Blue Jays address left-handedness in economy fashion
The Toronto Blue Jays were said to be looking to balance their heavyweight roster and they did it without breaking the bank
Featured images courtesy of Dave Me Images. Prints available for purchase
The Toronto Blue Jays finished the 2021 season with a heavily biased roster on the right side of the plate. Throughout the offseason, we had heard various reports about how hard they were chasing players to fix this issue. Some say they were absolutely determined to get a left-handed hitter and others say it would be nice, but not a priority. Well, with the 2022 season about to begin, it seems the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
It must be recognized that the roster changes that have been made do not necessarily reflect the efforts that have taken place during the offseason. There’s probably a lot of movement in the club could did, but for some reason they didn’t. For example, we had heard that Toronto was “in” on Corey Seager before signing in Texas. Plus, there was the rumor that had all of MLB captivated for a while and was Freddie Freeman. Obviously, landing either would have shown just how
desperate focused on a southpaw the club was. As we all know, neither worked out and we’ll probably never know how “in” Toronto was on them.
Although the two stars above did not sign in Toronto, there was clearly at least some focus on balancing the lineup. According to Fangraphsprojected lineup, 3 of Toronto’s 4 bench players are left-handed hitters to accompany Cavan Biggio. Reese McGuire, Greg Bird and Raimel Tapia will join Santiago Espinal, who is the only right-handed bench batsman. Unlike potential major contract commitments that Seager or Freeman would have demanded, these bench bats haven’t cost the Blue Jays that much and are likely to generate solid returns for what little investment they cost.
For his part, McGuire really cost the Blue Jays nothing but a spot on the roster. He will do the league minimum and won’t hit arbitration until 2023. The cost to add it was paid long ago. He is perfectly acceptable as a reserve receiver and will offer days off to either Danny Janssen Where Alexander Kirk, who seems to be ready to occupy the DH place. Of course, if Kirk is dealt, McGuire’s value increases.
Tapia (with Adrian Pinto) was acquired in exchange for Randal Grichuk and nearly $10 million. Depending on how much of a Grichuk fan you were, the cost of this offer could be different. If you’re a Grichuk fan, it might seem like the Blue Jays gave up too much. However, if you consider that he was the 4th outfielder for that Blue Jays roster, it seems a bit cheaper. In Tapia, the Blue Jays have actually learned the skills they really need for their roster. They needed a real 4th outfielder and Tapia is as close to that as possible, certainly closer than Grichuk was.
Tapia delivers speed, that’s for sure. That’s incredibly valuable late in the game, as is his solid outfield defense. Although he hasn’t played much at CF in the big leagues, he should be able to replace George Springer better than Grichuk. It’s on the surface. Beneath the surface lies an impactful project just waiting to be taken on. For a full explanation of why this is the case, I suggest you watch this video:
I’ll provide a brief summary of Jolly Olive’s deep dive on Tapia: Basically, Tapia is an extreme ground ball thrower. Its launch angle (LA) is incredibly low, like well below zero. Home hitters tend to have an LA around 20% or so. Some more, some less. He has power, but seems to have focused more on using his speed and rather enjoyable batting skills. What’s interesting is that Jolly Olive points out that when Tapia hits line readers, he’s much more successful. In short, he’s a good hitter who plays in an age of home runs.
That’s where the Blue Jays come in. With a little practice, Tapia can maybe use the gaps and his speed and maybe even get him to do some extra homers. That said, he wasn’t brought in to hit dingers. Toronto has enough guys who can do that. The skill set he has is perfect for a 4th outfielder with some potential to squeeze a little more out of him. If the Blue Jays can do that, Grichuk’s cost won’t look so bad. Winning is much nicer than any player, even if he is as handsome as Grichuk.
Finally, we come to Greg Bird. Signed to a minor league contract, Bird is looking first to show MLB teams that his long list of injuries hasn’t completely taken him out of the game and second to make Spring’s big league roster. Training. So far, he’s definitely making his case. In 12 springs at bat, Bird has 2 homers, 5 RBIs, 5 BBs and just 1 strikeout for an OPS of 1.588. Obviously, this kind of production won’t last, but it will certainly catch management’s attention. Maybe after spending the year at the Rockies AAA affiliate, he’s ready to reclaim his spot on a big league roster. He would be an acceptable replacement for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and a late left-handed hitter if he does.
Despite all the talk about the Blue Jays needing left-handed hitters, they got their share and did it rather quietly. They didn’t make a big splash signing a Seager or a Freeman. Instead, they managed to complete their roster with an interesting balance and it cost them very little in the grand scheme of things. McGuire and Bird cost nothing and Tapia costs Grichuk. But, for what the Blue Jays gave up, they’ve created a roster that better addresses the skills (and matchups) they’ll need for a long season. Removing the names from the Colorado deal helps focus on that. The Blue Jays are now a more complete team, a team that is set up for a long season, a season that could lead to a division title.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a longtime Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put these things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked on iTunes, and has appeared in TV and radio spots.