Window Shopping Free Agents

Friday, November 20 2020 @ 07:36 AM EST

Contributed by: Eephus

Like an early holiday season bonanza and your team has money to spend... what's the perfect gift for that special team in your life? Hard to say.

It remains to be seen what exact direction the Blue Jays are going to take this offseason to improve themselves. Whether it be bullish optimism for potential blockbuster trades (*cough* Lindor *cough*), or like last winter with an unexpected free agent splash. Or neither of those, opting to improve around the margins with  moderate-risk flyers as their biggest moves. This is also a team (as John Northey's recent articles have well illustrated) with a lot of position players theoretically able to rotate to other spots depending on weakness. Basically, the Blue Jays could realistically make an improvement at almost any position on the field. We are still rather lingering-like in the infancy of the off-season, so who can possibly guess how any of this will play out (or if this next season will proceed normally, considering the current state of affairs).  

Before all those good times though, it is now Baseball's silly season and my piece here is for fun, either speculative fun or fun speculation. I'm going to review the top 50 Free Agents (as listed by MLBTradeRumours) and briefly nibble into how they might or might not be a good fit on the 2021 Blue Jays. This is really just my firsthand thoughts when considering these names, so I likely won't drive into specific stats too often here. Just this humble writer's take, for however many bars of gold pressed Latinum that's worth. Right, lets roll.


1. Trevor Bauer (SP-CIN) --- NL Cy Young, 5-4, 1.73 (2.8 WAR) 73 IP 100 SO

Yeah hard pass. I'm not into it. Without making this a debate about his off-field presence versus his talent, I just don't think he's really this good. He's been a consistently average/slightly better MLB starting pitcher with two exceptional seasons that stand out of nowhere: frankly his career Cleveland numbers are who I think he really is. Granted, even at that baseline Bauer makes the team better, and Bauer himself has said he'd be open to a one year deal so hey! There's no such thing as a bad one of those. Otherwise, nah. He's a good pitcher, but he's a considerable notch below say Max Scherzer (or Hyun-Jin Ryu, frankly) when they were free agents. Not worth the headache.   

2. J.T. Realmuto (C-PHI) -- .266/.349/.491 (1.2 WAR) - 173 AB (OPS+ 123)

Arguably the very best catcher in baseball these past few years, though I can't recall if I've ever seen him play... whatever style or presence he carries on the field with him is completely absent to me.

Regardless of my bad memory, Realmuto is an excellent player, so his fit in Toronto really depends on how you feel about one Jansen; Danny. I mean, if Guerrero Jr. can move back to third, then Realmuto can DH against lefties a lot of days when Jansen catches, giving Tellez the day off and moving maybe Biggio to 1B and.... ugh my head already hurts. In my opinion, If you can get a player like him then absolutely, you shift some things around... but I think this Blue Jays team has greater priorities to solve elsewhere on the field, and I still believe in Jansen eventually figuring out his bat (probably just misses his old glasses).

3. George Springer (OF-HOU) -- .265/.359/.540 (1.9 WAR) - 189 AB (OPS+ 140 - career 131)

Astros stink aside (and reek it shall) yeah now we're really talking. Springer is likely older than you think (31 next season) and he's likely to be better suited in RF pretty soon, but he's even a defensive upgrade on Grichuk in CF. Springer's bat of course, is the calling card. He'd instantly be the best hitter on the team, and it's not like scoring runs was the 2020 team's problem. Factor in the "championship pedigree" and "leader on a perennial playoff team" stuff and the stories will write themselves for the Toronto media (and the... ya know... sign-stealing stuff... I'm sure there will be some takes on that also). 

4. Marcell Ozuna (OF-ATL) -- .338/.431/.636 (2.3 WAR) - 228 AB (OPS+ 175 - career 117)

The perpetual "big free agent outfield bat" these past few off-seasons, Ozuna sure was on fire for those two months. He's a useful player and a good hitter, but doesn't it seem like the Blue Jays already have a few guys like this? Right-handed batter with power, best in a corner outfield spot and not a great glove there anyway, doesn't walk a ton and prone to strikeouts. Ozuna is just the premium version of that, a great complementary piece in the lineup but I'd way rather have Springer if that's where we're spending cash on outfielders.

5. D.J LeMahieu (2B/3B-NYY) -- .364/.421/.590 (2.8 WAR) - 195 AB (OPS+ 177 - career 102)

I'm... skeptical. Very skeptical.

The Yankees seem to have a habit of transforming previously unimpressive hitters (Gio Urshela, Aaron Hicks, Luke Voit) from other teams and making them into absolute studs. Lemahieu was a solid-to-good player in Colorado and he did win a batting title there in 2016 (in a season that looked nothing like anything he ever did before or after in Denver). I'm confident he would make the 2021 Blue Jays better in some way, and the more good players the better! You can play him almost anywhere in the infield, he's your automatic leadoff hitter and you know veteran-veternanness. At big dollars though, I think somebody is going to be disappointed. Expecting him to put up his New York numbers is not realistic (unless you move in that right field fence, fellas). 

6. Marcus Stroman (SP) *did not play in 2020

He's already accepted the Mets qualifying offer. Nice. Queens seems like a good fit for the guy. Rooting for him as always.

7. Ha-Seong Kim (SS-KBO)

Certainly an unknown that I, or really anyone who hasn't seen the dude play, can really comment on in too much detail. The scouting reports are intriguing, though KBO numbers don't seem to transition well into MLB. I like gambles on unknowns though, at least when it's not my money.

8. Didi Gregorius (SS-PHI) .284/.339/.488 (0.9 WAR) - 215 AB (OPS+ 119 - career 100)

I like him a lot, but he's probably not the guy you nudge Bichette off of shortstop for. He doesn't have a lot of experience at 3B or 2B either, majors or minors. Sorry Sir Didi.

9. Kevin Gausman (SP-SF) 3-3, 3.62 (1.3 WAR) 59.2 IP, 79 SO

These old Oriole pitchers... back from the dead and scattered amongst the farthest lands! Darren O'Day pitching playoff innings...! Dylan Bundy lighting it up in Anaheim...! Zack Britton watching while a lesser pitcher gives up a playoff series walkoff...! Chris Tillman is a name you maybe forgot about...! They still walk among us my friends... and my friends, now you are aware of these events... and remember my friends, future events like these will affect you in the future. You are interested in the mysterious, the unknown, the...

Oops heh, wrong speech. Anyway Gausman accepted the Giants QO. I always thought 'Manos: Hands of Fate' was way worse anyway.

10. Masahiro Tanaka (SP-NYY) 3-3, 3.56 (0.7 WAR) 48 IP, 44 SO

I expect him to end up back in New York, but if not then this is the exact kind of starting pitcher I'd go for. Aside from his rookie year he's never been the true superstar pitcher most of us expected when he came over from Japan (especially after striking out eight Jays in his ML debut), but so much of what impressed us about Ryu is similar with Tanaka: They're pitchers. Both set hitters up brilliantly and are masters at disrupting timing, whether it be Tanaka's splitter or Ryu's great changeup. Neither give away free bases very often either and well... I just like watching guys who really know what they're doing out there. You could be worried about Tanaka's HR issues, although he has spent his whole North American career pitching home games in New Yankee Stadium. It'd be a great pickup, and stealing from the Yankees would be satisfying of course... but he's staying there. 

11. Jake Odorizzi (SP-MIN) 0-1, 6.59 - 13.2 IP 12 SO

Here's one I feel like people have been talking about forever. I like it... he's a clearly useful, consistent pitcher even if he's a guy who doesn't go deep into the 6th/7th often. So, perfect for modern MLB baseball then. Sigh.

(His lack of innings this summer were the result of a back injury at the beginning of the season, a line drive in the chest that knocked him out a month, and a blister in September. 2020 is a cruel beast to many and all).

12. Liam Hendriks (RP-OAK) 1.78 - 25 IP, 38 SO, 0.671 WHIP (1.4 WAR) 14 SV

If anyone is curious, yes Jesse Chavez pitched in professional baseball this year. In the Major Leagues! It was for the Texas Rangers though... so draw your own conclusions.

A Hendriks reunion (again) would be pretty funny, and I say this not just because he's still the only MLB player in history who shares my first name. I bet you one thing Atkins is not particularly eager to pursue right now though are big money deals on relievers. Rather see what Romano, Dolis, maybe even Merryweather can do in that role. 

13. Michael Brantley (LF/DH-HOU) .300/.364/.476 (1.5 WAR) 170 AB (OPS+ 126 - career 116)

I'd actually just assumed this whole time that Brantley was 37 or 38 at this point, instead he's 34 next May. Nevertheless, a player older than me! ...a comment I'm sure many of you Bauxites are mentally throwing tomatoes at me for, and fair enough.

Brantley can clearly still swing a bat, and I like his left-handedness for this particular Jays lineup... he's just more of a missing piece on a true contender 'type of player', rather than for a young team that's starting to break through. 

14. Justin Turner (3B-LAD) .307/.400/.460 (1.3 WAR) 150 AB (OPS+ 135 - career 128)

(before the end of the World Series): "Turner on the Jays? Hmmm he's a bit old, and a Cali guy so he probably stays in LA. Seems like a decent defender though... okay maybe I could talk myself into it..."

(after the end of the World Series): "..............."

15. Marcus Semien (SS-OAK) .223/.305/.374 (0.3 WAR) 211 AB (OPS+ 91 - career 105)

Not an ideal fit either, unless you think his 2019 bat is for real and you can buy low, maybe start him as your supersub infielder and see what happens. The potential is interesting, but someone else will surely give him a better opportunity.

16. James McCann (C-CWS) .289/.360/.536 (1.2 WAR) 97 AB (OPS+ 144 - career 86)

Did you know James McCann was an all-star? I sure didn't. For the 2019 White Sox. Wild stuff, eh?

Oh yeah also, I'd rather stick with Jansen.

17. Andrelton Simmons (SS-ANA) .297/.346/.356 (0.3 WAR) 118 AB (OPS+ 95 - career 91)

An interesting one. The question is if he's an everyday player anymore, or if his last couple years have lessened his sizeable defensive impact. If he's still the guy he was there a few years ago, well yeah you shift Bichette to 2B or 3B because *unintelligible words* defense! I was too young for Ozzie Smith, but watching prime Andrelton highlights are the closest thing to that experience I can imagine. He's not exactly at the age where the range/health comes back, and his bat has never been good enough to play 3B or elsewhere really.

I could talk myself into it, with some other bigger moves and then hope Simmons can overcome his ankle issues... bouncing back to at least be a notch just under the greatest defensive shortstops of all time. On a one year deal it'd be interesting, and very fun to watch. Even bad Simmons (past couple years) would be a huge improvement over those years where the SS plan was "we've got Royce Clayton or David Eckstein and then... break glass for John McDonald".

18. Joc Pederson (OF-LAD) .190/.285/.397 (-0.4 WAR) 121 AB (OPS+ 84 - career 116)

I could see him hitting 40 bombs somewhere that isn't Dodger Stadium.... gee you know... maybe if Randal Grichuk had a platoon split... no Eephus! Bad, bad! We need a good defensive centerfielder! No!

I'd be into this, but if we're going for an outfielder I'd rather it be someone that nudges Grichuk back to RF (or elsewhere). Pederson would be a nice occasional LF/RF/DH piece and has serious power, it's just that the fit here would be better if Rowdy Tellez hadn't burst on the scene so well in 2020 (I'm extremely cool with that continuing, by the way). He also bats left like Derek Fisher! Except Pederson is actually capable of playing the outfi@#%#@%#@@#  *this part of the review was lost to technical difficulties*

*I'm also done posting stats at this point. Odds are if you've read this far, you're more capable than I of looking up the ones you want)

19. Jose Quintana (SP-CHC)

A Windy City hurler. South Side and North. I like the consistency, and he's not overly prone to dingers it seems. Plus left-handedness. Not sexy, but a better rotation option than Roark, assuredly.

20. Nelson Cruz (DH-MIN)

He's 40, he's a DH for sure... but the dude just keeps hitting. Really hitting.

If Guerrero Jr. can stick at 3B for a year, or they trade Tellez... then you've got a spot, I guess. It wouldn't be an insane move, just an odd one. The dude can seriously rake but he severely limits your flexibility considering he's played 54 total innings in the outfield since 2016 (and ZERO in 19-20 as a Twin). Like Brantley, he's a guy who hops aboard a title contender to hit timely bombs. Besides, we've got the younger version of Cruz anyway. 

21. Jackie Bradley Jr. (CF-BOS)

I like Bradley Jr. much the same way I like Simmons: you're plugging in a fringey average hitter everyday to significantly improve your defense. Granted, that didn't much help the fortunes of the 2020 Red Sox or the 2020 Angels (or even the 2019 versions of either team). Bradley Jr. seems like an excellent spare part for a good team: he's arguably as good a defender as Kevin Kiermaier, isn't allergic to walks and he's got some sneaky power. He'll strikeout a lot and his good speed doesn't really translate as a stolen base threat, but beyond Springer if we're talking free agent outfielders this is the guy I'd want to see in blue on opening day 2021.

22. James Paxton (SP-NYY)

This one is too easy. "Big Maple" is obviously a stud when healthy. I think he likes pitching in Toronto also... (assuming that will happen in 2021).

Health is always a big question with this guy, but unless it's an insane contract this is a high-risk, high-reward move I think most fans (and myself) would get behind. Forget the flag, he's a good pitcher who improves your team.

23. Taijuan Walker (SP-SEA/TOR)

Seems like he enjoyed his time here. I enjoyed his time on the mound here, and it's not his fault some outfielder can't catch a fly ball. Like Paxton he's a health risk (maybe a bigger one), but I'd gladly bring him back at something below unreasonable prices. So hurry up all ready...

24. Garrett Richards (SP-SD)

Strikes me as a Matt Shoemaker type: solid seasons as Angels, already in their 30s and constantly battling injuries. Intriguing, but I'd rather have Shoemaker. Stick with the unpredictability you know, after all.

25. Kolten Wong (2B-StL)

A clearly useful player, and one that would shore up the Toronto middle infield defense effectively. Kind of an odd player also, like he's always been the exact same guy since he came up. Doesn't strikeout much, draws walks, plays strong second base, but he doesn't hit for power whatsoever. He slugged .326 this season. Yeahhh. His career SLG% is .384. Better, but not super great either. Wong isn't somebody I'd invest a long contract into, since he seems awfully close to the Darwin Barney side of career paths, but he has some positives I like. Depends what else happens.

26. Brad Hand (RP-CLE)

Finding effective relievers at a bargain seems to be a strength of this front office, so as I said earlier I doubt they'd invest significant money in one as a free agent. If they were though, Hand would be my choice. He's a left-hander who consistently doesn't walk people and is a proven closer/late inning guy. Not saying they should, but... this is a guy who improves even the best bullpens in baseball.

27. Trevor Rosenthal (RP-KC/SD)

Not as keen on Rosenthal. He was a very good closer in the mid-2010s until wandering through baseball wilderness for a while. Even when he's right the strikezone still moves around on him a bit too much.

28. Trevor May (RP-MIN)

Useful arm, but spending money on well known setup guys is probably even less of this team's current priority. Good, because it's also the least exciting move they could possibly make.

29. Blake Treinen (RP-LAD)

Before the playoffs this is a guy I would've taken a low-risk flyer on. Pitching significant and noticeable innings on a WS winner though means somebody is probably gonna open the wallet. Hey, make that dough while you can.

30. Tommy LaStella (IF-LAA/OAK)

Hmmm, okay. LaStella has been a very good hitter since leaving the Cubs, and would profile as a useful utility piece on a good team. He doesn't walk or strikeout much, and the metrics suggest his glove seems average at best at either second or third. Contact hitting in the name of his game: maybe you'd rather have Travis Shaw, maybe not. Fact: the Angels traded him to Oakland his summer for Franklin Barreto (there's a familiar prospect name!)

31. Corey Kluber (SP-TEX)

A real roll of the dice. He was one of the very best pitchers in baseball for quite a while. Two Cy Young awards. He's also only pitched 37 MLB innings in the past two years because of injury. Pitchers, man. Sometimes they make it back, sometimes they don't. Tough call here, and a brave move for whoever makes it. The pedigree here is so good that somebody will take the expensive chance on him. Dunno if I'd want that to be us. 

32. Yadier Molina (C-StL)

As fun as it would be to be the only franchise to have every Amazing Catching Molina brother play for them, again I'd probably rather just give Jansen another year to see if can do more at this point. It'd be weird to see Yadier not as a Cardinal anyway.

(Also yes I know if Yadier went to the Angels that would also make them the only franchblah blah blah etc.)

33. Charlie Morton (SP-TB)

He's old, but has turned himself into a reliably terrific MLB starter. I'd be into it. Dunno if he would be.

34. Jurickson Profar (UT-SD)

Getting away from the Rangers organization seems to have been good for this guy (which I suspect is no fluke). Again it all depends if the Blue Jays add another infielder, or where they want to play Biggio etc. Profar seems to be one of those guys who can well play anywhere, but doesn't play well anywhere (with the glove). So the gamble would be if his bat has another gear (he's still only 27) and really become an elite super-sub. An interesting player.

35. Adam Wainwright (SP-StL)

I love watching him pitch, and he had a pretty good year... but it was his first one of those in the past six and I'm never optimistic the AL East will be as kind as the NL Central. Again, seeing him as not a Cardinal would be weird.

36. Robbie Ray (SP-ARI/TOR)

Signed sealed delivered, I'm yours!

(I wrote this article well after he re-signed, but what the hey some thoughts: I like the low stakes roll of the dice on a guy with exceptional stuff, and if he can get back to a simply bad walk rate (4 BB/9) instead of his 2020 Nuke Waloosh impression, I think it'll work fine. Granted I like him a lot more as your #4/5 guy than your #2, so the work of adding pitching is far from over yet). 

37. Cesar Hernandez (2B-CLE)

Could a decent pickup if you're definitely shifting Biggio to 3B. I wouldn't do it though... Hernandez seems a solid player but this would be an exceptionally unexciting signing.

38. Carlos Santana (1B/DH-CLE)

He's still a good hitter I'm confident enough to argue (despite a bad 2020) but there's no fit here at all. Rather see what Tellez can do.

39. Alex Colome (RP-CWS)

If you're ever going to spend significant payroll on relievers, in my opinion you want: consistent dominance, a healthy track record, a lights-out pitch, good SO/BB ratios and nothing showing significant velocity decline. Colome doesn't strikeout as many as you'd like to see from the modern uber-closer... he's merely a very good relief pitcher. He'll get a much larger contract than Ken Giles this winter though, without question. Pitching: it ain't good for ya.  

40. Mike Minor (SP-TEX/OAK)

An excellent buy-low candidate. He gives up a few too many homers though, and we've already got one left-handed reclamation project. A tantalizing option, nevertheless.

41. J.A. Happ (SP-NYY)

Good things come in threes! I bet the initial welcome would be far happier than the first two occasions he joined the team. It'd be hilarious. Dude can still pitch also.

42. Kirby Yates (RP-SD)

From 2017-19, Yates was without doubt one of the best relievers in baseball... is a true statement I suspect I am not alone in being astonished by. He was injured in 2020 and pitched only 4.1 innings. I'd seriously take a peek: high upside, low risk on a one year deal. His track record has all those things I mentioned I like to see in relievers. Elbow injuries are scary, though, no matter what they are (Yates had surgery to remove bone chips in August).

43. Greg Holland (RP-KC)

He's only 34? Wow. Feel like I was still in high school when this guy came up. Anyway thanks but no thanks.

44. Drew Smyly (SP-SF)

He's the left-handed Matt Shoemaker: if he's healthy he's a useful starting pitcher, he just isn't ever healthy enough. Maybe you luck out and get the season he finally pitches 160 innings, but the roulette wheel does not show mercy.*

*(I wrote that before Smyly signed with Atlanta, which some people seemed disappointed in that the Blue Jays didn't make that move in lieu of Robbie Ray. I'd much rather have 150 Smyly innings than Ray innings, sure that is most likely to be true. Both are risks but of a different kind: Ray is as likely to pitch 100 terrible walk and home run infested innings as Smyly is to only log 10 all year because his arm blows up again. Comes down to your taste in danger, I suppose).

45. Jon Lester (SP-CHC)

Something something pedigree something something. A great pitcher for a long time. The twilight of those times has passed.

46. Rick Porcello (SP-NYM)

True story: I watched Porcello's ML debut from the first base line at the Dome, memorable because it was also Ricky Romero's ML debut. A memorable game.

Also hardest of all passes. I'd rather have Lester (at least his weird deep reluctance to ever throw to first is memorably entertaining).

47. Cole Hamels (SP-ATL)

Cole Hamels was a Brave in 2020? Feels like he pitched for Texas about two decades ago. If he's genuinely healthy I'd sniff around: I think he's still got some decent years left.

48. Mark Melancon (RP-ATL)

The man thinks about grass a lot...

...because he runs a business on the side that specializes in artificial turf! Geez, what were you thinking...

Melancon is a good relief pitcher with tons of closing experience. Toronto signing him would be odd, only because he's one of those "NL Guys", just a player who bounces around a few teams but rarely or never crosses leagues. I bet Atlanta brings him back, regardless.

49. Anthony DeScalfani (SP-CIN)

He's definitely had a better MLB career than Henderson Alvarez, or Justin Nicolino. Bet you saw that coming in winter 2012. Aside from that, yeah sorry but not a guy you'd want to rely on. Health has been the problem (sensing a theme here), though he's been able to take the mound considerably more than the other health/upside guys on this list (Smyly, Richards, Walker). DeScalfani's ceiling isn't as exciting as those guys, however. I'd still have him starting for my team over Porcello though.

50. Chris Archer (SP-PIT) *did not pitch in 2020

Ah, the alluring option. A one year flyer on an old nemesis? If he's healthy, sign me up all day for that. The Pirates are a bad, bad team and their badness can infect others. But also... he might be toast. Pitchers: you never know.


That's all I've got. If I've missed somebody interesting (which I definitely have) apologizes for that, but I do hope you enjoyed my undoubtedly unscientific browsing of the market, especially if you disagree with my conclusions! Either way, it's that time of year where these things move slowly, so there's still plenty of time to enjoy the silly season of transactions. Cheers all.