Catching up on the Toronto Blue Jays' off-season
By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
If you've been following me on Twitter, you'll know that I'm not in Toronto right now. I've been traveling with Mrs. Blue to visit people (and the sights) in Israel and India. While doing so, I've been lacking either time or reliable internet to be able to catch up on my reactions to various goings on with the Blue Jays and in Major League Baseball.
I'll start with the biggest stories in major league baseball. The Los Angeles Angels have won the race to get Shohei Otani and the New York Yankees have won the race to acquire Giancarlo Stanton.
Otani is going to the American League and the Angels are going to have an interesting time breaking him into the big leagues both on the mound and at the plate. The Angels had the ability to offer Otani up to $2.3 million in the form of a signing bonus and the right-handed pitcher and left-handed hitter is probably going to be able to both hit and pitch as a part-time DH with the Angels.
The Stanton deal is probably more worrisome for the Blue Jays who will have to play the Yankees 19 times in 2018. A new "murderer's row" is shaping up for the Yanks who will have Stanton, the NL's MVP in 2017, in the lineup with Aaron Judge, the 2017 AL Rookie of the Year. What did the Yanks have to give up? Just Starlin Castro and prospects Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers. Guzman was ranked by MLB.com as the Yankees' #9 prospect and Devers wasn't ranked after playing his first year in pro ball at the age of 18 in 2017.
The Stanton acquisition is just another nail in the coffin for the Blue Jays whose offensive struggles in 2017 were one of the main reasons the club barely missed finishing in last place. The Blue Jays just don't have the internal personnel to match the Yankees' offence and, as last year demonstrated, the Jays are not likely to get the unbelievable health they got out of their starting pitchers in 2016 ever again. Who can the Jays go out and get to improve the offense? Aledmys Diaz (see below) is not the answer.
The "biggest" news in the Blue Jays' world since I've been gone has been the trade with the Cardinals of prospect J.B. Woodman for infielder Aledmys Diaz. Diaz, 27, comes to the Blue Jays with fewer than two years of major league service and had a tremendous rookie campaign in 2016 with St. Louis, hitting .300/.369/.510 in 111 games, bopping 28 doubles, three triples and 17 home runs, finishing fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting. His playing time decreased last year (and he saw time in the minors) as he hit just .259/.290/.392 with 17 doubles and seven home runs in 79 games, still showing his power but failing to get on base as much. The Jays get a guy back who struggled to recognize pitches in 2017, leading to worse plate discipline (sound familiar, Blue Jays fans?) and worse overall numbers than in his first year.
The Jays send J.B. Woodman back. Woodman is an interesting prospect who definitely has the potential to be a major league player if he can figure out his swing-and-miss issues. Having seen Woodman a bit, I really like the contact he makes. There's definitely that "sound" when his bat hits the ball and he had very good power numbers last year with a .138 ISO with the Lansing Lugnuts. The problem is that he doesn't make enough contact, disappointing people with a 37.9% strikeout rate in 2017. That said, there's a lot of "ifs" in most people's assessments of Woodman and that leads to him being a tradeable player.
You can read more about Woodman if you have a premium subscription to Blue Jays from Away and all readers can hear our interview with him from 2017 with the Lugnuts.
On the "downside," the Blue Jays are getting a middle infielder who can contribute more with the bat in a down season (78 wRC+) than either Ryan Goins (69 wRC+) or Darwin Barney (58 wRC+).
Speaking of Ryan Goins, the Blue Jays decided to avoid arbitration with him and pitcher Tom Koehler (who was estimated to get $6 million in salary) by non-tendering them, meaning that they both became free agents. I don't really have much of a thought on that. While many fans have an attachment to Goins, he just wasn't producing much with the bat while Koehler was OK with Toronto in 2017 (2.65 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 18 K, 6 BB in 17 IP), he wasn't worth $6 million.
In minor league free agent signings, the Jays re-signed Luis Santos who was a strong pitcher in the minors and in his major league debut. Santos had a 2.70 ERA, striking out 16 batters and walking four in 16 2/3 innings in his first big league action while posting a 4.07 ERA in 108 1/3 innings in Buffalo, mostly as a starter.
Pitchers Jeff Beliveau and Leonel Campos and infielders Gregorio Petit and Christian Lopes and catcher Raffy Lopez have all have signed elsewhere. Lopes's signing with the Rangers makes him the first Blue Jays' minor league lifer to take a contact with another team. In 92 games with Buffalo last year, Lopes hit a solid .261/.349/.402 with 25 doubles, two triples and six home runs.
Did we miss anything? Any thoughts? Let us know!
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The 2017 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook is now available! Check out the Handbook page for more information!