The Toronto Blue Jays have a plethora of outfielders. Unfortunately a handful of them aren’t really major league quality.
The Jays, as of today, will have seven players fighting for an opening day spot in the outfield. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is locked in at left and the Jays are committed to Randal Grichuk in right. I already disclosed my opinion on the Grichuk contract back in September, you can read that here. Centre field though, that is anyones game.
Teoscar Hernandez is the favourite thanks to his strong second half. But his below average fielding and strikeout rate have people worried that he isn’t part of this teams future. His glove isn’t good enough, and his bat isn’t good enough to be a full-time DH. This year will be crucial for Hernandez to prove he has a place in the future of the ball club.
Then we have everyone else. Derek Fisher, Anthony Alford, Billy McKinney, and Jonathan Davis.
Derek Fisher and Anthony Alford are likely to be the two to make the team as they have no minor league options left. Fisher looked uninspiring to say the least last year but the front office must see something in him. Alford, the former top prospect, hasn’t made the impact he was projected to and now at the age of 25, this year will be make or break for him.
On the outside looking in is McKinney and Davis. McKinney hasn’t looked like he is of MLB quality and will almost certainly start the year in AAA. Davis showed off his glove last year but struggled mightily at the plate. Davis is 27 and seems to have reached his potential of a fourth outfielder with good defence and base running.
In a perfect world, Hernandez builds off of his strong second half in 2019 and runs away with the centre field job. But I’m not that convinced.
But is there anyone out there worth replacing him with?
Remaining Free Agents
The remaining free agent market is pretty empty. The only players who offer significant upside are Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna. Both of which will not be coming to Toronto. Castellanos has been strongly linked with the Rangers and Ozuna seems likely to return to St. Louis. Both of them would result in having to put Grichuk back in centre which Blue Jays management doesn’t seem interested in. Let’s be honest, Castellanos is in no way an upgrade defensively over Hernandez.
The one free agent Toronto has been linked to is Yasiel Puig. Ever since looking like a superstar when he arrived in Los Angeles in 2013 Puig has seen his stock decline. Between his time in Cincinnati and Cleveland in 2019, Puig’s slash line was quite similar to Hernandez’.
With Hernandez coming in at a significantly lower price tag it seems counterintuitive to invest in Puig. 2020 is Hernandez’ last pre-arbitration year so his salary will come nowhere near what it would cost to bring Puig north of the border.
The only way I see the outfield situation changing before opening day is via trade. The trade market seems quite dry at the moment in terms of available outfielders. To be honest, I would have liked to see Nomar Mazara in a Blue Jays uniform but he got scooped up by the Chicago White Sox. He would have forced Grichuk into centre again but I really like his upside at the plate. Watch out for him in the AL Central this year.
Andrew Benintendi has been linked to the Blue Jays throughout the offseason as a piece that would come alongside David Price from Boston. While Boston keeps preaching that they are shedding payroll they have yet to do so. It also appears the Jays front office has sorted out the starting rotation without taking on the remaining $96 million owed to Price. Benintendi would be great but I don’t see it happening.
A possible name the Jays could take a look at is Niko Goodrum. Goodrum, the soon to be 28-year-old has spent the last two seasons in Detroit and has acted as their jack off all trades. In 2019, the only position he didn’t play a game at was catcher. While he didn’t play much centre he split most of his time between left field and shortstop. He hit 12 home runs and drove home 45 in 2019 alongside a slash line of .248/.322/.743.
While he wouldn’t be the solution in centre I like the idea of him splitting time between the outfield and shortstop when Bo Bichette needs a day off. Bichette looks like the only shortstop that will crack the Blue Jays opening day roster.
If the Detroit Tigers are still looking to sell off assets in return for prospects, I think the Jays should jump on Goodrum. Goodrum still has four more years of team control and would kill two birds with one stone.
It’s not a flashy move, but acquiring the swiss army knife from the Tigers would help improve the flexibility Charlie Montoyo has at his disposal for this upcoming season.
Statistics via baseball-reference.com
Follow @coledonnachie on Twitter