By Cole Shelton
Canadian Baseball Network
The Toronto Blue Jays report to spring training this month, and one question heading into camp is what will the team do with the outfield?
This offseason the Blue Jays acquired Randal Grichuk from the St. Louis Cardinals and signed Curtis Granderson as a free agent, both are outfielders. Not only did Toronto add two outfielders, they added to a position of depth already. The Blue Jays have Ezequiel Carrera, Steve Pearce, Kevin Pillar, Anthony Alford, Dalton Pompey, Teoscar Hernandez, Grichuk and Granderson all heading into camp vying for four maybe five spots in that outfield. In other words, that is a ton of outfielders with most likely four staying in the majors, and three or four heading to triple-A Buffalo.
However, if Toronto decides to start the season with five outfielders the Blue Jays bench will take a hit. Carrying five outfielders will not allow Toronto to carry eight relievers something they have liked to do to open the season in years past. Or have Aledmys Diaz on the big club, and have Yangervis Solarte as the only backup infielder on the roster.
Now, it isn’t just the major-league roster where the outfield is a mess. It is also in triple-A, as Ian Parmley, Harold Ramirez, Roemon Fields, Pompey, Alford and Hernandez fighting for just four roster spots, with a trickle-down effect all throughout the minor league systems.
So what should Toronto do?
First off, the Blue Jays should look at the trade market for Carrera or Pearce, and try to acquire some bullpen help or maybe a backup catcher. Realistically, the Blue Jays do not need both Pearce and Carrera. Trading one of them for bullpen help will strengthen a position of weakness currently, while it will also open a roster spot up in the infield for Diaz or possibly allowing them to carry eight relievers to start the season like mentioned earlier.
Carrera is already replaced on the roster by Granderson who will earn $5 million this season. Last season, Carrera hit .282 with eight home runs and 20 RBIs compared to Granderson’s .212 batting average and 26 home runs and 64 RBIs. Granderson hits for more power than Carrera but Carrera gets on base more with a .356 on-base percentage compared to Granderson’s .323. However, Granderson also hits left-handed pitchers better than Carrera where Carrera hit below .100 last season, something where Granderson can come in and hit both left-handed and right-handed pitchers off the bench in a pinch-hitting scenario.
But where Granderson is more valuable than Carrera is in the outfield, as Granderson commits fewer errors than Carrera and also has a better arm for a better chance to throw someone out on the bases.
Now that Granderson has appeared to take over Carrera’s spot as the fourth outfielder or platoon outfielder with Pearce, there really is no reason to carry Carrera on this roster. But what might Carrera bring back through a trade?
Looking through past years of trades of fourth outfielders the consensus is that they typically receive a pitcher who has struggled in the majors, or a prospect who is nowhere close to the teams top-30. Truthfully, the Blue Jays should accept a trade for anything to give themselves more roster flexibility.
If they can’t get rid of Carrera and have to go to camp with five outfielders — which is not ideal in any way — it will trickle down all the way through the minor leagues as mentioned. Buffalo already has a plethora of outfielders regardless of what Toronto does. The Bisons already have Alford, Hernandez, Pompey, Parmley, Fields and Ramirez, and there is no possible way they can all be on that roster each getting regular at-bats. So a way Toronto could fix that is by looking to possibly package the likes of Parmley and Fields for a pitcher who could be in the bullpen, or a not so liked option by Blue Jays fans would be to move Pompey.
Pompey practically missed all of last season with injuries and is in his final year with an option. Pompey could be attractive to rebuilding clubs, as he gets on base and can steal bases with relative ease. While, he has also been passed on the depth chart by Hernandez and Alford and there is no clear path for him to the majors for 2019 when he doesn’t have options, Toronto risks losing him anyways. Pompey could get another player similar to him as a once-promising prospect who has been passed over and needs a fresh start in a new organization. Or a relief pitcher who will strengthen Toronto’s mediocre bullpen at best.
Whatever the Blue Jays decide to do with the outfield one thing is clear. Toronto must move one outfielder with a real possibility they trade an outfielder in triple-A Buffalo. Doing so will give the Blue Jays the most roster flexibility moving forward.