The Toronto Blue Jays have once again been linked with Pirates 2B Josh Harrison
It’s cold. There’s snow everywhere. If anything can warm the hearts of the Blue Jays faithful right now, it’s news of the changing shape of the club in 2018. Unfortunately, the Toronto Blue Jays have yet to do anything newsworthy this offseason, and the hot stove is, at best, a place to slowly dry out your shoveling mittens.
To be fair, there’s not much going on elsewhere around the league, but in another, more accurate way – the last-place Cincinnati Reds have signed two relief pitchers in the last week. The Reds, who will have no business contending in 2018, have made more of an impact on this offseason than the fringe playoff team in Toronto.
On Wednesday, though, there were some faint signs of life coming from the equally cold and desolate city of Pittsburgh, where Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune-Review reported that the Toronto Blue Jays have contacted the Pirates about second baseman Josh Harrison.
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This, of course, makes perfect sense, and we’ve discussed it here before. The two New York City teams are also interested in the second baseman, with the Bronx team also requesting SP Gerrit Cole and the Queens team, well…I wouldn’t worry about them.
There’s not much else in the article to glean from, no “mutual interest” or names exchanged. Right now, it’s just a rumor, but it’s finally something. And it makes sense: Josh Harrison would be a perfect fit with the Toronto Blue Jays. Harrison is a very consistent major-league producer, a rarity in a second baseman. He plays good defense and runs well. His contract will carry him into the 2020 season, thanks to some convenient club options.
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Complicating the Makeshift Middle Infield
While the Blue Jays front office has mentioned adding another piece to the middle infield picture, Harrison would really complicate things. The Blue Jays already have a very good second baseman in Devon Travis, and when he’s on the field, he can challenge some of the best in the game at the position. Unfortunately, since making his debut in 2015, he’s played in just 213 games, and never more than 101 in any season. His injuries have been varied but constant, with numerous ailments centering around his knees. At only 27-years old it’s hard to give up on Travis, but with only 50 games played in 2017, it makes sense that the Blue Jays would look to fortify the position.
Harrison, though, isn’t a part-time guy, so if Travis is healthy, you’ll have two very capable second baseman. Harrison is also three years older and costs a lot more (not to mention the talent it might take to acquire him.) In 2018 he’ll will make $10.25M, with club options in 2019 ($10.5M) and 2020 ($11.5M). On an open market, it would be a great signing for the Blue Jays. Having to give up players to get him, though, might be enough of a deterrent for this front office.
Right now, it’s hard to get too hyped up on rumors, especially with the extremely quiet offseason thus far. Would the Blue Jays be a better team with Josh Harrison? The answer is yes, based on his ability to give you at least 130 games alone and their gross lack of quality depth. After acquiring Aledmys Diaz, would they be better off finding a good center fielder and an improvement at the back end of the rotation? Absolutely.
So do you plan for Devon Travis to be hurt all season and acquire Josh Harrison? At the moment, it makes sense if the Blue Jays are serious about contending in 2018. It also gives the team three years of a cushion in the development of (potential) future second baseman Bo Bichette, and those options on Harrison’s contract make the whole situation clearer if Bichette forces the issue sooner than expected.
Of course, this all might be a non-issue. The Blue Jays might not consider Harrison an every day second baseman but a very strong option as a utility player. He played 49 games at third base in 2017 as well as 110 games in the outfield over his career. Bringing in Harrison would make someone like Steve Pearce expendable, manning LF while Devon Travis is in the lineup, a rest for the legs of 3B Josh Donaldson, or as an every day LF until Teoscar Hernandez or Anthony Alford are good to go. The beauty of players like Harrison is the options they provide. In 2017, the lack of depth and roster flexibility was exposed. Josh Harrison could fix all of that.
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Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.