The Toronto Blue Jays Paths To Fill The Outfield
After the signing of Steve Pearce yesterday, the GM of the Toronto Blue Jays Ross Atkins all but confirmed that it is extremely unlikely that Edwin Encarnacion returns to the team barring a miracle and other roster moves. The interesting thing that Atkins did share with members of the media is that the team had two distinct paths to take this off-season. I will outline below.
- Path 1 – Re-signing Encarnacion.
- Path 2 – Move on from Encarnacion and “spread the wealth” by adding multiple pieces.
Atkins did confirm the top path was to bring back Encarnacion. After Encarnacion’s agent Paul Kinzer turned down the 4 year, $80 million deal offered by the Blue Jays, the team quickly enacted on path two. Path two led to the signing of Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce to replace Edwin Encarnacion at 1st and DH. While it isn’t popular with the Blue Jays fanbase aside from the educated fans, it’s a smart move. They couldn’t wait on Encarnacion to make a decision or else they may never have even gotten Morales or Pearce with the real chance Encarnacion still wouldn’t have come back to Toronto. Smart plays by Ross Atkins and President Mark Shapiro to act quickly, much like they did with J.A. Happ last year.
Now that the biggest hole has been 99% filled, the Blue Jays next hole is the outfield. You can be much like above, the team has two very distinct paths they are going to take to fill the outfield. Currently penciled in on the Blue Jays depth chart as starters are:
That’s not going to cut it. The Blue Jays will be looking to add 1 and maybe even 2 outfielders before Spring Training. That brings us to our next path. While obviously not confirmed, I do believe it lies in the outfield where I think 3 paths exist. They are as follows.
It has been reported numerous amounts of times that Dexter Fowler is definitely the Blue Jays top target in free agency. They’re about $3 million apart in annual salary. The Blue Jays offer was in the range of about 4 years, $60 million. Fowler’s camp believe they can get $18 million per season which would be 4/72. That would be a bit of an overpay but it does appear it is down between the Blue Jays and St. Louis Cardinals as the two most serious suitors for Fowler.
Fowler represents the best fit for Toronto as he fills multiple needs. The team wants to get more balance in the lineup by adding some more left handed hitters. They’ve already done that with the switch hitting Morales. Fowler is also a switch hitter. The Blue Jays also need a leadoff hitter, which Fowler is. Fowler has the ability to get on base, play decent defense, steal some bases, and hit for average with some power. He really would cement the top of the Blue Jays order for the next 4 years.
Like Encarnacion was the top choice at first base, Fowler is the teams top choice for the outfield. You can bet that exactly like Encarnacion, the Blue Jays are working on Dexter Fowler as well as the other plans if Fowler doesn’t become a Toronto Blue Jay.
My top target via trade to fill the gap in the outfield is the Chicago White Sox center fielder, Adam Eaton. With the White Sox trade of ace Chris Sale today (December 6th), the White Sox are open for business and Eaton is going to draw a ton of interest. He won’t come cheap but the Blue Jays do have the ability to part with some prospects to land Eaton.
Eaton is under club control until 2021. From now until the end of 2019, Eaton’s contract has him making a measly $4 million in 2017, $6 million in 2018, $8.4 million in 2019 and two team options for 2020 at $9.5 million and $10.5 million in 2021. Eaton started his career with the Arizona Diamondbacks and went to the White Sox for the 2014 season. After an injury plagued 2014 season, Eaton posted a 3.7 fWAR season in 2015 and a strong 6.0 fWAR in 2016. As said earlier, he will not come cheap but like Fowler, Eaton bats left handed and can lead off for Toronto.
The third option behind Fowler and Eaton is spreading the wealth and adding 2 outfielders to create some more platoons and cheaper options much like 1st base and DH. Names that could be of interest to Toronto is Brandon Moss, Ben Revere, Ian Desmond, and maybe a return of Michael Saunders. While those names aren’t as sexy as Dexter Fowler or Adam Eaton, they do fit what the Blue Jays need.
At the time I started this article, this option was not on my radar or on the radar of others. A recent Tweet from Jon Heyman of CBS Sports around 7:45PM Eastern time on December 6th confirmed a report from Hazel Mae of Rogers Sportsnet saying that the Blue Jays brass has met with the reps of Jose Bautista and they are revisiting talks again. This potential rumour, if it turns into fruition could discredit any options above but nonetheless, it is an interesting development.
The Blue Jays do have multiple routes to take. Dexter Fowler does appear to be the top target in free agency as he fits the holes the Blue Jays currently have. Adam Eaton has been connected as a fit via trade but that hasn’t been a rumour for a while now. The other options aren’t as appealing but they would be last resorts. The latest rumour of a return of Jose Bautista could set all of this for a loop, but hey, that’s the fun of the off-season isn’t it?