Steve Pearce Signs with Blue Jays

Paul Swydan / 6 Dec, 16 /

Steve Pearce Signs with Blue Jays

Steve Pearce has been very good in two of the last three seasons. The Blue Jays are betting he can be good in the next two, as well, as they have reportedly signed him to a two-year, $12 million deal that likely spells the end of Edwin Encarnacion‘s time in Toronto.

This should be a very positive deal for the Blue Jays. Pearce has been prone to injury throughout his career — he he didn’t amass more than 200 plate appearances in a season until 2014 (his eighth in the league) and he dealt with forearm, elbow, hamstring and calf injuries last year — but the Blue Jays have paid him accordingly. Generally speaking, you would expect to see a guy coming off a 136 wRC+ to get more than $6 million per year, but that’s exactly what Pearce is getting. If he produces, the Blue Jays will be getting a steal. If he ends up hurt, as his medical history suggests is likely to happen, the Blue Jays are still OK because they haven’t committed much money to him.

You can see just how good this deal looks when you compare it to the one-year, $13 million commitment the Yankees just made to Matt Holliday.

Steve Pearce vs. Matt Holliday, 2014-2016
Steve Pearce 279 1010 49 0.227 0.267 0.347 0.493 0.363 131 1.0 36.6 -2.1 7.3
Matt Holliday 339 1370 44 0.176 0.265 0.360 0.441 0.351 123 -8.1 28.0 -22.2 5.2

Now, there are a couple of caveats, obviously. Matt Holliday is a much more accomplished player — one of the best players of this millennium, really — and Pearce decidedly isn’t. Pearce also suited up for 60 fewer games over that 2014-16 timespan. But Pearce was also more productive, and was decent in the field no matter where he played, including second base. Looking at the Steamer 600 projections 2017, we see that Holliday is expected to bounce back, but that Pearce is right there with him:

Steve Pearce vs. Matt Holliday, 2017 Steamer 600 Projection
Matt Holliday 0.271 0.357 0.469 0.826 0.354 122 -2.4 0.0 13.7 -15.6 1.9
Steve Pearce 0.262 0.338 0.456 0.794 0.34 112 -0.2 -0.4 8.4 -7.8 2.1

We don’t need to fall too deep down this rabbit hole. The point is: both players were signed in the last 24 hours and are comparable in a number of ways. Holliday is a three years older, however, and received twice as much in annual value.

Pearce should fit well in the Blue Jays defensive scheme and lineup. He’s a righty bat replacing a righty bat in Encarnacion, so that works. He can man the first-base platoon with Justin Smoak, perhaps taking the larger side of the platoon, as historically he has been a league-average hitter against righties. Pearce’s outfield playing time will depend on how much Toronto wants to roll with Ezequiel Carrera and Dalton Pompey, but certainly his bat projects better than both of those players’. The Blue Jays could also sign another player, and we’ll have to wait and see on that, but if they don’t, Pearce should be able to — if healthy — easily find 300-400 plate appearances between first base and the outfield corners. And if they do re-sign Jose Bautista or bring in another outfielder, then they’ll simply have a deep bench, and that’s not a bad thing.

With Steve Pearce, the Blue Jays got the classic “good when he plays, but he doesn’t often play” guy. If he stays healthy, they’ll have gotten a steal. It’s an especially great fit given Pearce’s history in the American League East and how he meshes with Toronto’s current personnel. And if he doesn’t stay healthy, the Blue Jays won’t be gnashing their teeth over his contract.

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