Blue Jays 2018: Jarrod Dyson vs. Lorenzo Cain

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 23: Jarrod Dyson
SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 23: Jarrod Dyson /

The Jays are reported to be interested in Lorenzo Cain.  Would Jarrod Dyson be a better fit?

The Jays are rumoured to have a strong interest in free agent centre fielder Lorenzo Cain.  Cain is a good player, and would help any team, but would a different free agent – Jarrod Dyson – be a better fit?

Let’s have a look at the two of them from a few angles.


Per Jon Morosi of MLB Network, Cain is telling potential suitors that he wants to play centre field.  The Jays already have a middlin’ fair centre fielder in Kevin Pillar.  Pillar’s primary tool is his defence.  Playing centre, his D can compensate for a career 85 wRC+.  In a corner OF position, it is not at all clear that it would do so.  So, signing Cain would likely mean a change of uniform for their current centre fielder.  This might not be a bad thing – some writers have suggested that a Pillar trade would be in the Jays’ best interest.  But reserving centre field for Cain might not be best for the development of the Jays’ young outfielders.

Dyson, on the other hand, plays all three outfield positions (and VERY well – see below).  So he could spell Pillar in centre, but also play a plus left or right field.

Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto Blue Jays /

Toronto Blue Jays


Cain’s defense is holy-cow-Batman good.  He has a career 13.8 DRS/1000 in centre field, and 19.4 in right.  It is mildly troubling, however, that Cain’s 3.9 DRS/1000 in centre field in 2017 was the lowest of his recent career.

But Dyson is no slouch either.  JD (!) has a career 31 DRS/1000 in left field (admittedly, only 416 innings), a 15 in centre and a 23 in right (310 innings).  And Dyson’s 46 DRS/1000 in LF in 2017 and 13 in CF do not show any significant decline.

In fact, when you look at the Statcast Leaderboard, Dyson’s performance in 2017 was arguably better than Cain’s.  Dyson made 15% of 5-star catches (Cain 2%), and 92% of 4-star catches (Cain 82%).


Cain is a career 107 wRC+ hitter.  Dyson is an 86.  This would seem to give a great advantage to Cain.  But Dyson has always hit right handers better than left, with a career 93 wRC+ against them (100 in 2017).  So Dyson would need a platoon partner. Someone with decent career defensive stats in left field (even if his 2017 was terrible) and whose 146 wRC+ against left-handers from 2014-16 was 28th best in baseball (200 ABs).  Someone who, if the Jays managed to trade Kendrys Morales, would be the primary DH when not platooning with Dyson.  Yes, I am looking at you, Steve Pearce.


Cain’s aggregate baserunning score for 2016-17 was 4.7.  In those two years combined he had 1,079 PAs.  Dyson has an aggregate score of 10 in only 727 PAs.  This plus base running skill is likely why Dyson has been used so frequently to lead off, despite his having only a career .325 OBP.  It would also make Dyson an outstanding pinch-runner when he is not in the field.

Contract term

Cain is projected to earn a four or five year contract this offseason.  Dyson is projected at two years.

Cain’s term could be an issue, in that the Jays have three young outfielders who project as centre fielders:  Anthony Alford, Teo Hernandez and Dalton Pompey.  Locking up CF for four years could prevent an Alford from realizing his full value by relegating him to a corner OF spot.  A two-year commitment to Dyson would be not only shorter, but more flexible.


Lorenzo is projected to earn an AAV of $17.5 million per year for four years.  Dyson is projected to earn a $6m AAV for two years.  That would mean a difference of $11.5 million in 2018, a year where the Jays have multiple needs and payroll is likely to be an issue.

Batting order

In his career, Cain has batted leadoff roughly 7% of the time.  The last time he batted leadoff was in 2014.  Dyson, however, has batted leadoff 28% of his career at-bats

Next: Did the Jays' front office learn from 2016?

The bottom line

Cain is the better ballplayer, in a vacuum.  But Cain is projected (by Steamer) at a 3.2 WAR for 2018,  Kevin Pillar is projected at 2.7.  The increment is not that high, unless Pillar is traded for a substantial return.

Dyson could play either corner, not displacing Pillar, or could man centre if Kevin *is* traded until Alford or Hernandez are ready.  Dyson is an equivalent elite defensive outfielder to Cain, a better baserunner, and will almost certainly demand a shorter term and much lower AAV (and no qualifying offer compensation).  Dyson has more experience batting leadoff, and (with an appropriate lefty-masher platoon partner) he should put up a wRC+ comparable to Cain.  Of the two, I would favour rolling the Dys-on Jarrod.