Toronto Blue Jays Christmas Wishlist
The Toronto Blue Jays and their fanbase haven’t been feeling the Christmas spirit much the past few days. A team that was in the ALCS the past two years, a team that not only recaptured baseball in the city of Toronto but ALL of Canada went into the off-season with 2 big franchise icons as free agents. It was looking like a foregone conclusion that Jose Bautista would be long gone and that the team was going to maybe bring back Edwin Encarnacion. As of Christmas Eve the fanbase is still licking the fresh wound that is Edwin Encarnacion signing with the Cleveland Indians. We all know what happened here and even though it wasn’t likely he would return, it still stings. It’s even now possible that Jose Bautista will return to the team but that remains to be seen.
The Blue Jays off-season hasn’t exactly been what the fans had hoped for, but it really isn’t all doom and gloom as it may seem. There is still lots of off-season left for moves, and there will be moves. Let’s recap what exactly has happened so far:
- Brett Cecil – St. Louis Cardinals – 4 years/$30.5 million
- Edwin Encarnacion – Cleveland Indians – 3 years/$60 million + $20 million option
- Joaquin Benoit – Philadelphia Phillies – 1 year/$7.5 million
- R.A. Dickey – Atlanta Braves – 1 year/$8 million
- Kendrys Morales – 3 years/$33 million
- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. – 7 years/$22 million
- Steve Pearce – 2 years/$12.5 million
- T.J. House – Minor League deal
- Jason Grilli – Team Option picked up
The Blue Jays had offered Edwin Encarnacion a 4 year deal worth $80 million. Recent reports even say there was potentially an option for a 5th year for $20 million but it would be a team option. At the time of the offer, it was very early on in free agency. They offered Encarnacion a very fair deal, and he declined to continue to field offers in hopes he would get more. It was the opposite and by the time he realized the Blue Jays offer may have been the best, the offer was off the table. People need to realize, it is likely the Blue Jays brass did not actually want Encarnacion back. It seems like the timeline to accept the deal was about a week. While that isn’t confirmed, it makes sense given how quickly they signed Morales.
Blue Jays fans need to realize that Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins took that offer off the table quickly because the longer it sat there, the more likely Encarnacion would have accepted. Had he accepted when they offered it, great! An elite slugger returns. If not, they move to plan B which was signing Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce knowing they will collect a draft pick from the team that signed Encarnacion. While the speed of signing Morales was questionable, it was a good signing. Many people think it’s quite possible Morales outperforms Encarnacion in 2017. Steve Pearce mashes left handers which the team desperately needed. It’s a nice plan B.
The loss of Brett Cecil is tough to swallow only at the fact that he will be difficult to replace. A usually dominant left hander is tough to replace to begin with. Cecil is extra tough because he can get right handers out as well as lefties. The minor league signing of T.J House is a low risk, high reward signing. No minor league deal is bad and House can be a lefty out of the bullpen. Joaquin Benoit and R.A Dickey are both very replaceable. Dickey is replaced with a full season of Francisco Liriano. Significant upgrade. Joaquin Benoit was dominant with his time as a Blue Jay. Replacing Benoit in high leverage spots will be Joe Biagini and the return of Jason Grilli.
Now, let’s take a look at what the Blue Jays still need to add before Spring Training begins.
- 1 Outfielder
- 2 Relievers
- 1st Baseman (Maybe)
Currently, the Blue Jays outfield is a mess. The only mainstay who will be an every day player is Kevin Pillar in center field. Melvin Upton Jr. and Ezequiel Carrera are back. While Carrera had a fantastic post-season, he isn’t a guy who can be relied on in an everyday platoon role with Upton. Unless the Blue Jays plan to use Steve Pearce in the outfield, the teams greatest need going forward is an outfielder. In comes Jose Bautista.
In my mind, my top target going forward this off-season is bringing Bautista back. Recent reports have Jose Bautista willing to consider a 1 year deal. The caveat to that is the dollar figure being higher than the price of a qualifying offer. It is unlikely that the Blue Jays brass will be willing to pay more than the price of a qualifying offer to bring Bautista back, but given the way the off-season has gone, I think you have to bring him back.
While Bautista had a subpar season by Bautista standards, there is zero reason to believe he cannot rebound and have another Bautista type season. Even though Jose’s defense has declined rapidly, his bat is still elite when healthy. In a down year filled with injuries, Bautista still hit 22 home runs while posting an OBP of .366. He is getting beat on the inside a little more than before, but Bautista’s exit velocity is still as high as ever. Bautista is my top target in the outfield. You could likely survive with Pillar in center, Bautista in right, and Upton/Pearce/Carrera in left. While Pearce is likely to be at first with Justin Smoak, if you only add one outfielder, you platoon Upton/Peace in left to start the year to give Smoak consistent at-bats at first.
The first line of order for the bullpen is to find a left hander to replace Brett Cecil. They need a lefty to pitch in the 7th and 8th. Right now, the back end of the bullpen is Roberto Osuna, Jason Grilli, and Joe Biagini. That cannot happen. They need a dominant lefty. Right now, I’m looking at one of Travis Wood or Boone Logan.
Boone Logan had his best season as a reliever with the Colorado Rockies last season and the Blue Jays were linked to Logan at the deadline. He was ultimately not moved by the Rockies. In 2016, Logan held left handers to a triple slashline of .139/.222/.255. He was decent against right handers as well with a slash of .211/.338/.421. Logan would be a good addition.
Travis Wood can still start for teams that need a back end of the rotation starter, but Wood would be a lovely piece in the Blue Jays bullpen. Wood does not hold right handers in check as much as Boone Logan, but Wood handles lefties beautifully. .128/.208/.239 was the slash against lefties for Wood.
The Blue Jays could get away with adding 1 reliever. If I had my choice, I’d probably go with Travis Wood as he would come cheaper than Boone Logan. Wood would be used only against left handers. Logan would be fine against both but would likely come more expensive.
There are plenty of right handers available and most will likely come cheap and linger on the free agent market closer to spring training. Bounce-back candidates like Shawn Tolleson, Sergio Romo, and Matt Belisle would be of interest to me. Also available are the likes of Neftali Feliz, Jim Henderson, Greg Holland, Yusmeiro Petit, and Fernando Salas would be good additions.
I think the front office is pretty set on Pearce and Smoak at 1st base for 2017. The platoon of Pearce and Smoak doesn’t make much sense. Given the outfield, the team could maybe consider using Pearce in the outfield more to begin the season and give Smoak the majority of the at bats at 1st. I still would like to see a 1st baseman added to use Pearce in the outfield and have a better platoon option for Smoak.
The Blue Jays still have lots of work to do. Going forward, for Christmas I would like to see:
- Jose Bautista
- Travis Wood
- Sergio Romo