for the every day first base job, and possibly play a little bit in the outfield.

However, there have been other surprises too, such as the performance of Justin Smoak. The All-Star’s emergence as one of the top sluggers in the American League wasn’t expected by anyone, at least not the degree that he’s performed. In fact, there were many discussions around baseball that the Blue Jays might even designate him for assignment during spring training, despite the fact that they had given him a two year extension just the year before.

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Fast forward to the present day and Smoak has been a mainstay at first base all season, and rightfully so. Because of that, Pearce has had to play left field in a regular basis, which while he is capable in the outfield, it’s not his strength. Nevertheless, he’s been out there on a regular basis since he’s been healthy, and he’s been knocking the cover off the ball lately.

As noted by BP Toronto, Pearce entered Wednesday’s contest batting .302/.382/.517 in the 51 games he’s played since coming off the DL, and he was at it again on Wednesday night against the Rays, hitting in the leadoff spot. The former Tampa Bay Ray went 2-5 in the game and hit his 13th home run against Rays’ starter, Austin Pruitt.

Pearce has been one of John Gibbons‘ best hitters lately, so despite the fact that he doesn’t profile as a leadoff type, he was slated at the top of the lineup for Wednesday’s contest. Nori Aoki got the job the night before, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Gibbons stick with some combination of the two after Jose Bautista has struggled in the role for awhile now.

On the season his slash line now sits at .273/.345/.485 over 79 games, with 13 home runs and 37 RBI in 260 at bats. If you doubled those numbers it would roughly equal a full season, and that would be some tremendous value from a player making just 6.25 on the season. His bWAR sits at 0.5 overall, but his dWAR hasn’t been terribly strong in left field, coming in at -0.9. His bat has been good for +1.1 thus far though, and if he had been playing first base as planned, his very would be even more obvious.

However, that’s not exactly a bad thing for the Blue Jays, and if they need to line him up in the left field for the rest of his days as a Blue Jay, so be it. He’s proven himself to be a real gamer with a talent for hitting, and he’s done a lot better job lately of showing the fan base why the front office was interested in him in the first place.

Next: Jays to use their 13th starter of the season this week