Which international free agents would best fit the Blue Jays roster?

A big part of the fun during the MLB offseason is seeing big, household names tied to the team you support and dreaming about how they could change that team’s fortunes. If you are a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, this has been a particularly successful year in this regard as the club has been connected to all the major free agents and commercial targets under the sun.

Sometimes, however, the most exciting moves a team can make are the exact opposite of the pitcher hook that the entire fanbase is intimately familiar with. Instead, he brings in a great free international player with a celebrity reputation in another league, but little to no name recognition in North America. These players have a combination of upside and downside potential that makes them fascinating to watch.

This year, there is a particularly strong crop of international free agents, many of whom fill positions of necessity for the Blue Jays. While Shun Yamaguchi’s experiment failed for Toronto in 2020, it has shown a willingness to tackle markets that the franchise has rarely touched. If this club are ready to start over, they could be rewarded with a much better result this time around.

Here are the biggest names in the international market that the Blue Jays might consider:

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Ha-Seong Kim

Age: 25
Position: SS / 3B
Bats: Right
Statistics 2020: .306 / .397 / .523 (141 wRC +) with 30 circuits and 23 stolen bases

Blue Jays Cup: Kim is the biggest prize in the market thanks to her combination of age and production. The 25-year-old took a big step forward with the bat in 2019 and postponed it to 2020, proving he could be one of KBO’s top offensive stars while also occupying a top defensive position. order.

MLB Trade Rumors ranked him the seventh best free agent available overall and predicted he would make $ 40 million on a five-year contract. FanGraphs had it eighth and was forecasting a five-year, $ 60 million contract. Their ZiPS projection system has also given him an extremely aggressive projection which sees him as close to a four-game winning player for the next five seasons.

Considering the relevance of his age to the core Blue Jays, the fact that they need another starting infielder and the good deal he could be if he sticks to his projections, he is easy to see Kim as a candidate. You could even argue that as a rising team rather than a favorite, the Blue Jays are able to take the risk Kim represents because if he falls flat at the MLB level, that’s probably not the difference. between winning or losing the world. Series in 2021.

Despite all of Kim’s positives, the magnitude of her downsides is significant. It’s really hard to project the offensive performance of a player who faces worse throws with significantly lower speed in the KBO. There’s a reason why of the six Korean players in position to reach MLB since 2015, only Ji-Man Choi and Jung-ho Kang have succeeded with the bat. Kang may be the best comparison for Kim as an infielder who arrived before his 30th birthday, but his year before reaching the majors (189 WRC + with 40 home runs) has been significantly better.

Whether Kim can consistently catch up with the MLB heat will be a valid question, although Baseball America is optimistic that he can do so after a period of adjustment.

Sung-bum Na

Age: 31
Position: RF / LF
Bats: Left
Statistics 2020: .324 / .390 / .596 (155 wRC +) with 34 circuits and three stolen bases

Blue Jays Cup: Na is an obvious target for the Blue Jays in the sense that they could use a left-handed power bat, but defensively it’s a little harder to see how he would fit in. If Vladimir Guerrero Jr. made the transition to the third. he tries this offseason, Na could join the Blue Jays corner outfield by occasionally turning on the DH spot. The 31-year-old is a former center fielder, but at this point he belongs to a corner, ideally to the right due to his above-par arm.

Beyond the murky fit of the roster, Na is quite a hitter. The veteran’s 155 wRC + was fourth and his home run total was third. The only red flag in 2020 was his strikeout rate (25.3%), which is a bit higher than his career average. If that’s any indication of the speed of the bats, it could hurt the future of the veteran’s MLB.

All of these numbers are difficult to analyze, especially without something like Statcast to supplement them, but it’s clear that Na is hitting the ball hard. The six-foot, 220-pound outfielder has rare strength, which is evident on circuits he is able to build over the wall when he doesn’t get all the ground …

… And bullets he hits the other way around.

Because he’s over 30, and his value is tied to his offensive production, Na is unlikely to require a massive deal – although he’s portrayed by Scott Boras for what it’s worth. He’s not someone you sign on assuming he’ll be a long-term fix like Kim, but he has the potential to significantly strengthen a short-term lineup.

Kohei Arihara

Age: 28
Position: SP
Throws: Right
Statistics 2020: 7.2 K / 9, 2.0 BB / 9, 0.7 HR / 9 with a 3.46 ERA in 132.2 innings

Blue Jays Cup: The Blue Jays are looking for newbie pitchers and younger players who can be part of a lasting winner, which should put Arihara on their radar.

While the right-hander’s 2020 numbers don’t jump off the page, especially compared to Yamaguchi’s 2019 numbers (9.6 K / 9, 3.2 BB / 9, 0.4 HR / 9 with an ERA of 2.78 ), it has several qualities that make it intriguing. .

For one thing, he has a big league fastball. Last season, his average speed was 92.3 mph in a starting role, compared to the 90.8 mph that Yamaguchi managed in relief. Arihara is known to shift gears drastically, letting her heater sit between 88 and 95 mph in individual starts. It is possible that at the major league level, he is being asked to raise the floor slightly on this range, although the deception worked in Japan.

Arihara also brings a dizzying repertoire to the table. According to Japanese baseball expert Jim Allen, he’s pitched six different pitches at least 10% of the time, something no skilled starter did in 2020 – although with some pitchers like Yu Darvish you could probably slice the definitions in several ways. The mixture decomposed like this:

It is an arsenal that is extremely difficult to find. Since 2002 – when FanGraphs started pitch tracking – there have been 1,459 qualifying starting seasons. Exactly, one of them involved a pitcher throwing between 25 and 30% of four knives and no other throwing more than 20% of the time.

That pitcher was Yu Darvish in his 2012 rookie season. It wouldn’t be fair to expect Arihara to throw a 4.7. WAR campaign in his first look at MLB action, but Sports Info Solutions called him a potential spinner starter midfielder in 2021 when they spotted him in 2019.

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering all the latest news with opinions and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

Tomoyuki Sugano

Age: 31
Position: SP
Throws: Right
Statistics 2020: 8.6 K / 9, 1.6 BB / 9, 0.5 HR / 9 with a 3.46 ERA in 137.1 innings

Blue Jays Cup: On the statistical results alone, Sugano is extremely impressive. The right-hander has a career ERA of 2.34 in the NPB, and he’s sat at 2.01 or less in four of his last six seasons. He won the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young (the Sawamura Award) twice and the league MVP in 2014.

With a fastball in the 89-92 mph range complemented by a hard slider and splitter, Sugano has less impressive raw materials than Arihara, but there’s no questioning its pedigree or production. He also has exceptional control and command, which translates into a BB / 9 that has never gone over 2.1 in a single season.

Considering that Sugano is a Japanese pitcher in his 30s with good stats in the NPB but unimpressive speed, it’s understandable to see the parallels with Yamaguchi. In some ways, they are valid. However, it should be noted that Sugano has always been a dominant starter in Japan, while Yamaguchi rebounded between roles and only had two years as a starter with a less than 3 ERA (2019 and 2016) before come. Sugano posted six.

Sports Info Solutions called Sugano the number four starter in the MLB when they saw him in 2019, which was the worst year of his career. While he doesn’t blast hitters to the next level, he clearly knows how to navigate a formation, reach his spots, and make the most of what’s in his arsenal. That might not be enough to make him a next level impact weapon, but he’s about as reliable as an international free agent you’re going to find.

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