With Blue Jays options wide open, Montoyo is ready to tailor the pieces

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TORONTO – During their Zoom calls with free agents, the Toronto Blue Jays’ front desk managers and coaches attempt to showcase the franchise’s best attributes to their off-season goals. With a talented young team, a diverse hometown, a new training complex in Florida, and money to spend, they are choosing from legitimate selling points. So many, in fact, that some calls leave manager Charlie Montoyo bursting with energy.
“I feel like when these calls are over I have to run five miles because I’m so excited about our team,” he said on a Zoom call with Toronto media on Friday.

Of course, it’s the players who need to be convinced, not Montoyo, who has already signed his three-year contract with the Blue Jays. And ultimately, which free agents are also feeling excited will determine how the Blue Jays’ offseason unfolds. At this point, their options remain wide open, in large part because so few deals have been made in baseball this winter. Once it becomes clear who will join the Blue Jays, Montoyo is eager to get the pieces back in shape.

For starters, Montoyo acknowledged what has been widely reported: The Blue Jays are now “on everyone”, from infields and outfields to starting pitchers and reliefs. All of these groups could help the Blue Jays meet their stated goal of improving their race prevention after allowing more races than all but four of the teams in 2020.

“It could go either way,” Montoyo said. “It could be infielders, outfielders. That’s what I like about our club. We could adapt to that. If we sign someone, we can make the adjustment because our guys can play in different places.

With so many possibilities at stake, the challenge Montoyo faces is less in mapping rosters than in answering questions from players both inside and outside the organization. As a result, Montoyo has been a regular on recruiting calls and speaks with General Manager Ross Atkins every other day.

The most common question for the free agent targets of the Jays is whether they will play their home games in Toronto in 2021. As of yet, there is no concrete answer to this question, but the Blue Jays tell potential additions that they hope to play. from the Rogers Center if possible. Otherwise, it’s conceivable that they will open the season in Dunedin, Florida, where their new spring training and development center exists.

“There is always a chance that will happen.” Said Montoyo.

Beyond the recruitment process, there are also questions to be answered internally. With the Blue Jays showing interest in so many players across the league, there is potential for confusion, so Montoyo attempts to contact Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio if necessary. The team’s interest in stars like Francisco Lindor and DJ LeMahieu could have implications for the Blue Jays infield, so Montoyo has occasionally reached out to his own players.

“I’m very lucky to have the team that I have,” said Montoyo. “They just want to win. And that’s why they have no problem moving around just to help the team win. ”

That flexibility could eventually help the Blue Jays, who used Biggio in five positions in 2020. Yet, until there is a pull towards a deal, preliminary trade talks won’t change anything. Biggio would get all over with a steady dose of second base and Bichette would start short.

As Montoyo recently told Bichette, “Right now you are our shortstop. ”

If Lindor is available at a reasonable price, that might change. For now, Bichette says another player would be his main target: the reigning leader of the AL batting average and OBP, who invented the Rockies when Dante Bichette was Colorado’s coach.

“I think DJ LeMahieu is the best hitter in baseball, and I don’t even really think it’s close, from what I’ve seen. He’s probably the # 1 player I’d like to play in the league with, ”Bichette recently said on teammate Ross Stripling’s podcast. “If that were to happen it would be great for us, but anyway man our squad is good enough already. ”

Another variable in the Blue Jays’ off-season planning is the continued progression of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who plays Winter Ball in the Dominican Republic to work on his third base defense. Montoyo spoke to Guerrero Jr. once a week while keeping in touch with Dave Jauss, the Mets bench coach who manages Escogido.

At this point, Guerrero Jr. is likely the team’s regular first baseman in 2021, but the Blue Jays haven’t closed the door on a return to third for some games. If nothing else, the drive to work on conditioning has been positive for Guerrero Jr., who said he has lost 20 pounds since the end of the season and 40 since arriving at summer camp above. from 280.

“I’ll tell you what: I’m so proud of Vladdy.” He works so hard, ”Montoyo said. “When we put him on first base last year, we never closed the door for him to come back to third base. You don’t close the door on a talent like that. ”

Either way, the Blue Jays will likely add an infielder before winter is over. This decision will have implications for all or part of Biggio, Bichette and Guerrero Jr., but above all, this roster needs more talent. Hopefully for Montoyo a few of those Zoom calls resonate with free agents and create high hopes for 2021.

“That’s what we want: higher expectations because of the way we’ve played,” said Montoyo. “Do you know who’s to blame?” Ours, and it’s awesome. Our guys are ready to meet expectations.

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