Blue Jays will need to find a solution in center field going forward
By Brent Cardy
Anyone watching the Toronto Blue Jays can see that George Springer is not right. In his return Friday night against the Baltimore Orioles, he went one for five as the designated hitter. Springer missed three games in the last series against the New York Yankees after fouling a ball off of his injured left knee in the first game. He finished the at-bat and as all of us saw that when he struck out he was in some kind of pain.
If we go back to the last homestand at the Rogers Centre, Springer continued to grimace while running the bases. You can tell he is trying to play through the pain to give his team the best shot at making the playoffs. Whether it’s a hard turn while rounding the bases or a powerful swing and miss which puts a lot of pressure on his knees, the Blue Jays have a problem. Due to this injury and the fact that he continues to compound the injury, Springer will more then likely not be a center fielder going forward this season.
They need to figure out who is playing the position for the rest of the 2021 campaign and they will more then likely need to figure out who will play the position going forward past this season. You have to wonder if this is why they brought in Jarrod Dyson and Mallex Smith to get through the rest of this year, as well as Gregory Polanco, looking to see if they can find magic with him after his rough 2021 campaign.
The Toronto Blue Jays will have to figure out who plays in center field for the rest of the 2021 season and beyond as George Springer may not be able to given his recent knee injury.
We don’t know what the future looks like for Randal Grichuk, who had a solid 2020 season helping the Blue Jays reach the playoffs. Believe it or not he is on the verge of setting a career-high in RBI as per Baseball Reference, as he drove in 80 in 2019 and currently sits at 79 this season. Grichuk’s defense is center is very good, however the fact that he struggles to get on base is becoming a problem. The Blue Jays have played Grichuk against left-handed pitching but they have opted to put Corey Dickerson in the lineup when they are facing right-handed pitching.
The Blue Jays have outfielders in their Minor League System such as Forrest Wall and Josh Palacios. Wall was acquired from the Colorado Rockies in the Seunghwan Oh trade that also brought reliever Bryan Baker to Toronto as well. We have seen Palacios up with the big club throughout the 2021 season, most recently it was Palacios that was playing in center who dove for a ball at Comerica Park against the Detroit Tigers last month and led to an inside the park home run. One would believe if the Blue Jays thought one of those two could handle being with the big club they would have not brought in the above-mentioned reinforcements.
The Blue Jays have Minor League players who started as middle infielders that could transition to full time outfielders. Names that come to mind are Samad Taylor who is having a great year in Double-A New Hampshire. Same goes for former Montreal product Otto Lopez who just had a brief stint with the Blue Jays. Logan Warmoth is another player that has made the transition from being a shortstop to being a super-utility player. Warmoth has played 97 games this year for the Buffalo Bisons, with 60% of them being in center field, and has put up a .353 on-base percentage. It’ll be interesting to see where he ends up in 2022.
If the Blue Jays want to resign Marcus Semien and Robbie Ray this off-season, their budget for looking for a prime Center fielder will be very tight, especially if they want to upgrade third base and their pitching staff. Unfortunately, the market for center field is not a great one this year.
I’ll give you two names to consider, Joc Pederson who turns 30 in April, a left-handed bat with some power and a ton of post season experience. He may come reasonably priced based on his numbers. Imagine the damage he could do playing in American League East ballparks.
Another player to consider is Michael Conforto who currently plays with the New York Mets. Conforto has had a tough 2021 going through injuries. Another left-handed bat that can hit the ball park, and he is younger than Pederson but doesn’t have the playoff experience Joc does. I think Conforto may be better priced in the market then Pederson but time will tell on that.
The Blue Jays have a ton of work to do this up coming off-season. They had a laundry list of things to look after such as addressing the future of Semien and Ray. Looking at upgrading third base along with the back end of the starting rotation and the bullpen, Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins will now need to add finding a full-time center fielder to that list.