The Toronto Blue Jays made several moves this offseason and overhauled their roster in an attempt to contend during the upcoming 2015 season. As a result of these moves, the team parted ways with several of its players from last season and acquired new talent at several positions.
Not all the players currently on Toronto’s roster benefited equally from the team’s offseason, however. While some of the Blue Jays’ winter transactions left certain players in a good position heading into the new season, other players will see their role and playing time reduced.
Let’s take a look at the biggest winners and losers from Toronto’s offseason.
Winner: Russell Martin, Catcher
Russell Martin is an obvious choice here. The 31-year-old had a breakout 2014 season during which he hit .290/.402/.430 with 11 home runs, 67 RBI and 45 runs scored in 111 games. During the offseason, Martin cashed in on his big year and signed a five-year, $82 million contract with the Blue Jays.
Heading into the 2015 season, Martin is guaranteed the starting catcher job and figures to be a big part of Toronto’s lineup both offensively and defensively.
It’s worth noting that Martin’s last stint in the American League East didn’t end well. He spent the 2012 season with New York Yankees and hit just .211/.311/.403 in 133 games. Martin would go on to leave the American League following that season and join the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Now, not only does Martin get a large multiyear contract to return to the AL East, but he also gets a chance to play for the Blue Jays in his native Canada. Not a bad offseason for him.
Loser: Dioner Navarro, Catcher
The Blue Jays signed Dioner Navarro to a two-year deal last offseason. Toronto had hoped that the catcher would be able to return to a starting role after spending the past four seasons as a backup.
That move paid off, as Navarro turned out to be one of the team’s biggest bright spots during the 2014 season. He played 139 games and hit .274/.317/.395 with 12 home runs, 69 RBI and 40 runs scored.
Despite putting up those strong numbers, Navarro’s days as a starting catcher with the Blue Jays are likely done after the team went out and signed Martin. With the acquisition of first baseman/designated hitter Justin Smoak, Navarro also won’t be getting everyday at-bats at the DH spot.
The Blue Jays have been looking for a way to trade the 30-year-old Navarro, per Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com, but the fact that he’s a free agent after the 2015 season has really decreased his value. Toronto has also remained adamant that it won’t simply give the veteran catcher away without getting a decent return.
As things stand right now, Navarro will be the team’s backup catcher on Opening Day and should also get some occasional at-bats at the DH spot. That’s a significant drop compared to the opportunities he got last season.
Winner: Dalton Pompey, Outfielder
Heading into spring training, Dalton Pompey is a favorite to win the Blue Jays’ starting centre fielder job.
That seems miraculous considering that the 22-year-old has played a grand total of just 12 games in Triple-A and 31 games in Double-A during his career.
While it’s true that Pompey had a big season in the minors last year, let’s be honest here. The main reason the top prospect will get a chance to become Toronto’s next starting centre fielder is because the Blue Jays didn’t re-sign outfielders Melky Cabrera and Colby Rasmus during the offseason.
While Toronto did trade for outfielder Michael Saunders in order to replace Cabrera in left field, the team didn’t acquire a centre fielder to replace Rasmus. The Blue Jays also traded away outfielder Anthony Gose this offseason, further opening the door for Pompey to seize the job. Now, it’ll be up to the young Canadian outfielder to take advantage of the opportunity.
Loser: Kevin Pillar, Outfielder
Kevin Pillar showed some promise in the outfield for the Blue Jays last season, hitting .267/.295/.397 in 122 plate appearances and playing mostly in left field. He also hit .323/.359/.509 in 100 games in Triple-A Buffalo during the season.
Unfortunately for Pillar, it appears unlikely that he’ll get a chance to get regular playing time for the Blue Jays during the 2015 season. The newly acquired Saunders is expected to be the team’s starting left fielder, and the aforementioned Pompey is the favorite to win the starting centre fielder job.
The 26-year-old Pillar will likely be left to come off the bench in a fourth outfielder role. If Pompey struggles or needs to be in a platoon role, though, then Pillar could possibly end up seeing regular playing time.
All stats are from Baseball-Reference.com.