Blue Jays: Setting realistic goals for a wacky season

TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 29: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on in a break against the Tampa Bay Rays in the eighth inning during their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on September 29, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 29: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on in a break against the Tampa Bay Rays in the eighth inning during their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on September 29, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /
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TORONTO, ONTARIO – JULY 27: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates his three run home run with teammates Randal Grichuk #15, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. #13 against the Tampa Bay Rays in the ninth inning during their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on July 27, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO – JULY 27: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates his three run home run with teammates Randal Grichuk #15, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. #13 against the Tampa Bay Rays in the ninth inning during their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on July 27, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /

How to fill the outfield

One of the major topics throughout the off-season for the Blue Jays was if they would address their outfield at all, specifically in centre field. The type of opportunities that Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins were looking for never materialized, so it appears they’ll return a starting group that will include Gurriel Jr., Randal Grichuk, and Teoscar Hernandez. They’ll have others competing for roster and bench roles including Derek Fisher, Anthony Alford, Billy McKinney, and Jonathan Davis.

We’ve talked about how the 2020 season could be a defining year for several of these players before, and I still think that could and even should be the case. Chances are that Gurriel Jr. will be locked into left field for the foreseeable future, assuming he can replicate or even improve on his offensive performance in the big leagues so far.

However, when it comes to Grichuk and Hernandez, I’m not convinced that the Blue Jays are sold on them for the long term, and they could both to a lot to improve their standing with the organization that way this season. Grichuk is under contract through the 2023 season, but his salary shouldn’t prohibit the Blue Jays from trading him later on if they decide that’s the way to go. As for Hernandez, he won’t become a free agent until after the 2023 season either, so there is still plenty of him to add value to the organization as long as he can continue to improve his defence.

With Austin Martin having been selected in the first round of this year’s draft and presumed to be ticketed for centre field in a couple of years, the Blue Jays likely want to figure out which of their players they’re going to keep around for the long term, and if some of them may be better used in a trade. I imagine they’ll give Fisher another good look this year before making a decision, and hopefully the same will happen for Alford, but there are only so many spots when it comes to the big picture of this rebuild, and this season could give the front office a few answers they’ve been looking for.

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