Toronto Blue Jays search for improvements on the pitch is to improve defense


TORONTO – An uphill performance after a knee injury and a tough two-fault playoff game didn’t change the Toronto Blue Jays’ vision. Bo Bichette.

Publicly, at least.

It’s not a question of the 22-year-old’s attacking ability. The bat is real and it has that franchise player feel to it.

So why has the Blue Jays front office been linked with so many short stops over the past year? Names like Gregory a appris, Andrelton Simmons and, vaguely, Francisco Lindor have all been linked to the Jays since last year’s winter reunions in December.

The answer seems simple: defense.

Those three names would be improvements with the glove – Statcast’s Outs Above Average had Bichette, Gregorius and Simmons all at minus-1, while Lindor was baseball’s second-best defensive shortstop at plus-5, by that metric – offering attractive veteran stability and, in turn, transforms Bichette into what many believe to be a more defensive second baseman.

If this sounds like a win-win, that’s because it is. It makes the Blue Jays a better team in a few ways.

Would an acquisition like this go against Bichette and destroy the clubhouse chemistry that GM Ross Atkins and Charlie Montoyo have talked about so much about?

Bichette would likely get over it, but he has said on several occasions in the past how proud he is to prove the skeptics wrong and to step into the big leagues to the most important defensive position on the pitch. It hasn’t changed 75 games in his career.

Publicly, Atkins strongly believes in Bichette, but he’s also left the door open for that to change, potentially in the very near future with the three names mentioned above still very much available.

“He’s shown his ability to be a medium to above average shortstop at times, and in our opinion, he’s going to close that gap and consistently be a medium to above average shortstop,” said Atkins. “It wouldn’t surprise me if in a year or two we were talking about him in the Golden Glove category. Bo ticks every box on professional athletics and elite level Major League Baseball players. He’s going to be a very, very good shortstop in our opinion for a long time.

“That doesn’t mean we’re completely on shortstops because of our conviction in Bo. We have to stay in each market and consider, “Are there ways to improve? But again, we firmly believe in Bo.

If Simmons can regain his health after two years of ankle injuries, he is an elite defensive shortstop, the best of this generation. It’s intriguing for a club that has declared their desire to improve defensively all over the pitch.

A Lindor lawsuit involves so many layers – of the prospect package that it will take ownership of the loot will have to invest to extend the 27-year-old for a decade – but it’s hard to go wrong with any of the more players. dynamic and friendly.

Elsewhere, even though Vladimir Guerrero Jr. seems keen on playing third base, it’s not the right choice for a team trying to win. His first baseman glove is expected to be the most used next spring.

Ultimately, the Jays are likely to prefer tackling second or third base, as Cavan Biggio’s versatility allows them to be flexible with their correction on the pitch.

“We have guys who can play different positions, who have played different positions and can move around the diamond,” Atkins said. “It allows us to focus on acquiring the best players. Then factor in the acquisition cost, of course. This does not mean that we are completely on shortstops due to our conviction in Bo. We have to stay in all markets and look at ways to improve ourselves, ways to think about improving our team. We believe in Bo a lot, and due to Cavan’s versatility and the athleticism and youth of our team, we believe that we can be more open-minded about the positions we acquire and not settle on only one.

In the wake of the spin and the outfield, we now take a look at five possible targets to consider.

The all-in-one target: C JT Realmuto

Whichever off-season free agent ranking list you check out, Trevor Bauer, George Springer and Realmuto are at the top in a certain order.

Clearly the top three names in the market, each offers something different.

What Bauer and Springer offer are clear needs for the Jays.

Quietly, however, Realmuto would be a major upgrade for the Blue Jays behind the field, although the receiver’s position is an area of ​​depth within the organization.

Despite a vote of confidence in the direction of the holder Danny Jansen, who struggled with the bat for most of the summer but finished strong, and noting Alejandro Kirk’s offensive presence, Atkins openly asked if they needed to go out and find an upgrade.

“Extremely satisfied, but are you good enough yet?” Atkins spoke about his Seekers. “You are always thinking about improving yourself and there are many ways to do it.”

One way would be to give Realmuto the $ 100million and up set aside for Springer and use the remaining capture depth – Jansen, Kirk and prospects Riley Adams and Gabriel Moreno, both of whom are to be added to the 40 roster. men this week or them. will be available in Draft Rule 5 next month – to improve center field and rotation.

Far from being likely, but it is a possible path to improvement if you want to invest in a position where it is nearly impossible to find a star like Realmuto.

The best target: 2B / 3B DJ LeMahieu

The Jays were on LeMahieu in the winter of 2018, before the 30-year-old signed a two-year contract with the Yankees which ended up being a huge windfall.

All LeMahieu did was go out and cut .336 / .386 / .536 in two years with New York, preparing for a bigger paycheck this winter as he starts his season at 32.

Not much has changed in two years from a Blue Jays perspective here.

Thanks to Biggio’s versatility, there is room for an upgrade to third or second, with this player needing to have a defensive sound and preferably have the ability to get on the base at an above average clip. .

It’s LeMahieu in a nutshell.

The likely target: LeMahieu

How much they spend on the rotation and Springer’s level of interest in joining Toronto may have a lot to do with how Atkins attacks field upgrades, but there’s no doubt LeMahieu is at the top of the list. as the Jays front office begins this process.

Low buying target: SS Andrelton Simmons

At 31, Simmons is either a declining player or a player who simply suffered two years of unlucky left ankle injuries.

Despite the health concerns, Simmons is still considered one of the best defensive shortstops you’ll ever see when he’s right, and the Jays kicked him on the trade deadline in August.

Shifting Bichette out of the shortstop might come as a surprise to some, but it’s clearly an option on the table as the Jays consider all possible ways to improve.

Even with a deep shortstop band hitting the market next winter, a motivated Simmons will likely seek a one-year deal to rebuild its value.

The off-radar target: SS / 3B Ha-Seong Kim

Calling Kim off the radar is a bit of a misnomer since we put him at # 8 overall on our list of the 50 best players available this winter.

But the reason Kim is currently going under the radar as a potential option for teams is because no one really knows where the cap is or where the price will go.

Add to that the fact that it wasn’t posted by Kiwoom Heroes – that should happen after American Thanksgiving – and you can see why Kim’s hype train is still sitting on KBO tracks.

Despite the background of Korean players coming into the big leagues – that’s not good – Kim’s appeal is that you get the 25-year-old’s best years and he can competently handle short, third, or second. defensively.

This gives the team that acquires him a solid production base, with the hope that his offense will translate and Kim will turn into a star.

For the Jays, Kim’s age, positive and defensive versatility is perfect, while the presence of fellow South Korean Hyun-Jin Ryu is just the icing on the cake.


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