This next Toronto Blue Jays roster needs more power.
There were a gaggle of weak performances from the 2023 Jays, but nothing was more confounding than the club’s lack of longballs. Basically every Blue Jays hitter — Vlad Guerrero Jr., Daulton Varsho, George Springer, Matt Chapman — homered way less than anticipated.
Flash forward to late October, well after the Blue Jays’ playoff departure, and World Series paths have been carved with home runs. The Texas Rangers clinched their first World Series berth since 2011 after an ALCS in which Adolis García hit five home runs and produced 15 RBI. The NLCS was a slugfest, too, with Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber killing baseballs for the Philadelphia Phillies.
All to say, the Blue Jays need to sign players who hit for power, even if that’s one of their only tools. Here are five free-agent sluggers Toronto should consider.
Fans would go nuts for a reunion with one of the most beloved sluggers in the last decade of Blue Jays baseball. But a short-term deal with Hernández wouldn’t just be about appeasing a dejected fanbase — “Teo” can still crack 30 home runs a season. Toronto desperately needs that.
The 31-year-old regressed with the Seattle Mariners in 2023, posting a .741 OPS and a career-high 211 strikeouts, but his 26 homers would’ve been tied with Guerrero for the most on the Jays. With Hernández, there’s always a threat of going deep, plus he’s a fantastic career hitter versus lefties (.887 OPS), and he batted .300 with runners in scoring position last season.
The defensive fit would be awkward — Hernandez could play left field, while Varsho and Springer man centre and right, respectively — but it’d all be worth it for that sweet, sweet slugging sauce.
OF Joc Pederson
Pederson has generated at least a .400 slugging percentage in eight of 10 seasons, only falling short of that mark in his 18-game rookie year and during the shortened 2020 season. That consistent pop would go a long way in the meat of the Blue Jays order.
Obviously, Pederson improves all 30 major-league batting orders, but he’d be especially usable with Toronto. A defensive liability, the California native could serve as the designated hitter versus right-handed pitchers while sprinkling in the odd cameo in the corner outfield spots.
On top of that, he’s a postseason hero. Pederson has slashed .256/.332/.482 with 12 home runs and 29 RBI in 79 playoff games. He’d be a mighty fine add for the Blue Jays on a one- or two-year deal.
OF Hunter Renfroe
I can picture Renfroe in a Blue Jays jersey already. The 31-year-old isn’t especially consistent with his plate approach, but he’s a lock for 25-30 homers a year if he gets the proper playing time. Mix in his cannon of an arm in right or left field, and you’re looking at a perfect fit for the 7-8-9 portion in Toronto’s order.
Think of Renfroe as this year’s bizarro-world version of Kevin Kiermaier. Where Kiermaier was quick and hit for average, Renfroe is slow but socks dingers at a terrifyingly high rate. That’ll play in the Blue Jays order, and Renfroe’s weak batting average would be far easier to stomach if he finished top-three on the club in homers.
1B/DH Joey Votto
I can hear Blue Jays fans maniacally laughing already. Votto’s time in Cincinnati appears to be done, and there’s little doubt he’d be welcome in Toronto as an 80- or 90-game bench bat. Call it Brandon Belt light.
The Blue Jays would need to budget a contingency plan beyond Votto – there’s a chance he plays 50 games and slashes .180/.300/.350 or something awful – but the 40-year-old is intriguing, if only for his power potential. From 2019 to 2021 (by no means the prime of his career), Votto posted a .839 OPS and slugged to the tune of a 31-homer-per-year pace.
The front office would really need to dig deep to justify this one, but there are worse options out there. At the very least, Votto is good press and a “chief vibes officer” in the Blue Jays clubhouse that will lose some veterans this offseason.
1B/OF Joey Gallo
Perhaps I’m taking this home run thing too literally, but Gallo actually makes sense. Please don’t hurt me, Blue Jays fans; I have so much more to give.
Gallo is Gallo — he’ll probably bat between .170 and .230 with anywhere from 20 to 35 home runs. In 111 games with the Minnesota Twins last year, he hit 21 bombs and finished with a .741 OPS, good for 0.5 WAR. Don’t even try to tell me the Blue Jays couldn’t have used his bat at any point in 2023.
So, in the same way the Los Angeles Dodgers and Twins have gambled over the last two years, Toronto should bank on the 29-year-old’s upside and pray it works out. Gallo on the 2024 Blue Jays would be a masochist’s dream, but, in the end, all that pain would be worth it if Toronto snags a playoff win or two.