I previously took at look at what the Blue Jays needed to fix for 2018 and suggested some players that could be options for them to make their improvements. Of course you also have to look at how realistic those moves might be and if the team has the money or player capital to make the moves.
Right now the Blue Jays projected roster is in the area of $140MM, with some suggestion it could go upwards of $160-170MM. That would leave the Blue Jays with about $30MM to play with which can be a bit more with other subtractions from the MLB Roster. To get the projected amounts I used the MLB Trade Rumors Arbitration estimates and will use their FA Projections as well. Its an imperfect science but gives a solid estimation of the ballpark figures.
When it comes to free agency the Blue Jays typically do not go crazy. If the deal is above 100MM or over 5 years they are likely to stay away. When I am looking at potential fits, I am avoiding the big and expensive names as that doesn’t seem realistic until proven wrong. As well with an already elevated payroll there isn’t a ton of room for major contracts, unless there is big trades from the older under performing veterans.
Lorenzo Cain – CF, Bats -RH, Age 32 – Expected Contract: $70MM over 4 years – $17.5MM per year
Cain is coming of a great 2017 season where he hit .300/.363/.440 along with 15 HR, 26 SB, 5.3 WAR, 112 OPS+. He offers something the not one player on the Blue Jays currently has which is multi-dimensional value as he has strong contact, on base, speed and defense skills along will above average power. The biggest fear is that as Cain will play in his age 32 season in 2018, players who rely on their legs tend to cool off. This is a real fear but luckily for Cain his abundance of tool should make his contract one that you will not regret.
Right now the Blue Jays have a better defender in CF in Pillar and its believed that Cain wants to stay in CF. Should the Blue Jays complete my list of moves they could afford to move Pillar in the process. If not Cain and Pillar look very nice in the OF together as a defensive due regardless of who plays in CF.
Cain also profiles similar to Dexter Fowler who they highly pursued in 2017 but lost on, should the Cain price go beyond the $70MM projection it might also result in a similar loss. So far team Atkins and Shapiro have not exceeded $36MM (J.A. Happ) over 3 years on any Free agents but that doesn’t mean they will not for the right player.
Alex Cobb – SP, Throws RH, Age 30, Expected Contract: $48MM over 4 years – $12MM per year
Cobb is another player who did well in his contract year. He put up a very nice 12-10, 3.66 ERA, 113 ERA+ 1.221 WHIP, 2.4 WAR, 29 starts and 179.1 innings. Unless Joe Biagini is handed a starting role, the Blue Jays there is one spot left to fill in their rotation. This move helps them solidify their rotation as among the best in league and that should be their goal.
Cobb is well positioned in the second tier of starters on the market and his history shows the potential he could bring as a bargain signing. Over his career he has managed above average ERA with solid strike to walk ratios. Now that he has recovered from this Tommy John surgery there is room for some improvement going forward. The biggest knock against Cobb is that he has not been an innings eater with some health issues. However in 2017 Cobb showed that he could be a 180-200 inning starter.
The 12MM annual price tag lines up with the deals given to Estrada and Happ but exceeds them in years. As noted above management has not yet given 4 years but I believe in that range it would be in line with their previous deals. Should the ask approach 5 years or exceed 15MM per season that might be the exit point for the Blue Jays with Cobb.
Tony Watson – Reliever, Throws LH, Age 33, Expected contract: $12M over 2 years – $6M per season
Watson didn’t have his best year in 2017 but still solid at 7-4, 3.38 ERA, 128 ERA+, 1.38 WHIP, .9 WAR, 71 Games over 66.2 Innings. MLBTR actually picked this one for the Blue Jays and it makes a lot of sense. The Blue Jays do not have any trusted Lefties in pen and there has been some previous interest in Watson.
At 12MM over 2 years it would be a reasonable contract to give their pen some strength and stability. The pen is also lacking veteran arms, so this seems like an easy match on paper. Of course nothing in baseball is easy to predict but this would be an easy match if such a thing exists.
The Blue Jays always need to be creative with trades. Because they can handle some money they can take on contracts for quality players. We do know the intended goal of management has been to acquire young, athletic and controllable players. As well team Shatkins has been protective of their minor league assets as they rebuild the farm. They will trade prospects outside of their top few, so there is some quality and quality for good players but a Christian Yelich would likely be out of reach as they wont move their top tier assets. Their first acquisition of Aledmys Diaz is a good example of an upside move with a player under control at a reasonable cost.
Joc Perderson CF, bats LF, Age 26, Expected Arbitration – $2MM
Unlike some of the above mentioned names Pederson did not have a banner year in 2017 putting up a line of .212/.331/.409, 95 OPS+, 11HR -.4 WAR in 273 AB. He did find some redemption having a solid World Series with 3 HR, and an OPS of 1.344.
Pederson by some accounts might be the odd man out for the Dodgers as he enters his arbitration years on a team overwhelmed with left handed bats. The Blue Jays lack left handed bats and could bet on his power and an uplift in value by making him a RF where his defense should play better. In 2016 as a 24 year old he had a 3.4 WAR, 26 HR and 126 OP+ in 476 AB. At 2MM he is a worthy pick up. This would be very much in line with their Diaz pickup.
The return to the Dodgers should be one the Blue Jays can handle, they have enough prospect depth for this move as he wont demand an elite package. It fits within the idea of control, age and will not hurt the farm. As well by adding Cain & Pederson the Blue Jays can move Pillar in another trade. Cain moves to CF, Pederson in RF with Hernandez, Pompey and Alford filling in the balance. Should they keep Pillar they can use Hernandez to spell Pederson in RF and serve as their reserve OF.
Dee Gordon – SS/2B, Age 30 – $38.9 over 3 years – 7.8MM (Marlins cover 3MM of the 10.8MM for 2018)
The Marlins are known to be shopping the speedster Gordon who put up the following line in 2017 .308/.341/.375, 94 OPS+, 60SB, 200 hits, 3.1 WAR. I will say that with the addition of Diaz, adding Gordon might be nearly an overkill but one that I think they should do.
With the known issues of Tulo & Travis the Blue Jays have a great need for extra depth in the IF, this move allows sufficient coverage at SS & 2B. Of course if they all are healthy you have an abundance of riches but the Blue Jays lack a true leadoff hitter like Gordon. They lack the threat of the SB and Gordon can fill the needs they desperately need. This is the type of move that shows the Blue Jays are serious and gives them a very respectable bench with the ability to rest Donaldson, Tulo and Travis and not worry about who is starting. In all fairness this likely moves Travis out of a starting role unless he is healthy and producing.
Because the Marlins are looking to shed salary this again should not be too expensive in terms of prospect capital going back. I would be interested in seeing if the Marlins would take back Pillar in the package, and eat about 3MM per season. That would effectively only add 3-4MM in 2018 for the payroll.
These moves would require also moving some players and salary to stay within the parameters I mentioned above, as well as sort out positions.
Kevin Pillar – CF, Age 29 – Expected Salary: $4MM
Pillar is a defensive superstar in CF and the Blue Jays are likely not to want to part with him. However with the additions I mentioned it allows them to shed a smaller and future growing salary as part of a trade package mentioned or to fill another role. This might be bullpen depth,a 4-5 starter or a straight farm depth move. I wont go too deep on Pillar but he has managed 11.4 WAR his last 3 seasons and between 15-22 Rfield per season in CF. With a career 85 OPS+, he hits for a moderate average and low OBP. His bat doesn’t hurt the team and his defense makes him a good regular. There is a team that would love to have him in CF but keeping in mind he is more of a 7-9 hitter as he has not been able to produce an OBP worthy of batting leadoff. If he found the ability to walk his value would sky rocket but its fair to say he is about what we see.
Steve Pearce – OF, IF, bats RH, Age 35, Salary of $6.25MM for 2018
Had Pearce been able to transition to LF last year as a respectable or even slightly below average defender there would be no reason to move off of him as a platoon/semi-regular. His inability to stay healthy and lack of a true position means he needs to move. When the deal was signed last offseason I praised it as a nice value pickup but I wasn’t aware of how poor his defense would be. He is not an OF, a 2B either and more likely a bench bat/short term OF and a 1B/DH. I do think he can be moved but the return will be marginal, this is a salary dump for the Blue Jays.
Ezequiel Carrera – $1.5MM
With the quality additions coming in, there is no reason to pay Carrera as he can not field well enough to be a 4th OF. His bat has been good in short spurts and could very well serve another team well. He has a little magic it seems but his defense is not strong enough despite is great speed. Marginal return on a trade to clear his salary as there is no need.
Gift Ngoepe – $575K
I believe Gift can be option (I didn’t 100% verify), so this is just a matter of sending him to AAA to make room on the roster for the new IF additions. Also this assumes he makes the team which might also be a big assumption. He will stay in the minors as depth.
In conclusion these additions net out as a total increase of $32.95MM in payroll, which is a few million beyond the $30MM expected available budget. This is easily sorted with minor back loading of the the FA contracts. This would push them towards the max unless they can dump a larger salary like Morales in favor of Pearce.
Again this would be an ideal offseason from my perspective. I believe these are all within reason and not too out of line with the teams normal moves. It would accomplish a more versatile offense, a very deep IF, a restored OF with a mix of improved power, contact and on base skills. I stayed away from one or two dimensional players as the Blue Jays have an abundance of one or two trick ponies which mostly hit for power with little other value.
Let me know below if you think I am crazy, on the money or have other great additions/subtractions.