MLB Hot Stove Rumors: The Blue Jays are still making big offseason plans
If the rumors are any guide, the Blue Jays still intend to be heard from this winter
The Blue Jays are in a tricky spot this winter. On the one hand, they've made back-t0-back playoff appearances and have a strong rotation paired with an MVP-caliber cornerstone in Josh Donaldson. On the other hand, they're faced with significant free-agent losses. Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders are all on the market, and Brett Cecil has already inked with the Cardinals. As well, the semi-new front office helmed by Mark Shapiro may be looking to put its own imprimatur on the organization, and the best way to do that is to pivot toward the long term.
However, if the hot stove rumors are any guide, then the Jays may be looking to sustain what's in place in Toronto and angle for contention again in 2017. Already, we learned that they may have interest in dealing for Mets outfielder Jay Bruce. Now, Jon Heyman of FanRagSports dishes this:
The Toronto Blue Jays, knowing they may end up losing right fielder Jose Bautista this winter, are showing a strong interest in free agent center fielder Dexter Fowler, sources tell FanRag Sports.
Fowler was of course the starting center fielder for the champion Cubs last season. Thanks to deeper positioning, he reclaimed his defensive reputation in 2016, and his increasing patience and discipline at the plate have made Fowler a serious on-base threat at the top of the lineup. Speaking of which, the Jays could use a serious on-base threat at the top of the lineup.
As well, Fowler boasts power to the gaps and plus base-running. In Toronto, he'd likely shift to corner spot in deference to Kevin Pillar, one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball, and thus give the Jays a head start on a "death to flying things" outfield. The market for Fowler, though, may be pretty heated now that Yoenis Cespedes is back with the Mets.
Elsewhere in Ontario, perhaps a reunion is in order? Encarnacion's agent tells TSN's Rick Westhead that the Jays have shown his client "the most love" this offseason. There's substantial risk to signing a soon-to-be 34-year-old DH in a market that typically covets power, but bringing back Encarnacion would certainly be a boon to the Jays' chances in 2017.
All of this is fluid, of course, and subject to change, especially as the upcoming winter meetings likely bring a frenzy of signings. However, thus far the Jays appear inclined to go for it again next season, and that probably means an active winter in Toronto.