Blue Jays’ signing of Pearce could have domino effect on lineup

The Blue Jays signed another free agent on Monday morning, inking Steve Pearce to a 2 year, 12.5 million dollar deal.

The Toronto Blue Jays’ front office continues to work on filling their needs for 2017, and checked off another box on Monday morning. The Jays signed Steve Pearce, who spent last season between the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles. Pearce is a 10-year veteran who posted some of the best numbers of his career while with the Orioles.

He finished last season with a .288/.374/.492 slash line including 13 home runs and 35 RBI in 264 at-bats. He battled injuries at times which limited his play, but Pearce brought a healthy offensive contribution in addition to his positional flexibility. He’s capable of manning first base, second, and both corner outfield positions.

The move to bring in Pearce could have several implications for the rest of the Blue Jays’ off-season. Due to his positional flexibility, the signing could be used in a number of different ways. The Blue Jays currently have Justin Smoak slated to start at first base, so Pearce could be used as a platoon option there. His numbers against RH pitching are actually slightly better than Smoak’s, so he could fill the starter’s role full time.

Of course, the Blue Jays are still without a concrete starting outfield. Pearce played 40 games at first, 15 at second, 12 in the outfield, 13 at DH, and even a couple at third last season. He rates as an average defender at most positions, bringing a “poor man’s Ben Zobrist” skill set with him. The move is a valuable one, but it also doesn’t offer any concrete solutions for next year’s lineup.

While he doesn’t project as a full-time starter in the outfield, Pearce should see plenty of playing time around the diamond with his new club. The move could allow the Blue Jays to give up on the idea of bringing in two new outfielders, as Pearce could fill that role. Having the presence of borderline candidates like Ezequiel Carrera and Dalton Pompey could allow the Jays to give one of those two a shot at the starter’s role, knowing Pearce provides depth insurance there.

The signing also takes some pressure off of the infield depth. Both Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki have had their fair share of injury problems, and Pearce helps protect that. While he isn’t viewed as a shortstop, he can easily spell Travis when he needs a day off, or cover the position in case of injury. The team is still expected to roster Darwin Barney next season, but Pearce gives them additional depth to cover the infield.

Pearce’s contract is also a win for the Blue Jays, as it doesn’t prohibit them from making many other moves. It could signal the end of the Edwin Encarnacion pursuit, as Pearce is likely best used at first base. That said, paying him an AAV of just 6.25 million gives the Blue Jays plenty of budget to operate, as they continue to work on shoring up the roster.

So while the Pearce signing answers a question or two for the Blue Jays, it might actually bring more questions with it. We don’t know, and likely won’t know where he’ll play yet or how it affects other moves for the Blue Jays for a while yet.

What we do know is the Blue Jays acquired an experienced, flexible player, who brings a lot of intangible value with him. Whether he’s the star you wanted or not, Pearce brings a great deal of upside with his signing, even if we don’t entirely know how it’ll all shake out just yet.

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