Blue Jays’ off-season needs: left field

September 24, 2013, 10:45 AM

It’s no secret that the Toronto Blue Jays have obtained next to no production from their left fielders in 2013. The Melky Cabrera signing—$16 million over two seasons—did not work out in year one, as he had a benign tumour on his spine and played well below expectations on offence and defence.

Toronto’s left fielders collectively rank last among American League teams with a .668 OPS, so it’s only logical to look at the position as a possible area of improvement for the Blue Jays as the 2013–14 off-season approaches—especially considering the team is expected to emphasize defence.

That said, Cabrera’s contract appears to be untradeable and the removal of the tumour provides some reason for optimism entering the 2014 season. The Blue Jays must address other needs, and may simply stay put here.

As always, the Jays’ approach could be affected by any number of moving parts, including Adam Lind. If the Blue Jays bring Lind back in 2014, the only place for Cabrera would be left field, which could simplify the team’s decision. If the Blue Jays decline Lind’s option or trade him, the team would have the flexibility to pursue left fielders more liberally, as Cabrera could spend significant time at designated hitter.

Next up in the four-part preview of the Blue Jays’ needs, here’s sportsnet.ca’s assessment of the Blue Jays’ left-field options entering the off-season:

INTERNAL OPTIONS

Melky Cabrera

2013 stats: 3 HR, .279 AVG, .322 OBP, .360 SLG

Age: 29

Contract notes: $8 million salary in 2014

Cabrera hit .279 with a .322 on-base percentage this year before being placed on the disabled list. Those numbers are respectable enough, but his power—a significant element of his game in years past—disappeared in 2013. Left fielders who are poor defenders and don’t get on base must provide more power than Cabrera did in 2013.

But there’s some hope that Cabrera, who’s still just 29, will be able to move better and generate more power with his lower half in 2014. It’s conceivable that the removal of the tumour and months of rest for his beat-up legs will lead to improved production.

While Anthopoulos has successfully dumped salaries before, it would be extremely difficult to move Cabrera, a well-paid under-performer who dealt with more than one injury this year and recently served a suspension for violating MLB’s drug policy.

Kevin Pillar

2013 stats: 2 HR, .195 AVG, .253 OBP, .312 SLG

Age: 24

Contract notes: pre-arbitration eligible, has minor-league options

Pillar, a 32nd-round draft choice in 2011 who rose quickly through the Blue Jays’ farm system, has struggled against MLB pitching. In theory, the Blue Jays could platoon Pillar with Anthony Gose. In practice, it would be a lot easier to justify that direction if Pillar were hitting better.

Anthony Gose

2013 stats: 2 HR, .262 AVG, .286 OBP, .418 SLG

Age: 23

Contract notes: pre-arbitration eligible, has minor league options

Viewed as a top prospect entering the 2012 season, Gose struggled at the plate in 2013. His speed and defence will win him some admirers wherever he goes, but he may enter 2013 without a regular job. As a player with minor-league options remaining, Gose won’t force the Blue Jays’ hand just yet.

Moises Sierra

2013 stats: 1 HR, .297 AVG, .363 OBP, .495 SLG

Age: 24

Contract notes: pre-arbitration eligible, out of minor-league options after 2013

Sierra has two advantages over Pillar and Gose entering the 2014 season. The right-handed hitter has produced at the plate in 2013, and he is out of minor-league options, meaning he’d have to clear waivers before being sent to the minors next spring. However, Sierra has made occasional blunders on the bases and in the field; he’s not a polished product.

EXTERNAL OPTIONS

Predicting the off-season moves of any organization months in advance is futile. Once again, the players below are best understood as possibilities for the Blue Jays, rather than predicted targets or recommended acquisitions.

Rajai Davis, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

2013 stats: 6 HR, 45 SB, .265 AVG, .318 OBP, .383 SLG

Age: 32

Contract notes: free agent after 2013

Davis has added value on the bases in recent years and has proven himself as a weapon against left-handed pitching. Yet he has said he would like to start in 2013, which may spell the end of his tenure in Toronto.

David DeJesus, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

2013 stats: 7 HR, .251 AVG, .330 OBP, .392 SLG

Age: 33

Contract notes: $6.5-million team option for 2014 with $1.5 million buyout
Currently a member of the Rays, DeJesus could appeal to teams seeking a versatile player capable of filling in at all three outfield positions and getting on base. However, the 11-year veteran won’t hit free agency if the Rays exercise his 2014 option.

Corey Hart, RF, Milwaukee Brewers

2013 stats: did not play due to knee surgery

Age: 31

Contract notes: free agent

Hart established himself as a consistent power bat entering the 2013 season, averaging 24 home runs per season with an .830 OPS from 2007–12. However, he has spent most of his career in right field and 31-year-olds with knee problems aren’t always viewed as sure things on defence.

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