Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Fillin' Holes Free Agent Style

It's been an odd hot stove season this year, in that it's dragging right on into spring training with some of the biggest names on the market remaining unsigned. Now that Ubaldo has signed with the Orioles (which probably sucks for more reasons than just necessitating a re-write of this post's preamble), the list of players still wondering where their next pay cheque will come from includes Ervin Santana, Stephen Drew, Nelson Cruz, and Kendrys Morales. There are some serviceable ball players still out there, but so far nobody seems to have been willing to offer them a contract in line with what they feel their services are worth. In these cases, the draft pick compensation their previous clubs saddled them with is definitely hurting their value

Of that group, the only players remaining that might fit with the Jays are Ervin Santana and Stephen Drew now that he's reportedly open to playing positions other than shortstop. The Blue Jays haven't been shy about letting their desire to upgrade the rotation be known, but they also have a gaping black hole slated to start at second base. If the season started today the Jays would be going with some combination of Ryan Goins, Maicer Izturis, Munenori Kawasaki, Chris Getz, and Brent Morel. According to FanGraphs' projected depth charts, all those names project to provide a big fat pile of replacement level "production" (0.4 fWAR to be precise) which, while still an improvement over last year's -2.1 fWAR from the position, is not exactly what any team with competitive aspirations should be willing to settle for.

Basically, all of this got me thinking about where the Blue Jays could make the bigger upgrade if they are only able to sign one of the remaining free agents that seem to fit. It's been taken for granted that their biggest need is in the rotation, but they are much deeper in back end starters to fill in behind Dickey, Buehrle and Morrow than they were last season. Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek are both back from their Tommy John surgeries, and Marcus Stroman is by all accounts ready for prime time in either the rotation or bullpen. J.A. Happ, Todd Redmond and Esmil Rogers are also still around and can presumably still be counted on for some solid if unspectacular innings. Could it be possible that the team would actually be better off making an improvement at second base and standing pat in the rotation? I clicked on over to those same FanGraphs depth charts to see what I could see.