Blue Jays: There’s been a need in centre field for a long time

BALTIMORE - JULY 18: Vernon Wells #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays tosses his bat after striking out against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on July 18, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE - JULY 18: Vernon Wells #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays tosses his bat after striking out against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on July 18, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) /

The Blue Jays could still use an upgrade in centre field, and it turns out that’s been a need with this team for quite some time.

Finding ways to upgrade the 25 and 40 man roster will be the main topic of discussion throughout the winter for the Blue Jays, as they’re far from done with the work on their current rebuild. That said, there may only be a handful of positions that the front office will pursue this winter, as most of the improvement will likely come as their talented young core gains experience.

That said, it’s no secret that the Blue Jays need to improve their pitching stables, and I think the same could be said for their outfield picture. The depth chart is full of viable options, but I feel like there are only two players who secured themselves a job for 2020 with what they did this year. That would be Randal Grichuk and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who would ideally line up in the outfield corners. Beyond them, some combination of Teoscar Hernandez, Derek Fisher, Anthony Alford, Billy McKinney, and Jonathan Davis will battle for the third starting job, and the fourth outfielder gig.

What the Blue Jays are really lacking among the options is a true centre fielder, or at least one that will fill the position in the ideal way. Teoscar Hernandez received a lot of starts there in 2019 and could get an extended audition into next season, but he lacks the defensive ability to really thrive up the middle. Grichuk was adequate when he slid over from right field, but I really believe that the Blue jays would be better off with him in the corner full-time. Leaving him in centre does give the Blue Jays more options, but I think most of us believe they’ll continue to look for a centre fielder.

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And as I was thinking about this very topic last night, I stumbled on a tweet that summed up why it feels like this has been a problem for a long time in Toronto. That’s because it has.

The main theme of the tweet from @MaxSportsStudio was the dominance of Mike Trout throughout the first nine years of his MLB career, and compared his production against centre fielders from other teams using the “Runs Created” metric. If you go back to 2007, Trout has more runs created than all centre fielders combined for the White Sox, Mariners, Marlins, Royals, and yes, the Blue Jays. What makes it really gross is that he didn’t even debut until 2012, giving them a five-year head start.

As a Blue Jay fan there were two things that popped off the page to me. One, Mike Trout is ridiculously good at baseball, and we’re pretty lucky to get to watch him in his prime right now. But secondly, the Blue Jays have had a pretty serious need in centre field for a long time. There was Vernon Wells‘ comeback season in 2010, and the 2013 season we all thought Rasmus was breaking out, but otherwise the numbers start to make sense when you look at who has received the majority of starts there over the years.

2007-2010- Vernon Wells (1.4, 2.0, 0.9, 4.0 bWAR)
2011- Rajai Davis (-0.8 bWAR)
2012-14- Colby Rasmus (1.8, 4.9, 1.1 bWAR)
2015-2018- Kevin Pillar (4.9, 3.5, 3.0, 2.5 bWAR)
2019- Hernandez/Grichuk

With all due respect to the above group of players, we’re not exactly looking at a list of All-Stars, other than Wells in 2010. His best season came in 2006, and since that time the Blue Jays have been searching for someone who can consistently contribute on both sides of the diamond. Davis had ridiculous speed, Pillar probably should have a Gold Glove award or two on his resume (which is why his WAR numbers are so high), and Rasmus oozed with potential, but they’ve all fallen short of what we’d hoped to see them accomplish in Toronto.

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It’s possible that the Blue Jays decide to stick with Grichuk up the middle, or give Hernandez/Fisher/Alford another look in 2020, but the common belief is that they’ll look to upgrade the position if possible. With a weak free agent market in centre field, that may have to happen through a trade, or maybe that’s the reason it won’t happen at all. Until they bring that player in or someone from the existing glut of outfielders grabs ahold of the job, the need will continue to exist just as it has for the last 13 years.