Blue Jays: Would last year’s targets make sense now?
The Blue Jays had an offseason checklist that went largely unfulfilled last year. How would last season’s targets look if they pursued them now?
As the offseason rolls along, the Blue Jays are among the many teams waiting for the first real dominoes to fall, and for the hot stove to really heat up. The Blue Jays did get things started, bringing back an old face by the name of Deck McGuire, but they’ve yet to really dip their toes into the free agent pool, at least not yet.
As I reflected on the previous offseason, I thought about the targets that the Blue Jays pursued and ultimately missed out on, and how it would look in they were a part of the organization now. Of course, we know that Edwin Encarnacion had another great season in Cleveland (granted, after a slow start), but what about the other guys?
The two names that stick out to me as targets from last year are Dexter Fowler, and their own lefty specialist, Brett Cecil. How did 2017 go for those two, and did the Blue Jays really miss out on not bringing them in last year? Let’s have a look.
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This was the big name the Blue Jays wanted to bring in last year, as he would have checked off a ton of boxes for the team. He would have been the leadoff presence they still desire, an upgrade for their outfield defence, a speedy presence on the basepaths, and a left-handed batter to boot. Unfortunately it never came to fruition despite a competitive offer, with Fowler ultimately landing with the St. Louis Cardinals for five years and 82.5 million dollars.
Like Encarnacion with his new team, Fowler was slow out of the gates in St. Louis, making his new contract look pretty scary to start with. However, he eventually righted the ship and had a solid campaign overall. He ended up slashing .264/.363/.488 with 18 home runs. and 64 RBI, and latter two numbers representing career highs.
The concerns for Fowler were around his legs, as is often the case with speedy players on the wrong side of 30. He had a career low with just seven stolen bases, and his outfield defence was a -1.6, which dragged his overall value down quite a bit (+1.6), in fact it was almost two full points. He did play centre field for St. Louis and could presumably move to a corner next year, but that’s likely not how the Cardinals drew it up when he was signed.
Would the Blue Jays want him now? The answer would be an almost certain yes, but mostly because the team still hasn’t solved their offensive issues. The hope is that they can accomplish that this offseason, and who knows, maybe they even ask the Cardinals about Fowler, as they’ve admitted they’ll need to move some outfield depth this winter.
The Blue Jays were faced with losing their best left-handed reliever last offseason, and that’s exactly what happened. Cecil also landed with the Cardinals last offseason, inking a four year, 30.5 million dollar deal to join the National League team. Like Fowler, he got off to a horrific start (which is normal for Cecil, let’s be honest), but eventually got things figured out as well.
For the season, he finished with 0.5 WAR, and a 3.88 ERA in 67d.1 innings pitched out of the Cards’ bullpen. He filled a similar role to what he had in Toronto, and eventually earned more trust from Cardinals manager, Mike Matheny, as the season wore on.
Looking at the contract, Cecil has 22 million remaining over the final three years of the deal. While that’s a little expensive for a non-closer, the bullpen has become a more important part of the game in recent years, and teams have been more willing to spend on the area. For that reason, the Blue Jays would certainly take Cecil now, and an argument could be made that they should have last season as well, especially after the J.P. Howell experiment was such a disaster.
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So would the Blue Jays take on Fowler and Cecil now, if given the opportunity? I would think it would be a no-brainer on both accounts, which furthers the frustration from last offseason a little bit. That said, we still don’t know who Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins are going to bring in this offseason, so maybe it will all turn out to be a blessing in disguise.