Michael Brantley could improve Blue Jays outfield depth

Michael Brantley

The Houston Astros may lose their starting outfield of George Springer, Michael Brantley, and Josh Reddick. All three players will become free agents this winter. There is a chance that the Astros will resign Springer or Brantley, but there is a chance none of them return. If that’s the case, then all three will have quite a few suitors offering them all sorts of contracts this offseason. One of those teams who should inquire about Brantley is the Toronto Blue Jays.

Brantley Would Help the Young Blue Jays

At 33-years old, he’s an above-average outfielder who is coming off a two-year, $32 million dollar contract with the Astros. In those two seasons, the Bellevue, WA native’s slash line was .309/.370/.497, while hitting 27 home runs for 112 RBI. His career contact rate is 90.9%, while his strikeout rate is 10.8%. Brantley has rarely had a bad at-bat as he is the type of veteran the Blue Jays could use in the bottom half of the lineup.

Last season, the Blue Jays insisted on improving the team around their young core. They did so by being aggressive on the open market, landing Cy Young caliber pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu. The southpaw was a big reason why Toronto qualified for the last spot in the expanded playoffs. The Blue Jays are a young team capable of improvement, and adding Brantley would be beneficial for a few good reasons.

Brantley’s Connection With the Club

The outfielder was a member of the Cleveland Indians simultaneously when Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro were. Plus, adding an above-average outfielder like Brantley comes with a little versatility. The four-time All-Star has played all three outfield positions while filling in as the Astros DH 26 times during the 2020 season.

If the Blue Jays were to sign the former MVP finalist, the club could similarly use him. Toronto would cycle him and other batters in the DH spot while getting reps in the outfield. However, adding Brantley would force a lineup shuffle as the Blue Jays have Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Randal Grichuk, and Teoscar Hernández as their three everyday outfielders.

Toronto’s most significant challenge for the outfield is at centerfield. Grichuk’s near $30 million dollar contract over three years is the only thing stopping them from signing another outfielder. Unless Hernandez plays DH full-time, there isn’t room for another outfielder until Grichuk’s contract is moved.

One of the Outfielders Must Go

If Brantley signs, one of the current outfielders on the club’s roster must go. The Blue Jays could spare Grichuk. He’s a good source of power at the plate, but he comes with subpar defense in centerfield. The Blue Jays should try to balance themselves out. Pitching is a priority, but improving a defense who ranked 29th in defensive runs scored and outs above average is a must. Aside from the 31-year old Springer, the free-agent market at centerfield provides value from the likes of Marcell Ozuna and Joc Pederson.

Now, if the Blue Jays can’t sign Brantley or any of the names above, or trade Grichuk, then Jonathan Davis is in play as the fourth outfield option. Davis, who has superior defensive skills over Derek Fisher, needs to improve his bat. In 156 plate appearances, he’s batted .200/.286/.296 in a span of three MLB seasons.

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