A lot has happened since I last wrote about the Blue Jays. I am going to take a quick look at where they currently stand in this offseason and where their priorities should lie going forward.
My current guess of how the opening day lineup would look is:
Obviously there are still some dominoes to fall here. I don’t expect Navarro to be on this team by the start of the season, but the DH hole could be plugged by a few options on any given night. Besides that, there are two glaring holes – Pillar & Goins – that have burned the Jays in the past.
I actually expect the recent Jays pickup, Devon Travis, to be getting full-time reps at 2B by the All-Star break. That may seem optimistic, but all signs point to Travis exceeding expectations at each stop of his MiLB career. He got on base at a .358 clip in AA last year, which is exactly what this team needs and is something Goins simply couldn’t provide. There will be a dip in defence compared to Goins, but perhaps there is a utility role for a player like Goins who can play lock down defence late in games.
So then our big position player hole is in LF. Everyone knows Melky is still out there and by all accounts the Jays have shown interest in bringing him back… at the right price. We’d probably be looking at $13-15M for 3-4 years for Melky, which should buy us about 2 WAR in 2015. Let’s compare steamer projections for Melky and Pillar:
I’ll be the first to admit that the Melky projection seems a bit weak, due to likely still putting too much weight in his 2013 season which was ruined by a tumor on his spine. However, once we factor in improved defence and base running, the difference is 0.3 WAR, aka a rounding error. Additionally, some gains could likely be found with Pillar by platooning him with Mayberry and/or Dirks. So Melky on a short-term deal with $13M AAV? Sure. 4+ years or $15M+ AAV? Probably not the best use of a limited resource. It looks like our best option may be to fill the LF hole internally or through a trade.
Well, what the hell are we going to spend money on? Let’s build a bullpen! Everyone loved watching the Royals get to the 7th inning as they unleashed Herrara-Davis-Holland to mow through hitters. Everyone equally hated some of the late-inning explosions the Blue Jays experienced early in 2014. The Blue Jays bullpen walked too many, struck out too few, and had an xFIP of exactly 4.00. On top of that, numerous important parts are (likely) leaving including the closer and a power righty.
Luckily, as with every offseason, there are lots of RP options out there. The two biggest fish are Robertson and Miller. They are going to demand dollars that aren’t often associated with the bullpen, but very well may be worth it. I’d personally love to see the Jays get Miller as a high-leverage reliever. Other names out there that are interesting include Romo and Soriano, both veterans with growing injury concerns.
Those are the proven bullpen options that the Jays just need to pay for to get. There is also the option of converting fringe starters to relief pitchers. This takes some serious baseball savvy on the part of the organization to realize which starters might convert well, but also the ability to sell it to the player and successfully convert them. The Jays should be on the lookout for starters who have 1 or 2 above average pitches that may be able to pick it up a gear for short 1-2 innings stints. Although he would likely be a tough sell, I still think this is where Morrow ends up long-term. Okay Blue Jays, go find me the next Wade Davis.
So to summarize:
- Don’t spend or trade for a 2B, see what we have in Devon Travis;
- Sign Melky if the price is right (3/39?), but otherwise look to fill internally or through a trade; and
- Build a bullpen by signing Andrew Miller, 1 other proven commodity, and find a couple candidates for starter-to-reliever conversion.