The market has all kinds of time to change before the 2020 season gets underway, but the Blue Jays are going to be hard pressed to find an outfield upgrade this off-season.
Any time I discuss the Toronto Blue Jays these days, one of the first topics that comes up is the need for more pitching for next season. Second would likely be how talented and exciting the rookies were this year, but the other frequent topic is the future of the outfield.
Right now the Blue Jays have a group that includes Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Randal Grichuk, Teoscar Hernandez, Derek Fisher, Billy McKinney, and Anthony Alford slated to battle for playing time next season, but of course, the picture could change before opening day rolls around. In fact, that’s often the point of discussion when it comes to the outfield, and specifically that the Jays need to turn some quantity into quality.
It’s pretty well established that Gurriel Jr. will be the left fielder next year, and Grichuk will almost assuredly occupy one of the other two spots. Ideally he would play in right field, but until the Blue Jays find a permanent solution up the middle, he’ll likely slide back and forth.
More from Jays Journal
- Matt Chapman has been exactly what the Blue Jays needed
- Blue Jays: The goalposts are moving in the right direction
- Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays advance to the Championship Series
- Blue Jays: Comparisons for Alek Manoah’s Second Season
- Blue Jays: Adam Cimber, the unlikely decision King
I think most Blue Jays fans feel that guys like Hernandez, Fisher, and McKinney have had enough of an audition to prove themselves, and that it’s hard to picture any of them as full-time starters at the moment. Hernandez would be the leader of the pack at this point, but despite taking some positive steps on defence in 2019, he’s probably best suited in a DH/part-time outfield role rather than as a centre fielder.
I think most of us would agree that an established centre fielder is what the Blue Jays could really use to help round out the offence, but that’s going to be a very difficult thing to find this off-season. The free agent market is currently lead by names like Billy Hamilton and Jarrod Dyson, neither of whom should be viewed as starting options, especially for a rebuilding club. The one intriguing name that might have been available, Starling Marte, is 31 and the Pirates sound like they’re planning on keeping him for 2020, unless the price is right. As much as I like the idea of a player like Marte in Toronto, I don’t know that overpaying for him now makes a lot of sense either.
If the Blue Jays did want to run with Grichuk as their permanent centre fielder, that would give them more options to upgrade the outfield, at least on offence. There are guys like Nick Castellanos, or Marcell Ozuna (and the rumours have started there already), or Yasiel Puig, but I don’t know that I see a great fit among the corner outfielders either, especially when you consider that the Blue Jays will be in year two of their rebuild, at least in theory. The ideal candidate would help in 2020, but really round out the roster for the seasons after that. Beyond the names I’ve already mentioned, there really aren’t any options on the upcoming free agent market that work well beyond a one-year contract.
With all of this in mind, if the Blue Jays are going to make a significant upgrade in the outfield then I believe it will have to come through a trade. If that’s the route the front office takes, my guess is they would rather have a minor league player who is either at or close to MLB-ready, rather than an established veteran to round out their roster now. For example, if the Blue Jays were to strike up trade talks for a centre fielder with the Atlanta Braves, I’m guessing they’d rather target prospects like Cristian Pache or Drew Waters rather than a veteran like Ender Inciarte.
The reality is, there isn’t much point in having a short-term solution in the outfield right now, as the Blue Jays already have enough capable options to fill that need. The only point to upgrading would be with the long-term in mind, and that might not be available this winter. In fact, I’m guessing that the Blue Jays will return a very similar outfield group in 2020 to what they had this year, whether the front office looks to change things up or not.