The Blue Jays’ belief in Bichette won’t stop them from considering shortstops

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TORONTO – At first, the idea seems a little counter-intuitive. Why would the Toronto Blue Jays, a team with one of the game’s best young shortstops, spend part of their offseason chasing players in this position? Other areas on the list could certainly use the aid more.

Still, the Blue Jays explored the possibility of adding a shortstop a year ago and now appear poised to do so again. No one can guess – like any responsible front office, the Blue Jays envision all sorts of scenarios – but this line of thinking deserves further exploration as it would introduce some truly intriguing opportunities for the Blue Jays while also bringing potential pitfalls.

For starters, consider these comments from general manager Ross Atkins, who expressed full confidence in Bichette as the Blue Jays’ long-term shortstop on Monday.

“Definitely in my mind,” Atkins said at the end of the first day of the now virtual GM meetings. “I trust Bo so much. Talking to him, how he thinks about improvement, how he has improved his whole life. Every challenge thrown at him embraces it in an elite way.

At home plate, Bichette excelled, reaching .307 / .347 / .549 with 16 home runs and 3.1 wins over his substitution in his first 75 league games. And while the 22-year-old has made occasional mistakes on the pitch, including two playoff mistakes this year, the Blue Jays have experienced enough development over the years to believe he can continue to improve. and become an above-average shortstop defender. .

“It wouldn’t surprise me if in a year or two we are talking about him in a Gold Glove category,” Atkins said. “Bo ticks all the boxes on professional athletics and elite Major League Baseball players. He’s going to be a very, very good shortstop in our opinion for a long time.

Even so, the Blue Jays are open to scenarios where he isn’t their daily shortstop starting next year. As Atkins describes it, the versatility of players like Cavan Biggio (and potentially Bichette) allows the front office to explore top players, regardless of their position.

“This allows us to focus on ‘acquiring the best players’. And then factor in the acquisition cost, obviously, ”he says. “And that doesn’t mean we’re completely on shortstops due to our conviction in Bo. We need to stay present in all markets and consider “are there ways to improve, are there ways to think about improving our team? But again, we strongly believe in Bo.

To be honest, that doesn’t sound like someone eager to move Bichette out of her post. But those comments make it clear to anyone watching closely that the Blue Jays are open to the possibility. If it gained ground, it would present real benefits as well as potential risks.

Starting with the perks is the simple fact that many of the best players in the game play shortstop. If you open up to this group, you might consider adding talented players like Francisco Lindor or Trevor Story. Years ago, the presence of Derek Jeter didn’t stop the Yankees from adding compatriot Alex Rodriguez. More recently, the Padres have shown interest in Lindor during the winter despite the presence of Fernando Tatis Jr.

The motivation behind these close movements and movements is clear. While teams can certainly have too many designated hitters or too many first basemen, there just aren’t too many shortstops. You can just play them second, as Javy Baez often did before he clinched the Cubs’ starting position, or third, as Alex Bregman does whenever Carlos Correa is healthy in Houston.

Because while the shortstop is to some extent a job description – “stay here, grab what you can” – it is also a description of a skill set. As a group, the shortstops are strong right-handed pitchers with good footwork and instinct. Call it what you want, this skill plays anywhere.

But for this very reason, shortstops are also expensive. Acquiring Lindor or Story would cost a ton of young talent before even considering an expansion that would cost hundreds of millions. Will the Blue Jays be ready to give that up when, a year from now, the shortstop free agent class includes not only Lindor and Story, but Correa, Baez and Corey Seager as well? At that point, players will only cost money and a draft pick, but by then another season will have passed as well. It pays to have elite players now.

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Of course, there is also Bichette to consider. He doesn’t yet have the weight that allowed Jeter to claim a shortstop for himself when the Yankees acquired Rodriguez from Rangers in 2004, but at the same time, neither team wants to offend players unnecessarily. If the Blue Jays were to acquire a player who was building a solid Hall of Fame case like Lindor, then this move would likely sell in the clubhouse.

But does the same hold true for free agents like Didi Gregorius (who intrigued the Blue Jays last winter), Andrelton Simmons (who was linked to them during the summer) or Marcus Semien? Maybe not. And if you don’t give these veterans a starting shortstop role, getting their interest could become much more difficult. In that sense, a good player like Simmons might be more of a nuisance than a superstar like Lindor.

At this time of year, teams are considering all kinds of moves and maybe that’s it – just one possibility among many for a team that likes to keep their options open. But if nothing else, the Blue Jays’ approach to shortstop reflects a broader shift in their approach to team building. It wasn’t that long ago that they needed the offseason to fill in the gaps and make sure they had a respectable squad in place. Now that they’re relying on a playoff appearance, the focus is on quality.



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