Blue Jays: Predictions as Free Agency opens
Whether we want to admit it, Russell Martin is getting older and probably shouldn’t be starting 130 games a year anymore. You’d never get him to admit that he can’t do it either, and maybe he still can, but relying on him to stay healthy with that kind of workload is probably a foolish expectation.
There have been plenty of writers who’ve advocated for bringing in a solid tag-team partner for Martin in 2018, and there’s a good argument to be made for that idea to be sure. Keeping him fresh will only help his performance, and hopefully keep him off the DL. The Blue Jays tried all kinds of different solutions in 2017 including Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Raffy Lopez, Luke Maile, Miguel Montero, and more, and none of them were able to grab the job and secure it going forward. Maile arguably performed the best, but offered little to nothing on the offensive side.
As much as it makes some sense to spend money in this area, I don’t see the Blue Jays breaking the bank on Martin’s back-up. There should be some capable solutions to be had for a relatively cheap contract, and I’d explore Atkins and Shapiro to explore those options. Especially knowing that Danny Jansen could be on the verge of earning a big league call-up, and other capable options coming in the pipeline as well.
For these reasons, I’m going to predict the Blue Jays bring in Chris Stewart on a 1 year deal, pairing him with Russell Martin. The two have worked together in the past, both with the Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Stewart is 35 now and will be 36 by Opening Day next year, but he should have some gas left in the tank as he played in 51 games this past season.
The unfortunate part is he didn’t perform very well offensively, hitting below the Mendoza line for a .183 mark. He did hit .286 in 2014 and .294 in 2015 with the Pirates though, so he’s performed more effectively in the recent past, even if he struggled greatly in 2017.
The familiarity with Martin and potential for value on a cheap deal could entice the Blue Jays into bringing him into the fold, especially as they’ll be hoping to give guys like Jansen more seasoning in Triple A.
Prediction: One year for one million