Toronto Blue Jays: Centre Field Trade Targets


Toronto Blue Jays: Centre Field Trade Targets

The Toronto Blue Jays have improved their roster for 2015, but as we all know there are still a few glaring weaknesses in the lineup. One of those is the centre field position, which has been highly debated throughout the offseason.

The Blue Jays current centre field depth consists of:

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Kevin Pillar

The 25-year-old outfielder Kevin Pillar spent the majority of last season with the Buffalo Bisons. He played 100 games at the AAA level and put up some solid numbers. The 25-year old slashed a .323/.359/.509 and added 10 home runs and 27 stolen bases. The base stealing is something that we have yet to see at the major league level. Pillar has shown that he can dance fairly quickly around the bases in pinch run situations. However in 89 games with the Blue Jays, he has stolen just one base and been caught three times. This is a guy who stole 51 bases in 60 attempts in the minors in 2012. The Jays could certainly use those wheels with Jose Reyes‘ decline and the loss of Anthony Gose.

Sep 27, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Kevin Pillar (11) slides home past Baltimore Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph (36) to score from an RBI double hit Blue Jays second base Steve Tolleson (not in picture) in the third inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Nonetheless, Pillar is in the running for the starting centrefield job, despite playing most of his brief career in left field. The reality is he is being given an opportunity that he has yet to earn. Pillar would likely be much lower on the depth chart on most major league clubs. He struck-out on almost 25% of his at-bats last season, with just four walks in 122 plate appearances. If he wants to be a regular in the big leagues he is going to have to crack down on his plate discipline and figure out a way to utilize his speed.

Dalton Pompey

Dalton Pompey generated a ton of excitement at the end of another disappointing Blue Jays season last year. The Mississauga-native started last season in Single A and clawed his way up to the majors by the end of the year. Pompey is just 22 years old and his flashes of greatness give the idea that he could be a special player. But is a guy who played just 12 career games in AAA and 17 meaningless games in the majors ready to be an everyday centre fielder? I’m a bit pessimistic on this one.

There is no doubt in my mind that he will crack the 40-man roster and will see playing time in the Rogers Centre this year. Stranger things have happened, but I question whether throwing Pompey into the fire so quickly will be best for his development and for the Blue Jays.

Sep 28, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Dalton Pompey (45) reacts to hitting a ball during the second inning in a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre. The Baltimore Orioles won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

His minor-league numbers averaged over the course of five seasons are impressive, considering he was drafted in the 16th round in 2010. The fact that he struck out in 30% of his at-bats with the Blue Jays has been discussed, but it means nothing. His five-season average in the minors saw him strike out in 19% of AB’s. Some of the stand-out stats are his 120 stolen bases in 133 attempts, his .367 on base percentage, and his defensive accolades. He won the minor league Gold Glove award in 2013 as the league’s best centre fielder. He recorded 223 put outs, 8 outfield assists, and 0 errors. His career fielding percentage is a glowing .988%.

Sep 26, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Dalton Pompey (45) heads for third base on his triple against the Baltimore Orioles in the second inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to say that he does not deserve the starting job in Toronto, because it would be such a great story to see a home-town kid come up and make an immediate impact. Realistically, it would be unfair to expect such a thing from Pompey. He has the skill-set to compete at this level, but does not have the experience to perform at a high-level consistently in my opinion. Baseball is such a mental game and he would be better off tearing it up in AAA for a few months before getting the call to the MLB. When that does happen, I really hope this is his walk-up song.

If not Pillar or Pompey, then who can the Blue Jays trade for?

After a flurry of trades in November-December, Alex Anthopolous has been quiet in the New Year. Maybe he hasn’t had a minute to think about his team, because of the Paul Beeston shenanigans. As spring training nears (yay!), time is running out and there are ZERO free agent centre fielders left on the market, according to MLB Trade Rumours.

Here are three realistic trade targets for the Blue Jays:

Drew Stubbs – Colorado Rockies

Drew Stubbs is coming off a great bounce-back season. His strikeouts were down, his average and on base percentage were way up, and he showed that he still has some speed and power left in the tank. Stubbs had some impressive early years with the Cincinnati Reds, but when his play began to decline rapidly, he ended up with the Cleveland Indians in 2013.

After another disappointing season, the Rockies took a flyer on the 30-year-old and it paid dividends last year. Stubbs is not the only Rockies outfielder who had a strong season in 2014. Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson both played their first full seasons as pro’s and had breakout years. That makes an older Drew Stubbs the odd man out of the starting lineup once again this year. The Rockies also have Brandon Barnes who can be utilized across the outfield, making Stubbs a potential trade target.

Aug 1, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Colorado Rockies center fielder Drew Stubbs (13) dives back to first under the tag by Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) in the fifth inning at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Stubbs has one year left on his contract that will pay him $5.8 million in 2015. He brings a power/speed threat to the plate that the Blue Jays are lacking, and would be a massive upgrade at the bottom of the lineup. He is a natural centre fielder and his speed helps him cover a ton of ground in the outfield.

The one-year contract is ideal for the Blue Jays as Stubbs would be the perfect stop-gap to Pompey. The Rockies want to expand current catcher Wilin Rosario’s role into first base and the corner outfield, and it would leave Nick Hundley behind the plate. Dioner Navarro may appeal to the Rockies, but if they still plan on getting younger, it may take a prospect to get a deal done.

Cameron Maybin – San Diego Padres

The Padres have finally decided that they would like to be a half-decent baseball club. After years of trading away every player on their roster who had some sort of success, the Padres have brought some big names into their lineup. Unfortunately for Cameron Maybin, three new faces were welcomed to the outfield and they all immediately become the most talented players on the roster (arguably). Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, and Wil Myers will take care of the outfield in San Diego, which leaves Maybin as a fourth outfielder.

Sep 21, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres center fielder Cameron Maybin (24) at bat during the sixth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Also in the mix in San Diego are outfielders Will Venable, Carlos Quentin, and 23-year-old Rymer Liriano, who made his MLB debut last year. That leaves the team with six capable outfielders to start the year and it makes the struggling Cameron Maybin expendable. He could be an interesting option for the Blue Jays.

Maybin has not lived up to the hype from when he was drafted 10th overall by the Detroit Tigers in 2005 (and eventually traded to the Miami Marlins in a deal for Miguel Cabrera). His best season was in 2011, where the majority of his stats are career highs. He slashed a .264/.323/.393 with nine home runs, 40 stolen bases, and a WAR of 4.5.

If the Jays can get anything close to that production out of him, he will be an upgrade out in centre. One cause for concern is his contract. Maybin will turn 28 in April and is set to make $7 million in 2015 and $8 million in 2016, with a $9 million team option in 2017 with a $1 million buy-out. The $7-8 million price range is what it would have taken to bring Colby Rasmus back (if he wanted to stay), so it isn’t an absurd amount of money.

Jun 30, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres center fielder Cameron Maybin (24) make a diving catch on a ball hit by Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (not pictured) during the first inning at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Maybin is definitely a high-risk player and I would assume it wouldn’t take much at all to pry him away from the Padres, which is why this deal may be intriguing for the Blue Jays. A minor-league pitcher like John Stilson might do the trick.

Peter Bourjos – St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals made a splash in the offseason by trading pitcher Shelby Miller in a deal for outfielder Jason Heyward. With Heyward taking the starting spot in right field, someone is left out of the mix. The Cardinals outfield now consists of Heyward, Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Randal Grichuk, and Peter Bourjos. In addition, the Cards’ top prospect is outfielder Stephen Piscotty and he is expected to get a good look at spring training.

Bourjos has failed to hit the 300 AB plateau since 2011. He has been used as a platoon player and a defensive replacement for the better part of the last three seasons. The 27-year-old is a top-notch defender and seems to routinely make outstanding catches in center field. He hit just .231/.294/.348 last season, but in his only full season as a starter in 2011 he showed that he can contribute offensively (11 triples, 12 home runs, 22 stolen bases, .271 average).

Apr 13, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Peter Bourjos (8) scores on a sacrifice fly by Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter (not pictured) in front of Chicago Cubs catcher Welington Castillo (5) at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals won 6-4. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

If Gibbons decides to go with a platoon in center field to start off the year with either Pillar and/or Pompey, Bourjos would fit into this role quite nicely. He has just one year left on his contract at a cap hit of $1.65 million and like Stubbs, could be a stop gap until Pompey is ready to take over in 2016.

Bourjos was traded by the Los Angeles Angels along with Grichuk in 2013 in exchange for David Freese and Fernando Salas. Considering the Cards are oozing with capable outfielders he could be a buy-low option for the Jays. An extra position player or a couple of minor leaguers that the Cardinals want to take a flyer on may be enough to acquire Bourjos. He would be an exciting player to watch and the worst-case would see him as a reliable defensive asset who knows the game and can chip in offensively.

What do you guys think? Is Pompey ready to be a full-time starter in the big leagues? How does Pillar fit into the Blue Jays plans?

These are my three trade targets for the Blue Jays and I strongly believe that bringing in a new face to play centre field is necessary for the 2015 season.

Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Follow me on Twitter for my three cents on what’s going on in the world of sports: @braydon93