Adding Brantley would give Jays elite offence, set up more possible moves

Arden Zwelling & Ben Nicholson-Smith discuss the Blue Jays' big move in signing George Springer to a 6 year, $150 million deal, and discuss what could be next for GM Ross Atkins and company.

TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays may have just been getting started when they agreed to terms with George Springer on a franchise-record six-year, $150 million contract late Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, they engaged in serious talks with Michael Brantley, according to multiple industry sources. Earlier in the day, multiple outlets including Sportsnet reported that a deal was in place with Brantley, but a Blue Jays team official later refuted the report. But even though there’s no guarantee a deal will come to fruition, the possibility is certainly worth considering.

If completed, a deal would give Toronto’s already-potent lineup yet another impact bat. But given how crowded the Blue Jays’ outfield mix would look with Brantley, adding him might also prompt further moves.

First, let’s turn our attention to Brantley, Springer’s former Astros teammate and fellow client of Excel Sports Management. Now 33, he remains one of MLB’s best bat-to-ball hitters, as his lifetime .297 average suggests. He combines those contact skills with an excellent plate approach that often sees him walk nearly as often as he strikes out. While he doesn’t offer Springer’s power, he hit 17 home runs in 2018 and 22 homers in 2019, making the AL all-star team both times.

Defensively, Brantley’s a corner outfielder at this stage in his career with the bulk of his career experience coming in left field. He was also Houston’s designated hitter 26 times in 2020, so manager Charlie Montoyo would likely include him in the team’s DH mix, too. With 34th percentile sprint speed, he’s doesn’t chase down fly balls with the same ease that he did when he first came up with a Cleveland team overseen by current Blue Jays executives Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins.

All told, he’s been worth 3.8 wins above replacement per 650 plate appearances, meaning he’s consistently been an all-star player when healthy. During the shortened 2020, he generated 1.7 WAR according to Baseball-Reference, and the year before that he was worth 4.8 WAR.

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Where exactly the Blue Jays go from here is unclear, but it stands to reason that a potential deal with Brantley would be a precursor to more. As soon news of advanced talks broke Wednesday, industry speculation began about possible trades involving Lourdes Gurriel Jr. or Randal Grichuk. It’s even possible the Blue Jays already have a framework in place for a possible deal involving one of those players (Gurriel Jr., who has three years and $14.7 million remaining on his contract before one final year of arbitration eligibility in 2024, has far more trade value of the two).

Regardless, the additions of Springer and Brantley would give the Blue Jays one of the best lineups in the American League. From here, the Blue Jays would have further needs on the infield and on the pitching staff, but this week has already been extremely productive for a team looking to build on its first playoff appearance in four seasons.

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