It’s hard to get upset about the Toronto Blue Jays spending $5 million on an outfielder. That’s a paltry amount to pay to have someone patrol the outfield for 130-plus games during the regular season. Yet, here we are.
Curtis Granderson isn’t the marquee agent signing fans were hoping for. He’s hardly the solution to all the Blue Jays’ outfield woes, but in the right capacity, he solves some problems for them.
For one, he’s additional outfield insurance. Prior to this move, the Blue Jays’ major league outfield depth chart consisted of Kevin Pillar, Teoscar Hernandez, Ezequiel Carrera and Steve Pearce. No offence to the aforementioned players, but collectively, they make up two-and-a-half everyday outfielders.
By getting Granderson, the Blue Jays push their number of everyday outfielders to at least three. Not necessarily three 162-game players, but together, most of the games in the outfield will be covered off by that pool of players.
Again, it’s hard to get upset about the Jays inking a free agent to that short of a term at that low of an AAV. $5 million for a veteran outfielder is a drop in the bucket. I recall the offseason of 2013 when the Blue Jays’ biggest free agent signing was $8 million for Dioner Navarro on a two-year deal.
People (myself included) were horrified that Justin Smoak was going to make $4.1 million ahead of the 2017 season and he had one of the most completely-out-of-nowhere seasons in recent history. Smoak perfectly illustrated how there’s minimal risk when a team signs a player to a modest salary.
If other things are in play here, this signing shouldn’t prevent the Blue Jays from making bigger and better moves. If they’re going to sign Lorenzo Cain, $5 million earmarked for Granderson won’t prevent the Blue Jays from doing it.
Granderson has a place on this Blue Jays roster – probably not as an everyday player – but he’s a left-handed bat who can hit right-handed pitching, he still has power and he’s a perfectly capable defender. If given the choice between Pearce, Carrera and Granderson in the outfield, I would gladly give a glove to Granderson.
Ideally, he shouldn’t be playing the bulk of the games in either left or right field because one: John Gibbons has found him a suitable platoon partner, or two: one of the Blue Jays outfield prospects forces the issue and they pick up some additional playing time.
On its own, this signing doesn’t make much sense for the Blue Jays. How on earth do they stay competitive in the American League East by signing an outfielder entering his age 37 season?
Luckily, he isn’t the Blue Jays’ response to the Yankees going out and getting Giancarlo Stanton. Granderson is part of this 2018 Blue Jays’ movement which has been to incrementally improve each roster spot; “raise the floor” as the Tao of Stieb has so brilliantly named it.
Right now, he starts the season as either the Blue Jays’ starting left or right fielder, but ideally, he’s is relegated to the bench and starts against right-handed pitching where able.
Were he to start, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. It’s not like Granderson would be taking at bats away from anybody. It probably wouldn’t hurt for Anthony Alford and Teoscar Hernandez to spend some more time developing in the minors. As quickly as some want to hand the reins to Alford or Hernandez for an outfield spot, they still have work left to do.
And anybody worried about carrying a 37-year-old outfielder on the roster, let me remind you about this: in his age 36 season with the Blue Jays last year, Jose Bautista was the worst hitter in MLB, batting .203/.308/366 in 157 games. He was worth -0.5 WAR in 2017.
By comparison, Curtis Granderson in his age 36 season batted .212/.323/.452 split between the Mets and the Dodgers. He was worth 2.1 WAR. If that isn’t an improvement in the outfield -albeit a slight one – I don’t know what is.