Many of the Toronto Blue Jays’ holes have arisen from a lack of options. That’s not the case with the outfield where the club has plenty of bodies, but very few answers. If they were to wade into free agency, it would be in search of stability and perhaps an admission that guys like Teoscar Hernandez, Derek Fisher, Billy McKinney, and Anthony Alford aren’t starting options in the immediate future — or in all likelihood, ever.
That seems harsh, but it isn’t completely unjustifiable given the fact that cohort is full of players who have been unable to establish themselves at the MLB level and aren’t young enough that it’s fair to project much development from here. Alford might be something of an exception to that statement given his unusual development path, but if the Blue Jays decided no one they have in-house is ready to be a full-time complement to Randal Grichuk and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. that would be understandable.
Here are a few guys they might look at to bring some certainty to their outfield corps:
The Big-Money Veteran: Marcell Ozuna
Plays: Left Field, Centre Field
2019 stats: .243/.330/.474 line with 29 home runs and a 2.6 WAR in 549 PA
How it works: In Ozuna’s St. Louis Cardinals career he’s been more of a good, reliable player than the star he looked like he might become after a breakout 2017 campaign. That said, he’s still a guy with serious power who plays a corner outfield position very well (and could handle centre in a pinch) and tends to provide some surplus value on the bases, too.
Ozuna’s plate discipline also took a major jump in 2019 and he was a Statcast monster with 93rd percentile Exit Velocity. The outfielder’s low .259 BABIP is hard to square with the way he hit the ball and per Statcast he had an Expected Batting Average of .284 and Expected Slugging Percentage of .523 last year. With a little more luck his numbers should improve in 2020. A move to a better ballpark to hit could help matters as well.
The veteran has already been linked to the Blue Jays this offseason, albeit with dubious sourcing.
The Fun Option: Yasiel Puig
Plays: Right Field
2019 stats: .267/.327/.458 line with 24 home runs and a 1.2 WAR in 611 PA
How it works: Puig never blossomed into the league-changing superstar he looked like when he arrived on the scene in 2013, but he’s consistently wielded an above-average bat in his seven MLB seasons. He also had an intriguing finish to 2019 where his plate discipline improved significantly when he arrived in Cleveland. Although he does have pop, he’s probably at his best when he’s working at-bats the way he did early in his career.
The veteran is also a big personality who would help make the Blue Jays more fun. It’s hard to imagine that as a priority for this front office, but bringing aboard a marketable and well-known guy like Puig certainly wouldn’t hurt and he’d have fan favourite potential if he produced. Puig is not a good defensive outfielder, but if the Blue Jays opted against a full-time DH and mixed him in there from time to time this could be a fit.
If his fishing exploits are anything to go on, Puig’s probably not opposed to the idea of spending more time in Toronto.
The Reborn Veteran: Cameron Maybin
Plays: Left Field, Centre Field, Right Field
2019 stats: .285/.364/.494 line with 11 home runs and a 1.6 WAR in 269 PA
How it works: To believe it’s a good idea to bring Maybin aboard, you have to buy his strong 2019 season, which is a little dicey considering the relatively small sample. His age also has to be a concern. Even so, what the journeyman did with the Yankees this year seems to check out. He found a power stroke for the first time in his career and saw his extra-base hits and strikeouts rise together with the change in approach. He set his highest exit velocity on record as well — so nothing he did really screams “fluke.”
Also, despite the fact he’s coming up on his 33rd birthday, Maybin remains one of the faster players in the game (87th percentile Sprint Speed) and while his defensive metrics weren’t great in 2019, the athleticism is still there and it seems fair to assume that’s not an anomaly. At his best, the veteran has an interesting power-speed combination and the ability to play all three outfield positions. He’d probably be available for a reasonable sum too, meaning the Blue Jays could scoop him up without exhausting too much of their offseason budget.
The Lefty Bat: Corey Dickerson
Plays: Left Field
2019 stats: .304/.341/.565 line with 12 home runs and a 1.0 WAR in 279 PA
How it works: Dickerson has had an odd career trajectory in recent years. In 2017 he was an all-star but played a lot of DH and received near-constant (and arguably unfair) criticism for his defence. In 2018 he won a Gold Glove, but saw his power output drop significantly. This year he looked ready to put everything together, but he hit the 60-day IL early in the year with a shoulder injury and was shut down in September due to a fractured foot.
Those injuries make him a bit of a scary investment, but he was an above-average contributor in both of the previous two seasons and when he’s healthy he mashes. There was a time when he was thought to be something of a Coors Field product, but it’s clear Dickerson wields a fearsome bat from the left side — something the Blue Jays lack. He’s also shown that he can be a good defender (although he didn’t grade out that way in 2019). His injury concerns are real, and he’d force one of Randal Grichuk or Teoscar Hernandez into centre or into part of a DH rotation, but he’s probably one of the more underrated free agents out there.
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