It feels like the Toronto Blue Jays have been here before, no? The more Alex Anthopoulos and co. tries to fix the black hole in left field, the more Rajai Davis ends up sticking around.
Still, going into free agency at the end of this season, you’d have to say that the 32-year old picked a pretty good time to have arguably his second-best season … ever. At 1.1 fWAR, not only has the outfielder posted his best offensive season in a Blue Jays uniform (5.3 offensive runs above average), he has also posted a second-straight 40-steal season.
So, I think it’s within reason that the veteran speedster will get more than a couple of calls from his agent this offseason. Where he goes is obviously up to him, but should the Blue Jays throw their hat into the ring?
That depends on the cost and value gained that would be involved in bringing him back, of course; and well … let’s just say that trying to re-sign the free agent to be might yield diminishing returns. At this point of his career, Toronto knows what Davis is all about — he’s a career .694 OPS guy who can’t really get on base that well (.316 OBP), but hits just enough to make his 40-steal potential come to fruition.
Speed like that is nothing to scoff at, and chances are it’ll play anywhere, but there are two things going against Davis’ skill set here.
One, while he has been able to keep up his stolen base numbers over the last couple of years, speedsters generally see their bread-and-butter calling card diminish — and sometimes very quickly — with age. Time is not on his side at 32-years old, and as there’s no doubt that Davis isn’t looking for a one-year deal close to the $2.5 million that he’s making this season … let’s just say it’s a risk the Blue Jays may not necessarily need to take.
Why? That bring us to the second point — he doesn’t play a premium position; not only that, but he isn’t even a starter in that position.
While the team has certain had their share of troubles with trying to fill that left field hole for some reason or another, it’s not as if the team doesn’t have a whole bunch of guys who could potentially be a fourth outfielder.
With two full seasons of triple-A under his belt and little benefit that additional seasoning would yield, Moises Sierra could be such a player. He’s making his case for a big league job in September, hitting .360/373/.700 over 51 PA. No, he won’t run like Davis can, but he is full of athleticism and tools (even if it doesn’t always translate into results), and figures to provide more power.
Failing that, there’s also Anthony Gose, who does have speed but doesn’t hit or get on base too well (sound like anyone here?), and also doesn’t need any more seasoning in triple-A. Kevin Pillar is minors-bound come 2014, but in the worst-case scenario …
The point is that at least with this Blue Jays club, Davis is a bit player with a limited skill set (platoon fourth OF/DH) with diminishing returns.
It doesn’t mean he can’t be valuable, but to bank on another 1.0-plus fWAR season might be a stretch. Given what I would imagine to be at least a two-year deal worth between $8-10 million that he’ll be looking for (does any team dare pay him to start?), it’s likely that the Blue Jays will have to overpay to retain him.
Given his current to the value to the team and what it might be going forward, that prospect sounds like a losing proposition, no?