Who Is The Toronto Blue Jays Answer In Left-Field?
Now that the Toronto Blue Jays have brought Jose Bautista back, the team has solidified the roster in every position except for left-field. Bautista goes back to his post in right field but the only position that remains to have a somewhat large hole in is left-field, but is it really as bad as people think? Perhaps they already have the answer in Melvin Upton Jr. Perhaps not, as is the thinking among many people in the Blue Jays fanbase. Let’s take a look at what is currently available in the Blue Jays organization and the options that remain on the free agent market.
Currently, the Blue Jays have the likes of Upton, Steve Pearce and seemingly everybody’s favourite Ezequiel Carrera. While Pearce probably is the best option of the 3, he isn’t a guy who’s ever held an everyday job. He also is still coming off elbow surgery which could keep him at 1st base for the start of the season with Justin Smoak. In my mind, the answer could be Melvin Upton Jr., but that comes with some serious flaws in his game.
Upton came to the Blue Jays in a deal a week or so before the trade deadline from the San Diego Padres, who happened to be playing the Blue Jays in Toronto at the time of the deal. Upton was having a very nice season for the Padres in late July, when he had hit 16 home runs, driven in 45 runs and had 11 stolen bases. He had a respectable slashline of .256/.304/.439 and a 1 point below major league average 100 wRC+ with a 99. He was productive in San Diego. When he came to Toronto, the script was completely flipped. Upton’s Blue Jays portion of the season was dreadful as evidenced by his slashline of .196/.261/.318 and 52 wRC+. Over a full season, the numbers aren’t horrible, but they’re not great. I’d say borderline worthy of an everyday job.
The splits do not particularly favour Upton in an everyday role, either. Upton does hit lefties well as evidenced by the .275/.341/.533 slashline. Against righties, it looks like .226/.274/.360. That is pretty horrendous and he would be a liability in the lineup when a right hander is on the mound. The logical answer would seem to be a strict platoon with Ezequiel Carrera, who is a left handed hitter. However, Carrera’s splits against right handers are worse than Upton’s at .218/.307/.320. The only aspect that’s better is the OBP but it isn’t a respectable number. Carrera hits left handers quite well, like Upton. They are not viable platoon options.
Steve Pearce comes to the Blue Jays as a guy who can hit left handers very well. That gives the Blue Jays 3 bats that feast against lefties. Pearce isn’t bad against right handers, though. Pearce hit .275/.357/.434 against right handers in 207 plate appearances, which could maybe be a platoon option for Upton in left field. The problem with that is it defeats a large part of the reasoning behind the Pearce signing. Pearce was brought in for his positional flexibility as well as his abilities to hit left handers. That could deter the Blue Jays from using Pearce in a platoon with Upton.
Now that we’ve exhausted the fact the Blue Jays have 3 very good options in left field only against left handed pitching, the team needs an answer to the left fielder who can hit right handers. The first answer could be handing the everyday keys to Upton in left to start the season to keep Carrera as the 4th outfielder and Pearce as a utility guy off the bench. Given the current state of the payroll of around $155 million after the Bautista deal, I do think Upton does begin the season as the everyday answer in left field.
The lineup is very close to being great for a 3rd straight year. Left field being the only position that stops it from being very good. If the Blue Jays want to add another outfielder to platoon with Upton in left against right handers, there are some options out there. Angel Pagan is one option who could come relatively cheap on a 1 year deal. Pagan does hit right handers quite well and would make the ideal platoon partner for Upton in left. Austin Jackson is another outfielder on the market who could be a good platoon mate as well. Both Pagan and Jackson have had good careers against right handers, and both do provide nice defense in left. The other option would be Dalton Pompey. Pompey has shown the ability to be patient at the plate, he provide plus defense and steals bases. Pompey could be the answer for a platoon mate with Upton in left field.
If the Blue Jays were to add another outfielder, it would likely mean Ezequiel Carrera would need to be parted ways with to open up that roster spot. Given the fact that Carrera seems to be a favourite with John Gibbons, a popular personality in the clubhouse, it seems unlikely Toronto would part ways with Carrera. After all, he did make some good strides in 2016 to becoming a very good 4th outfielder.
As things currently sit with the payroll and roster, it seems unlikely the Blue Jays seek help outside of the organization. In my mind, they should go after another outfielder, whether it’s Pagan, Jackson, or give the keys to Dalton Pompey. If I was to guess, the Blue Jays at this point in time, feel comfortable with handing they everyday job to Melvin Upton Jr., and despite the splits, I do think he can have a nice year. I would feel okay with Upton in left everyday and feel they should at least give him the chance. If by May or June he isn’t the answer, you seek outside help.
The answer (for n0w) in left field is Melvin Upton Jr. and that does seem to be the route the Blue Jays will take. It may not sit well with many, but I’m okay with it.