DINGERS FROM THE 6IX
As I am sure you are aware, we are coming ever so close to Christmas, and the Toronto Blue Jays still need one and probably two outfielders if they hope to seriously contend next season. I previously wrote on some under the radar targets that the Blue Jays could pursue which included Brett Gardner, Angel Pagan, and Khris Davis. In the past couple of days, a few additional players have been added to my list, so I decided to investigate these additional options as well. These possible targets would be acquired via trade and would represent viable outfielders for the club next season.
The first of my additional options is former Blue Jay Melky Cabrera, a right handed hitting corner outfielder who has spent the last two seasons on the Chicago White Sox. Last season, he put up 1.6 WAR and recorded a WRC+ of 114. There are several reasons why Cabrera would be a good acquisition. First, he is very good at limiting strikeouts – something which the Jays struggled with as a whole last season – with just a 10.7 K%. He also provides really solid contact with a batting average of at least .270 in every season since 2010 and has shown a relatively steady increase in line drive rates and hard contact rates in his career. In addition, he spent a pair of seasons with the Jays from 2013-2014, and would be familiar with the city as well as some of his teammates. Cabrera also possesses the ability to hit almost anywhere in the lineup and only has one year remaining on his contract meaning that the Jays wouldn’t have to give up much to get him, and won’t have to commit long-term to an aging outfielder. Unfortunately, Cabrera struggles defensively, having put up a negative DRS in all but one season since 2008, including a -5 DRS last season. He also put up a UZR/150 of -7.1 which suggests that he isn’t the most talented defensive outfielder. Cabrera also struggles for power, with a career high of 18 home runs and a career ISO of .131. All told however, using Cabrera as a corner outfielder for a contending club is not the worst solution in the world, as Cabrera could put up solid, if unspectacular numbers in an everyday role.
Unlike Cabrera, Marcell Ozuna is not a veteran outfielder. He’s a 26 year old, controllable, cheap outfielder of the Miami Marlins, who has been rumored to be available in trades for some time now. Overall, Ozuna has put up solid overall numbers for his career, including a 2.4 WAR season last year. In attrition to this, he has a solid career WRC+ of 103, as well as decent strikeout and walk rates of 18.9% and 7.1% respectively last season. Unlike Cabrera, Ozuna possesses the ability to hit the long ball, with more than 20 home runs in two of the last three seasons. He also has a solid hard contact rate of 36.1% for his career, and 17.4% in 2016. In addition, he could probably be a solid corner defender, as he recorded a DRS of 7 during his time in the corners, while only managing a DRS of -12 in center. Since his path to center field is blocked by Kevin Pillar, Ozuna could flourish in a corner outfield role both defensively and offensively. Unfortunately, the Marlins have no reason to give up Ozuna given his age and controllability, so the Marlins would be wise to keep him unless the return is so large, it extends to a point beyond what is worth it to the Blue Jays. Although the Blue Jays should be interested in Marcell Ozuna, his price tag is probably too large for the Blue Jays to consider. They should inquire with the Marlins, though I especially doubt that the two clubs get a deal done.
Another player who is reportedly on the trade block is Las Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig. After excelling in his first two seasons in the big leagues, Puig has struggled recently, recording modest WAR totals of 1.5 and 1.0 in the 2015 and 2016 respectively. The Dodgers were so fed up with Puig this season that they actually sent him to the minors in September. Despite this, the Jays would be wise to consider acquiring the outfielder since he still put up relatively decent numbers as a whole, and has enough potential to seriously consider Puig as a viable outfield option in 2017. With an above average WRC+ in every season of his career, Puig clearly demonstrates some ability with the sticks. In addition, he also projects to improve significantly next season. For example, Steamer projects Puig will manage to put up 2.9 WAR and a WRC+ of 126. In addition to this, Puig is a plus defender with a DRS of 7 last season, and a UZR/150 of 0.6. Despite this, there are some serious negatives regarding Puig. Considering hit poor season last year, I wonder if he is willing to do what is required to improve his performance. More importantly, Puig has an attitude which has been described as selfish as well as a tendency to behave inappropriately.
All considered, the upside could be tremendous, so the Jays should seriously consider Puig in 2017, as he possesses some unique skills which could really help the Jays.
All told, the Blue Jays have several options to consider for a full time outfield role in 2017 including Dalton Pompey, Brett Gardner, Angel Pagan, Khris Davis, and the aforementioned Melky Cabrera, Marcell Ozuna, and Yasiel Puig. Whatever the Blue Jays decide to do, it is imperative that they make the move which best balances the skill of the team in 2017, with the skills of the team in the years beyond.