Four tiers of lineup upgrades for the Blue Jays

Chicago White Sox v Toronto Blue Jays
Chicago White Sox v Toronto Blue Jays / Vaughn Ridley/GettyImages
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Tier 2

In this tier, the second-highest, are two players that we see as great fits for the needs of the Blue Jays, but could take an overpay to acquire and come with considerable question marks, despite their potential being very high.

Jonathan India

After their signing of Jeimer Candelario, the Cincinnati Reds should be looking to move an infielder. This could come down to shipping out a former Rookie of the Year in Jonathan India. The Florida native, after a few injury shortened seasons, has a career OPS+ of 105 with all of his big league time spent at second base. Having played mostly third base in the minors, and having a high offensive ceiling with a variety of skillsets, India represents a potentially “buy-low” candidate for a team looking for a new third baseman.

This may be a tough sell at first, but the more India is looked at, the more value is seen in taking a chance on him. As noted, fresh out of COVID in a year without a minor league season, India’s 2021 was about as good as the Reds could’ve hoped for. Through 150 games India sported a .835 OPS with 34 doubles, 21 homers, and a .376 on-base percentage. This dynamic skillset set him apart from other rookies that year, and he looked to be a fixture in the Reds lineup for years to come.

However, that wasn’t the case. Injuries and other prospects caught up to the young infielder, and India’s now the odd man out on an up-and-coming Reds team. He may not appear as the most attractive option at first, given his below average defence and lackluster recent history at the plate. Regardless, a change of scenery, a position he’s played before, and health could provide that second chance India is looking for with the Blue Jays.

India’s knack for getting on base could put him high in the order, possibly between Springer and Vladdy. Another bonus being he isn’t a free agent until 2027. A look at the Reds system would insinuate they’re looking for pitching prospects. Ricky Tiedemann aside, the Blue Jays have a variety of mid-level pitching prospects the Reds could take in a trade for their infielder. Names such as Bowden Francis, Adam Macko, Yosver Zulueta, or Chad Dallas could all entice the Reds into taking a chance, in exchange for parting with an infielder they currently don’t have a spot for.

Cody Bellinger

Continuing on the theme of high risk, high reward, we come to Cody Bellinger. Looking for a resurgence to his career, he found just that on the south side of Chicago, posting his best OPS+ since his MVP season in 2019 while providing high end defence in both centre field and first base.

What may seem like a surefire addition to this lineup, one that would fit into either the top or middle of the lineup while likely slotting into Kevin Kiermaier’s vacancy in centre, may require a more cautious look from this front office.

Bellinger’s slash line of .307/.356/.881 is obviously inspiring, and entering his age-28 season, he’s bound for a payday. However, Bellinger’s expected stats may warrant some caution from prospective teams. In contrast to his on-paper slash line, FanGraphs had his expected batting average was an alarming .270, and his expected slugging nearly a hundred points lower than is actual at .437. These inflated numbers compared to his expectations are a result of irregular hard contact and a lack of barrels on a regular basis. FanGraphs also projects Bellinger, in what should be another prime season going off age, to have substantial drops in all offensive categories, particularly his wRC+ dropping from 134 to 108. His projected fWAR of 2.6 is still respectable, but likely ballooned from his quality defence and definitely not worthy of his projected contract set to be between $150-$200M.