Third Base Options
Friday, October 29 2021 @ 12:13 PM EDT
Contributed by: John Northey
So, given we know the Jays have had issues at Third Base this year (to put it nicely) what are the options for an upgrade?
Using FanGraphs (easy sorting for players at a position) there were 19 guys who played at 3B who qualified for the batting title. I think it is safe to say the Jays will be looking for an everyday player and not a platoon or injury prone guy or someone who needs lots of DH time (100+ games at 3B to be lisited here). Lets look at the 11 who had 3+ fWAR (thus guys worth more than one would expect from Espinal or Biggio both of whom I figure would be adequate at 3B everyday - in the 2 range for WAR).
- Jose Ramirez: the big one. Everyone wants him, but Cleveland will want a mint to give him up. Rightfully so. 137 wRC+, a strong defender as well as a great bat. 6.3 fWAR last year and signed cheaply for 2022 and 2023, then expect a $250+ mil deal.
- Rafael Devers: Boston - not available, not a free agent until after 2023.
- Yoan Moncada: White Sox - not available, signed through 2024 with a 2025 team option, and the White Sox can easily afford him
- Manny Machado: Padres - still a great player, 5.1 WAR in 2021 but the Padres are in a 'win now' mode and he is owed $224 mil over the next 7 years with a player opt out after 2023
- Austin Riley: Atlanta - not available, not even in arbitration until the 2023 season
- Nolan Arenado: St Louis - last winter he was available sorta, but had a no-trade clause iirc and wanted to go to St Louis, no way he moves again.
- Justin Turner: LAD - not available, was a free agent last winter, signed for 2022 with a team option for 2023
- Kris Bryant: Free Agent - here it gets interesting - he played a LOT in LF/RF and a bit in CF & 1B (even at SS for 2 innings). Which is something the Jays probably would like. Entering his age 30 season, had a bad 2020 but a 124 OPS+ this season, and had a 1.147 OPS in the playoffs. I suspect SF will try hard to hold him.
- Matt Chapman: Oakland - after losing their manager it is expected the A's will begin a full rebuild now. That makes Chapman very available. Just a 101 wRC+ last year, but has a 120 OPS+ lifetime and is entering his age 29 season. Strong on defense, has 2 gold gloves and solid defensive scores for 2021. Not a free agent until after 2023, but his pay is growing in arbitration beyond the A's means.
- Jeimer Candelario: Detroit - had an excellent 2020 and 2021 with the bat but his glove is made of stone. A switch hitter which is a plus for the Jays, but defense makes him a low possibility, plus Detroit can afford to keep him if they want.
- Eduardo Escobar: Free Agent - 109 OPS+ last year splitting time between Arizona and Milwaukee, played at 1B as well, 2B in 2020, and a tiny bit at SS in 2020 and 2019. Entering his age 33 season I see him as a 'if no one else signs or the budget is blown on pitching' guy.
- Josh Donaldson: under 100 games at 3B this year (34 at DH) but I'm listing him anyways. 127 OPS+ 124 wRC+, his defense took a big hit in 2021 (-19.4 UZR/150 vs lifetime 4.2, 11.9 in 2020) but I'd suspect he'd still be adequate there. From 2013 to now his worst season long OPS+ is 119 (his final injury prone season here). Signed for $21.75 mil each of the next 2 seasons plus a $16 mil option ($8 mil buyout) for 2024. His contract I'm sure the Twins would like to dump and he seems to want to come back here from all indications. He might be a good fit - 3B most of the time with Escobar or Biggio being his backup for 60-70 games when he DH's instead (Springer or Vlad get the other 90 or so games at DH). A risk as his personality seems to be in conflict with the go-easy attitude we see here now, but maybe that is needed to push the team to the next level. Hard to say.
So what is the cost? Escobar & Bryant are free agents without compensation (Bryant traded mid-season, Escobar would probably take the QO), Donaldson would be a low level prospect at best (Minny trying to cut payroll I suspect), The A's are also in cost cutting mode so Chapman would be cheaper than he should be. Or you go for the gold standard and spend a TON of prospect capital to get Ramirez. My bet right now is Chapman or Donaldson if Bryant won't sign at a reasonable price. Or the good ol' internal options
- Cavan Biggio: had a bad year due to injuries. I felt he was misplaced at 3B. -8.8 UZR/150 (vs -13.4 in 2020). Might improve more but really belongs at 2B or as a super-utility guy.
- Santiago Espinal: had a great year despite injuries at the end. Great defense at 3B 13.9 UZR/150. If his bat can keep going he should be out there, but few would bet on that.
- Kevin Smith: looked terrible in his brief callup, but tore AAA apart - 20.2 UZR/150 in just 78 innings for what it is worth. Steamer projects him to hit 239/297/425 if in the majors in 2022, so if that defense is real he might be a solid player. If.
- Breyvic Valera: yes, he is still on the 40 man but I don't see why. 81 wRC+, 17.3 UZR/150 at 3B, might be useful as a backup but I can't see the point.
- Otto Lopez: more a 2B/SS/OF than a 3B, projected by Steamer to hit 269/319/388 so worth keeping an eye on, but more for 2B than 3B
- Vinny Capra: 3B/LF this year, Entering age 25 season, steamer has him at 239/294/361 so he need more seasoning most likely and is probably a backup only.
- Jordan Groshans: 3B/SS - entering age 22 season, steamer has him at 255/314/380 and is viewed as strong on defense. He'll have a shot if no one is traded for or signed.
- Samad Taylor: 2B/3B/LF/SS - entering age 23 season, steamer has him at 235/304/384. Seemed to jump his game this year so 2022 should be interesting to watch. I expect him in AAA ready for an injury anywhere.
I expect Biggio/Espinal to share either 3B or 2B and Smith/Lopez/Groshans to fight it out for 3B if no trades/free agent signed. We'll see.
Of course, there is always the option of signing one of the big free agent shortstops and putting them at 3B or 2B ala Semien last year. But that is a bit too much speculation for now - wait until February for that. If any of those guys are still hanging around the Jays might then grab one again. Guys like Trevor Story
(73 games at 3B in minors, 29 at 2B), Corey Seager
(6 games at 3B in majors, 20 in minors), Carlos Correa
(never a game anywhere but SS), and others. I see Story as the most likely to not find an adequate contract due to his 'meh' year this year (103 OPS+) and the Colorado factor.