Breaking Down Blue Jays Free Agent Targets, Part One

Toronto Blue Jays General Manager Ross Atkins said it himself: “What we’d like to do is add another really good player, or two, or three.” After years of stagnation and cautious spending in the free agent market, last year the Jays shocked the world by inking the National League ERA Champion Hyun-Jin Ryu to a four year, $80 million deal.

Heading into 2021, the bluebirds are expected to again be a major player, as it seems they are one of few teams that are in a position to take on salary. Many top Free Agents have come up in rumours, and today I’m going to break down some of the top names and give my thoughts on whether the Jays should pursue them.

George Springer

Easily the top of this year’s Free Agent Class. The 31-yera old former World Series MVP put up a slash line of .265/.359/.540 last season, adding an OPS+ of 140 and 1.9 Wins Above Replacement. The guy hits. He doesn’t strike out, he hits the ball hard, and he can touch soft or hard stuff – a weakness of the Jays that was exploited in the Tampa Bay series. Add this to the fact that he’s an above-average baserunner as well as a plus defender in centre filed, and you have yourself a slam dunk signing.

George Springer checks all the boxes for things I love in a ballplayer. He puts the ball in play, plays good defense, is a great athlete and possesses high baseball IQ. A real Cavan Biggio type – if Biggio was faster and averaged 35 home runs per season.

The only real objection (other than cost, of course) to going after Springer is a moral one. Of course, Springer was a member of the 2017 Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal and won his World Series MVP thanks to knowing exactly what pitch was coming when. He was not one of the ringleaders, but he certainly didn’t do anything to stop it. Do we as Blue Jay fans really want that kind of person on our beloved ball club? Some won’t care, just as long as he performs. Which he has, since 2017. His career-high OPS+ came in 2019.

Should the Jays sign him? I really want to say no. But we’re not talking about Alex Cora, Carlos Beltran, Jose Altuve or Alex Bregman. As far as we know, Springer went about his business and wasn’t the guy pushing this idea.

The Blue Jays had the best outfield in baseball last season, and adding Springer to the mix would put fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers. While Randal Grichuk performed admirably in centre last season, the Jays don’t have an everyday-caliber natural centre fielder. Springer would fill that hole. You could move Grichuk to right and use Teoscar Hernandez as a primary Designated Hitter, where his defense doesn’t hurt you.

I’m going to say yes. The Jays should go after Springer.

Trevor Bauer

I’m not going to get into the Trevor-Bauer-is-cheating-just-look-at-his-spin-rate controversy (you can read about it here.) because I have my own argument for staying far away from Trevor.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy. If it was a different time, different place I’d crawl over broken glass to get him to Toronto. But right now, the Jays have plenty of starting pitching.

They have an ace in Ryu, a four/five guy in Tanner Roark, and rising stars Nate Pearson, Trent Thornton and Ryan Borucki (I still prefer Ryan in a starting role, but either way the Jays need to make up their minds). They already locked up Robbie Ray for another season. That’s six. So maybe there is room for Bauer.

Should the Jays sign him? No. I’d much prefer the Jays use the money they would spend on Bauer and use it to lock up Matt Shoemaker and Taijuan Walker. It sounds like both of them have at least some interest in returning, and both have proven themselves to be solid middle-of-the-rotation arms.

For these reasons, I’m not going to talk about any more starting pitchers.

DJ LeMahieu

Maybe it was my strict anti-Yankees bias, but I was surprised when I heard Jays fans were excited about potentially landing the three-time Gold Glove, two-time Batting Champ. But then I looked into him some more.

Everyone knows the pitch here. LeMahieu is a lifetime .305 hitter with a .357 OBP who plays great defense at second and third base. And that is what I really like about him. Just like George Springer, he fills a whole. Travis Shaw is a fine third basemen, but it’s hard to see him as a part of the team’s long-term plans when we never know what kind of season to expect from him. LeMahieu would give the team everything Shaw does, minus home runs, plus contact, plus defense.

Should the Jays sign him? Yes. I suppose it’s more a preference of style, but the Jays already have a lot of guys who can put the ball over the fence, and not a lot who can hit .300. If the Jays land DJ, expect those solo and two-run shots to turn into three-run home runs and grand slams.

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Ethan Bayduza

Ethan Bayduza is a first-year Business student at the University of Alberta, an official for Hockey Alberta, a coach for the Sherwood Park Athletics, and one of the co-founders of YEG Sports.

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