TORONTO – One of mantras for the Toronto Blue Jays this off-season has been depth, and all their major moves thus far reflect an emphasis on building out a sturdier 25-man roster.
Curtis Granderson is the latest piece added to the mix, a veteran outfielder with whom they reached a $5-million, one-year deal with incentives for playing time pending a physical, two industry sources told Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith and myself Monday evening.
The free-agent signing, first reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic on Twitter, comes after trades for versatile infielders Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz. It puts another left-handed hitter into the mix for the Blue Jays, and further extends manager John Gibbons’ ability to mix and match.
More importantly, it doesn’t preclude GM Ross Atkins from further additions and the club is believed to still be looking to another outfielder to a group that includes Kevin Pillar, Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera and Teoscar Hernandez, who could also open the season at triple-A Buffalo.
The Blue Jays’ guarantees for 2018 are now up to either $146.5 million or $147.4 million, depending on whether an arbitrator rules for or against the club when it faces off versus Marcus Stroman and Roberto Osuna. Once the salaries for 0-3 service time players are factored in, they would have an estimated $15 million to spend on a payroll of $165 million.
Besides another outfielder, the Blue Jays want to beef up their starting pitching depth and add a reliever or two, as well, likely of the inexpensive, value-play variety.
How the roster puzzle shakes out right now is unclear, although as things stand and assuming health, the Blue Jays could feature Russ Martin, Justin Smoak, Devon Travis, Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson in the infield, Pearce, Pillar and Granderson in the outfield, Kendrys Morales at DH, with Solarte, Diaz, Carrera and Luke Maile on the bench.
Whether there’s enough bounce back there to upgrade the AL’s least productive offence in 2017 is open to debate, and something to keep an eye on is what happens with Pearce and Morales, since keeping both on the roster creates a bit of a logjam.
Another concern is that Granderson will play next year at 37 and is coming off a 36-game stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers to end the 2017 campaign in which he slashed just .161/.288/.366 with 33 strikeouts in 132 plate appearances.
Still, for the season, he posted a combined .775 OPS, hit 26 homers and walked 71 times in 527 plate appearances over 147 games with the New York Mets and Dodgers, and is known for being a very good teammate.
Granderson plays all three outfield spots, as well, providing coverage across the outfield and buying time for the Blue Jays to let Hernandez and fellow prospects Anthony Alford, Dalton Pompey and Dwight Smith Jr., develop at triple-A Buffalo, should they so choose.
That’s a significant difference from this past season, when the Blue Jays sent 25 different players to the disabled list 31 times and often scrambled to simply cover themselves in games. They ran through 60 different players – 50 per cent more than an entire 40-man roster – underlining how they were forced to make things up as they went along.
Insulation is good, but there’s a need to add some impact, as well, especially for a team seeking to rebound from a dismal 76-86 campaign. The Blue Jays look like they’ll start the 2018 season on a sturdier foundation, and have both the resources and opportunity to add more style to their substance.