5 players the Blue Jays should sign in free agency

Nov 3 2017, 8:37 am

The 2017 Major League Baseball season concluded with a World Series victory by the Houston Astros, but the season of heavy lifting is upon us: the offseason. On Tuesday, MLB’s free agent frenzy begins.

This is when teams augment their roster by bringing in free agents to fill in the gaps on their roster, although it’s quite frequently where clubs spend frivolously on big-dollar contracts that quite often don’t pan out.

The Toronto Blue Jays are a team with plenty of holes on their roster and they could fill a several of them by inking some free agents to occupy those empty roster spots. They may not sign the premiere free agents available, but the following five players make sense for the Jays to go after.

1. Eduardo Nunez (Boston Red Sox)

  • Position: Infielder/outfielder
  • Age: 30
  • 2017 stats: .313 AVG, 12 HR, 58 RBI, .341 OBP
  • 2017 average salary: $4.2 million

This man is like a Swiss Army Knife on the diamond. Eduardo Nunez played a total of five different positions in 2017. However, the bulk of his playing time has been at second base, shortstop, and third base, and the Blue Jays just so happen to need some middle infield insurance.

With the status of Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis up in the air, the Blue Jays desperately need a middle infielder who can play both middle infield positions. Not only can Nunez back up or start for Tulo and Travis, he could also move to the outfield if necessary.

The only caveat about signing Nunez is his health status. His 2017 season ended during the playoffs when he had to be carried off the field in the ALDS against the Houston Astros.

The latest news is that the multi-positional player won’t require surgery and ideally should be ready for the 2018 season. He seems like a wise buy for the Blue Jays; a team in apparent need of as many infielders as they can get.

2. Alex Cobb (Tampa Bay Rays)

  • Position: Starting pitcher
  • Age: 30
  • 2017 stats: 3.66 ERA, 12-10, 128 SO, 1.22 WHIP
  • 2017 average salary: $4.2 million

If you can’t beat ’em, sign ’em. This is where the Blue Jays could do well by signing one of the pitchers who has haunted them for years as a division rival: Alex Cobb.

Traditionally, this Tampa Bay Rays’ right-hander has shut down the Blue Jays. Since 2011, Cobb owns a 2.71 career ERA against Toronto. The bluebirds often have trouble with Rays’ starting pitching and Cobb was no exception.

Although Cobb underwent Tommy John surgery a few years ago, he came back fully healthy in 2017 and enjoyed the best season of his career.

The Blue Jays basically have four of their five starting pitcher spots penciled in already and Cobb may seem like a luxury for the Blue Jays to have, but Toronto burned through 14 starting pitchers in 2017.

Signing Cobb would provide some much-needed insurance for the Blue Jays’ starting rotation, which would allow Joe Biagini – the current candidate for the fifth starter’s job – to move into the bullpen. Biagini yo-yo’d back and forth between the bullpen and rotation last year, but he’s pitched better in relief for the Blue Jays.

3. Lorenzo Cain (Kansas City Royals)

  • Position: Outfielder
  • Age: 31
  • 2017 stats: .300 AVG, 15 HR, 49 RBI, .363 OBP
  • 2017 average salary: $8.75 million

If there’s one thing the Blue Jays are in desperate need of next year, it’s outfielders. Now that Jose Bautista is likely gone, that opens potentially two outfield positions to be filled for the 2018 season.

Lorenzo Cain will be in high demand this free agency period, which is bad news for the Blue Jays. With multiple high payroll suitors out there, the Jays might be forced to overpay in terms of dollars or term to convince Cain to come to Toronto.

Last year, the Blue Jays reportedly tried to make a play for free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler. Both players are very similar in skill-set, which means if Toronto was interested in Fowler, they should in theory consider Cain as a bride’s maid choice for top tier outfielders.

Cain could be worth the premium, though; not only is he solid presence at the plate, he’s a slick fielder and has some wheels around the base paths, too. The 31-year-old’s presence in the lineup would provide some much-needed speed to an overall very slow-footed Toronto Blue Jays team.

4. Tony Watson (Los Angeles Dodgers)

  • Position: Relief pitcher
  • Age: 32
  • 2017 stats: 3.38 ERA, 10 SV, 53 SO, 1.38 WHIP
  • 2017 average salary: $5.6 million

Ever since Brett Cecil departed as a free agent at the end of the 2016 season, the Blue Jays’ search for a reliable left-handed reliever has been everlasting. Enter Tony Watson.

He’s coming off a World Series appearance with the Los Angeles Dodgers in which he pitched six scoreless innings of relief in the NLCS and the Fall Classic.

Interestingly enough, the he Blue Jays have actually been linked to Watson in the past. For the past six years, he’s been one of the most durable and reliable lefty relievers in baseball, as he’s averaged nearly 72 appearances a season since 2012.

The Blue Jays do have a few lefties in their system (Aaron Loup, Matt Dermody, Tim Mayza), but nowhere near the calibre that Watson could provide their bullpen.

Overall, the bullpen is the one area of the Blue Jays which probably needs the least amount of augmenting this offseason, but having ample relievers – especially left-handers – is never a bad strategy.

5. Howie Kendrick (Washington Nationals)

  • Position: Infielder/outfielder
  • Age: 34
  • 2017 stats: .315 AVG, 9 HR, 41 RBI, .368 OBP
  • 2017 average salary: $10 million

By nature, Howie Kendrick is a second baseman, but the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals played him in the outfield for 63 of the 91 games he played during the 2017 season.

Admittedly, Kendrick is entering his age-34 season and his best playing days are behind him, but his position versatility makes him an attractive option for the Blue Jays.

He wouldn’t fill the void at the top of the Blue Jays’ lineup, but Kendrick is a decent option to have in the lower third of batting order. Considering that Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney received the bulk of playing time at second base after Travis was injured, the bar has been set fairly low.

Kendrick would represent a marked improvement over what the Blue Jays paraded at second base this season. Given his age and the fact that he only signed a one-year deal with the Phillies last winter, the Blue Jays should be able to sign Kendrick on the cheap and on a short term.

He wouldn’t represent a long-term solution for the Blue Jays at second base or in the outfield, but he’s a decent band-aid solution until the club determines whether Travis will be the team’s everyday second baseman moving forward.

See also
Ian HunterIan Hunter

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