In an interview with Sportsnet Fan590 Blue Jays Talk John Gibbons, Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, stated that the team needs to improve on the balance and speed of the lineup.
Does that mean the slower power right handed hitters Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion will not return to Canada’s team?
Although it will pain some Jays fans to let Jose Bautista walk, his time as a Blue Jay may be over. If speed and balance is going to be the priority of the offseason for the Blue Jays, Bautista just wont fit the bill. A right handed outfielder, with average speed that is in decline. His fielding is not at the elite level it was a few years back. That was evident in these playoffs, especially in the ALCS series where he had a couple balls bounce off his glove.
A cheap substitute for Bautista would be to keep left handed hitting Ezequiel Carrera in right field. He started every game in the playoffs, mainly in left field, but would often shift to right field when Upton would spell Saunders as a pinch hitter. Carrera was well liked by the fans and could possibly fill the role, however, there are better suitors in free agency.
Jon Jay is an option the Jays may be considering. He is a left handed batter who can play all three outfield positions. Jay will be 32 on opening day next season and reports indicate him not re-signing with the rebuilding San Diego Padres. He has a career .287 batting average over seven years in the major leagues, and hit .291 this past season. Power is not in his repertoire and would most likely be suited best as a leadoff or sixth or seventh hitter in the lineup. He is not an upgrade as far as the speed element, but he is an outstanding defender with a career .995% fielding. Jay is also a playoff veteran. 58 playoff games including two trips to the World Series, including a World Series title in 2011 with the St Louis Cardinals. At age 32 he should still have a couple years left of good baseball left in him and could help with getting on base and balancing out the lineup card for John Gibbons.
Another option to help with balance is left handed veteran designated hitter, Carlos Beltran. There were reports they had interest in trading for him at the deadline for offensive help. Beltran, 39, has been a thorn in Toronto’s side for years playing for the Yankees and most recently the Texas Rangers, who acquired him at the trade deadline this year. Easy fix? Sign him. He’s hit .281 over his long career including 421 home runs. In a hitter friendly ball park Beltran would be a welcomed addition as a Designated Hitter and bench bat.
As far as adding an element of speed to the lineup there is not much out there in Free agency and the trade route may be best to find speed.
Adam Eaton, Right Fielder of the Chicago White Sox, would be a good target. He has a long term contract until 2021, however, year 2020 and 2021 are club options to renew his contract. Eaton has a batting average of .284 and has 47 stolen bases over the last three seasons. He has average power, but is a lock to hit 15 home runs per season. Best of all, he is left handed.
The Blue Jays will certainly want to keep Encarnacion on their roster next season, but Bautista’s status as a Torontonian remains in limbo. There are some replacement options for the Blue Jays for Bautista, but only time will tell what Jays management decide.
It will surely be an interesting offseason for the Toronto Blue Jays.