The Toronto Blue Jays have priorities this offseason, first base may not be high on the list, which creates some interesting scenarios
The Toronto Blue Jays are in need of pitching. If they don’t make some major moves to address that need, not much of their other moves will make a difference. So, their priority is very clear. That said, they do have other spots they need to figure out. While it may not be high on their list of priorities, who’s on first needs to be answered.
After manning the position for a number of years, Justin Smoak is currently a free agent and will likely draw some degree of interest as a switch hitter with power who plays better than advertised defense. The Blue Jays would be silly if they don’t entertain the idea of bringing him back. At 32 years old, he may not be able to replicate his 2017 season, but he certainly would provide a steady presence to a position that currently looks like a revolving door.
The immediate answer is that Rowdy Tellez will take over the everyday job, since he appears to be their true-est first baseman. This, combined with the fact that he’s shown glimpses of tantalizing power, he definitely appears to be Toronto’s Mr Right Now. But, does that mean the job is his to run with?
Tellez made his big league debut at the end of 2018 and in 23 games put up 0.5 fWAR. He showed power that had some folks ready to hand over the job back then. But, in 2019, he got a more regular taste of big league pitching and managed 0.1 fWAR. Sure, the power was there, but his .293 OBP was enough to cause him to lose some playing time to others. The good news is that Tellez is just 24 years old and has time to improve. The Blue Jays aren’t really expected to compete in 2020 anyway, so he very well could be given every opportunity to do so. It’s worth noting that he’s projected to put up ~1.2 fWAR next year.
However, if Toronto is looking to improve their place in the standings, would they really be willing to put up with stretches like Tellez’ June where he hit .205 in 79 plate appearances? Likely not. That’s where the position becomes a bit of a revolving door.
The next obvious answer is Brandon Drury, who played 108.2 innings at first last season and put up good defensive numbers. However, if Charlie Montoyo is looking to replace a struggling Tellez, Drury looks less and less like a reasonable option. The 27 year old put together an even worse offensive season than Tellez as evidenced by his line of .218/.262/.642.
Looking further than that, it really becomes a mess. If the Blue Jays want to keep the DH spot open for cycling guys through, could they consider trying Teoscar Hernandez at the position this spring in the hopes that he could provide any defensive value at all? This is not to say it is a recommended course of action, by any stretch, but his bat is fine, if not streaky and it’s hard to imagine them even thinking about him for an outfield spot. So, do they look to give themselves some flexibility, or do they clog the DH spot with him?
JFtC writer, Ryan Mueller pointed out to me that Cavan Biggio has a handful of minor league experience at first, as well as 8 games at the big league level in 2019. Perhaps, the Blue Jays were looking to prepare for this type of situation when they sprinkled in some first base time for him over the last couple years.
Of course, the long term solution is Vladimir Guerrero Jr. At some point, the thought is that he’ll shift over from third. In 2019, his defense showed itself to be the work in progress it was believed to be. The club will look to give him another full season, at the very least, before they make that call, so they’ll need some sort of solution for this coming season and maybe even the one after.
Looking to free agency, there are some interesting names, including Edwin Encarnacion. Yonder Alonso, Justin Bour, Ryon Healy and Eric Thames are all looking for work, providing a mixed bag of somewhat underwhelming talent. There is the idea of Japanese slugger, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, but the Blue Jays don’t exactly have the best track record with the whole posting system.
Realistically, the Blue Jays could find themselves a free agent band aid as a Rowdy Tellez insurance policy, if they wish. Most fans would hope that comes in the form of Justin Smoak. However they handle the first base situation, it is not likely to be treated as a high priority for them this offseason. Pitching is much more important. But, that doesn’t change the fact that a need exists. How they choose to address this need will be interesting.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.