DINGERS FROM THE 6IX
With MLB free agency fast approaching, and the Jays eliminated from postseason contention, the team executives and fans have started to think of ideas for the upcoming offseason. Since the Jays have a few holes to deal with if they wish to remain contenders, free agency is one way they should look to improve, especially since their farm system is still somewhat weak. I outlined areas of need already in my offseason preview (dingersfromthe6ix.weebly.com/home/toronto-blue-jays-offseason-preview), but I thought I should investigate options in more depth.
So we start with the outfield, where the team is losing Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders. Since the team is without an obvious alternative, I decided to start by investigating some OF candidates to replace this pair. Among options include Josh Reddick, Nori Aoki, and Ian Desmond.
Among my options for the outfield are Josh Reddick, a right fielder who spent most of his career with the Oakland Athletics before a midseason trade to the LA Dodgers. There are several reasons why he'd be a good fit for the Blue Jays. The first; he will not get a qualifying offer since he was traded at the deadline. As a result, the Jays wont lose a draft pick for signing him. More importantly, he hits left handed, and has a .270 career batting average against opposite handed pitching. Unfortunately, Reddick's average drops to .218 against lefties, but if the Jays are concerned, they can start someone else and use Reddick as a pinch hitter. Also, he is a legitimate defensive upgrade, with a DRS of 6 last season, which could prove crucial with fly ball pitchers like Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ.
If Reddick is too expensive, the Jays could also consider Nori Aoki, a Japanese outfielder who spent last season on the Seattle Mariners. Another left handed hitter, Aoki has a reputation for speed and contact; things the Jays are in desperate need of. Aoki has a career batting average of .286 and a WRC+ of 106, or slightly above average as a hitter. He also comes with little power, as Aoki has just a career PA/HR of 95.4. In addition, his speed is not as good as many fans would believe, as he was 7 for 16 in stolen bases last season. When you combine this with his -4 DRS last season, Aoki seems like a option with similar upside to Melvin Upton Jr.
This leads me to Ian Desmond, a free agent who spent last season on the Texas Rangers, in his first season as a MLB outfielder. Splitting his time between LF and CF, Desmond managed to put up a DRS of -4, which is unspectacular, but reasonably good for a player in his first season in the outfield. More importantly, he put up a .285 batting average and 22 HR without major splits between pitcher handedness. Despite these seemingly good numbers, he did record a BABIP of .350, which hints for some regression next season since his career BABIP was .324.
Although none of these players is perfect, they all represent reasonable alternatives if the team cannot resign Jose Bautista or Michael Saunders. With few free agent options, these candidates could end up with a significant payday. However it is important for the Jays to consider these players as outfield options if they wish to remain competitive next season.