Blue Jays: The upsides and downsides of Nimmo vs. Bellinger

New York Mets v Los Angeles Dodgers
New York Mets v Los Angeles Dodgers / Kevork Djansezian/GettyImages

While the Blue Jays still have a few areas of their roster to address, the recent focus, at least in social media circles, has been on centre field.

It's not a "have to" for the Blue Jays this offseason, as they still have a solid defender up the middle in George Springer. It's not that the 33 year old is no longer capable at the position, but instead the thinking is that moving him to an outfield corner will improve team defence overall, and hopefully will help the 4x All-Star to stay on the field and avoid injury.

With that in mind, the Blue Jays have been one of the teams rumoured to be interested in the centre field market, and that's especially been the case since they traded Teoscar Hernandez to the Mariners for a pair of arms in Erik Swanson and Adam Macko. It's entirely possible that Ross Atkins and the front office will look to the trade market to fill that hole, but lately they've been mentioned an awful lot when it comes to free agency. As far as top-end centre fielders go, that has linked them to Brandon Nimmo, and to the recently DFA'd Cody Bellinger.

Make no mistake about it, Nimmo is the much safer and likely better choice here, but there are pros and cons to pursuing each player. I may not have come up with an exhaustive list, but here's how I see things:

Nimmo- Pros

One of the things the Blue Jays arguably need is more balance in their lineup. Nimmo brings exactly that with his different approach that features a career on-base percentage of .385. He's got a bit of pop in his swing, as he had 16 home runs and 30 doubles last season for the Mets, but his greatest skill brings to mind the classic "Moneyball" quote from Jonah Hill that he "gets on base". Assuming he would hit either first or second for the Blue Jays, that could be especially valuable with the likes of Springer, Vladimiir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and more coming up to try and bring him around to score. For a team that has been so right-handed and very reliant on power, I really believe that Nimmo would be a major difference maker.

He doesn't have a reputation as an elite defensive player, but that's a bit unfair based on the way he rated earlier in his career, especially compared to these days. After moving further back in the outfield, Nimmo has transformed himself into an above average fielder. Swapping his abilities out for Teoscar Hernandez, at least defensively, would make the team better.

Nimmo- Cons

Of course, all of the good things about Nimmo aren't the only factors to consider, or there would be 30 teams lined up to try and secure his services. He's going to be expensive, and likely will earn somewhere between 20-25 million on a 5-6 year deal. For a Blue Jays team that already has one of the higher payrolls in baseball, signing Nimmo would likely limit what they can do in other areas.

There's also the fact that he's dealt with some injuries throughout his career, and he's a few months away from his 30th birthday. There's a good chance that his next team will receive surplus value for the first few years of his next contract, but they may have to pay the price a bit on the back end of the deal. Is it worth it? That depends on how the Blue Jays perceive their window of contention.

Bellinger- Pros

If the Blue Jays can't or decide not to sign Nimmo, it's entirely possible that they turn to a former NL MVP in Cody Bellinger to fill the hole in the outfield. The 27 year old hasn't been the same player since that 2019 season that also saw him win a Gold Glove and a Siilver Slugger award, and that's mostly been due to injury. He and his agent Scott Boras are likely looking for a one-year deal to re-establish his value, and Toronto could be a decent place to do it. The upside is definitely there if he can find his old form on offence, and he's still an excellent gloveman in centre even if the bat doesn't totally bounce back.

There's also the fact that Belliinger should come cheaper than Nimmo, and maybe even somewhere between a half or even a third of the price tag. Rolling the dice on the 6-year MLB veteran would allow the Jays to boost other areas of their roster as well, and maybe even add a second left-handed bat. While Belliniger is certainly a bit of a gamble, it's something to consider.

Bellinger- Cons

I've already alluded to this above, but let me reiterate that Bellinger has not been an MVP calibre player for three years now. There's a reason that the Dodgers let him walk instead of paying him 17-18 million.

Bellinger's injuries to both his shoulder and his fibula have been contributing factors to his downfall, and it remains to be seen if he can find that form again. Last season he slashed just .210/.265/.389 over 504 at-bats, adding 19 home runs in the process. That's not going to cut it regardless of how good his glove is, and it wasn't surprising that the Dodgers elected to bench him at times in the playoffs. Earlier I said that signing him would save the Blue Jays a bit of payroll space for another bat, but we're being honest here, it probably also means that they'd really need to bring in another outfield option in case things go south.

While there's a solid debate about what direction the Blue Jays should go as far as free agent centre fielders, it's entirely possible that Atkins and company make a trade for an outfiielder instead. It should be an interesting next week or two, as something tells me this isn't goino to take long to play out.