Window Shopping The Remaining Free Agents
Friday, February 05 2021 @ 12:54 PM EST
Contributed by: Eephus
A little something thread on a Friday afternoon...
(but really an excuse for me to write about Taijuan Walker)
The Blue Jays have clearly made multiple splashes on the free agent front, giving them a lineup that looks devastatingly fearsome on paper (that term sounded better in my head, I swear). So what's left? Here are my quick thoughts on the top 10 remaining free agents, according to MLBTR
1. Trevor Bauer (SP)
We've been through this. Pass. I just don't think he's that good.
As an aside, if he ends up going to the Mets: the contract will be a disaster because... Mets gotta Mets. If he ends up as a Dodger: he'll probably be the same guy he was in Cleveland with one more Cy Young level year out of nowhere. I have no factual or statistical basis on making these predictions of course.
(edit: and of course Bauer signs with the Dodgers while I write this. Bless the edit button)
4. Marcell Ozuna (OF/DH)
I didn't see much of a fit here before the Springer signing, now the possibility seems all the more redundant. He's a good hitter though and I hope he stays on the National League side of things.
11. Jake Odorizzi (SP)
He clearly fits a need here (*cough* starting pitching *cough*) but I wouldn't be jumping at the opportunity to throw a three year deal at him. I like his consistency though, even if he is consistently average.
14. Justin Turner (3B)
The dude can really hit, so if you're committed to assembling a batting super lineup he would fill a remaining spot. As is, I'd be very surprised if scoring runs is the biggest problem for the 2021 Blue Jays so I don't see an urgent need for Turner here. He's also 36 and not a particularly strong fielder anymore either.
21. Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF)
A very useful player, with strong defensive and baserunning value. He doesn't really make sense now with all the outfielders here (if they jettisoned Grichuk to some poor unfortunate soul, then maybe). Rumours have it that Bradley Jr. is looking for a 3-4 year deal, which is a bit much for a guy I see as an elite fourth outfielder type.
22. James Paxton (SP)
He's gonna get hurt. There's just no way around that reality. The gamble is whether he can give you 140 innings or 20. His dips in velocity are worrying, but that combined with his injury history are really the only reasons he's hanging around as a potential bargain. When he has been able to take the mound, he's been extremely good every season aside from 2020 (which in the context of MLB history is so bizzare it's difficult to reach substantial conclusions from anything there). I'm all for it, you'd just have to hope his health lines up with the stretch run.
23. Taijuan Walker (SP)
He clearly liked being a Blue Jay, seems like a cool guy, and pitched really well when he was here. So just re-sign him already!
Walker has had an interesting career. He was a huge hotshot prospect coming up in the Mariners organization, making his MLB debut as a 20 year old in 2013 (and holding his own in three appearances, all starts). Seattle still kept him in AAA for a good chunk of 2014, summoning him in late June for a trio of starts and then a sustained September run. For the next two seasons Walker was a reliable fixture in the Mariners rotation, putting up mirror 11-8 and 8-11 campaigns with an ERA in the mid 4s, showing a good ability to limit walks but also allowing his fair share of home runs. The top prospect sparkle seemed to have worn off as far as the Mariners were concerned, and traded Walker (then 24) and Ketel Marte to Arizona for Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger. Segura gave Seattle a couple pretty good seasons and Haniger is still a very valuable hitter for Seattle when healthy, but Marte exploded into stardom as a Dback and even finished top 5 in MVP voting as recently as 2019 (hey that sounds familiar).
As for Taijuan Walker, Arizona is where the injury bug stung him. He put up a solid 2017 season (9-9, 3.49, 2.6 WAR in 157.1 innings) but the next two years were complete write-offs. The ol' Tommy John surgery got him, and through 2018-19 he pitched only four times. The Diamondbacks let him go after 2019 and Seattle scooped him back, buying low and giving him a few million bucks to see if he had anything left after pitching a grand total of 14 innings in two years. Turns out he did. His first start was rather rocky (7 H, 5 ER in 3.1 IP) but the next four were strong enough to attract the attention of a team looking for starting rotation help for their playoff push, which is where we come in.
Like Paxton, relying on Walker to stay healthy seems like a bit of a gamble. Likewise, when healthy, Walker has proven himself a very effective major league pitcher and he's only 28 (Paxton is 32). I wonder, after losing two entire seasons to injury, if there's still some untapped upside here also. Anyway if I haven't made it clear enough, hey Blue Jays please re-sign this guy. I'd even wager, if given a similar amount of innings, that in 2021 he'll be more valuable than Trevor Bauer. And infinitely easier to cheer for.
26. Trevor Rosenthal (RP)
If we're talking free agent 'Trevors' I'd much prefer this one. Modern MLB success does seem to reward teams with dominant, deep bullpens and so Rosenthal (if 2020 isn't a mirage and he's back to his pre-2017 ability) would be a nice addition to slot along with the likes of Yates, Dolis and Romano. No, I wouldn't give him more than one year either.
32. Yadier Molina (C)
As many (more connected than I) people have pointed out, the Blue Jays "interest" in Molina is likely a ploy to get the Cardinals hurrying up to bring back their legendary catcher already. Which is what is going to happen, of course. Yadier actually being a Blue Jay though? It's compelling sure... and completing the Molina brother trifecta would be so worth it... but I'd be shocked to see him not as a Cardinal in 2021.
46. Rick Porcello (SP)
The exact guy you sign and give innings to when you're trying to not be awful, but not be good either. I'd like to think/hope that the 2021 Blue Jays have higher ambitions. I always forget that Porcello won the Cy Young in 2016. He's actually never made an all-star team, and got lit up in the 2016 playoffs for good measure. He just screams 'Mets' to me and if they miss on Bauer, I sense a reunion is in the cards.
Toronto has already made some smart splashes on this free agent front, and to be fair this list (aside from Walker and Paxton) isn't terribly exciting, realistic or frankly needed. Aside from pitching, the bench could use another piece and I really liked Mike Green's suggestion of Marwin Gonzalez. Yeah, you've got the case of Astros Stink again I suppose but Gonzalez is a versatile player with bounce back potential offensively, and a good enough glove you could plug in anywhere on the field. Adam Frazier of the Pirates is another interesting guy you could kind of imagine as a useful super-sub on a contending team. Who knows! I definitely don't think the team is done quite yet, even if their big cannonball splashes have left the pool.