With success in the Arizona Fall League, Lourdes Gurriel could be playing himself into the immediate future of the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Toronto Blue Jays will be looking to address several needs this winter. The middle infield is likely a significant part of their focus as they discuss free agents and trade targets in the coming weeks. In fact, GM, Ross Atkins said as much on Monday:
Primary focus this offseason, Atkins wants middle infielder who can be offensive threat. Need versatility and depth in position players.
— Hazel Mae (@thehazelmae) November 13, 2017
One could spend all day debating exactly what a “threat” is. It could be speed, it could be power, it could be on base ability, or it could be a combination of some or all of these. Dee Gordon would be a trade target worth bringing to Toronto, as I’ve argued before. Lately, I’m leaning more toward making Josh Harrison a trade target. Both of these players would be considered an offensive threat, depending on your definition. They would certainly go a long way to providing middle infield stability.
Harrison would be preferable since he offers the ability to play 3B, SS, 2B and OF. That’s the kind of versatility the Blue Jays are sorely lacking. As well, his contract situation is such that he provides that much more flexibility. He has two team options for 2019 and 2020. That means Toronto could bring him aboard for 2018 and not pick up the following year’s option.
In order to do that, they would have to feel confident that they don’t need to pay over $10M for the services that Harrison could provide. Obviously, the consistent health of Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki would go a long way in boosting that confidence. But, the likelihood of this happening are quite slim. So, they would have to look elsewhere for said confidence. They wouldn’t have to look very far.
Lourdes Gurriel very well could be being groomed for the utility role Harrison could play. He has experience in the outfield and middle infield. Granted, the Blue Jays have yet to use him in the outfield since signing him, but the year before, he played over 300 innings in left field in Cuba. 2017 saw Toronto use him at the short stop position and second base. Granted, the reviews are mixed as he had varying levels of success there. But, the real point is that they have been trying to get him used to playing in North America while they groom him. They obviously believe he’ll be a major league contributor. They showed 22 million reasons.
Getting him used to playing in North America would seem to necessitate some time in the Arizona Fall League where MLB teams send their best up and comers. There, he has seen action in 20 games. He’s hitting .293 with an OPS of .818. In those 20 games, he’s hit 3 home runs, 7 doubles and driven in 11. He has 38 total bases. Over his last 10 games, he is hitting .385. His production lately has been eye catching. After an uninspiring 2017 – he did miss time due to injury – a good showing in the AFL could make this organization quite happy.
If his total 2017 showing can demonstrate readiness, he would certainly make things interesting moving forward. It would be a massive surprise to see Gurriel crack the big league roster early in 2018. If he continues on his development path, though, he could convince them he is ready to start in 2019 after a possible September call up. That would mean that this offseason could see the Blue Jays target a one year hold over option. Free agency is likely the way to go if that is the case. A one year rental could be in order. Or, if they feel Gurriel is further away than that, they might need to find a more long term solution. Perhaps trading for a middle infielder is the best way to fill their needs in that case.
None of this is to overstate the importance of Gurriel. Nor is it to suggest that he is knocking on the door of the big league club. But, the timeline of his development certainly could end up playing a role in the decisions made this winter. He’s playing well this fall, which is a good sign. Whether he continue to impress, or not, the Blue Jays front office might have to adjust any plans they make accordingly.
*Featured Image Credit: C Stem- JFtC
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