An idea seems to be floating around that the Toronto Blue Jays could consider Devon Travis in left field. What’s up with that?!
The Toronto Blue Jays face a lot of questions as the calendar has now flipped to 2018. We know they have said they want to add middle infield talent. They also have holes in their outfield, which are NOT going to be filled by J.D. Martinez, or Jay Bruce, by the way. When you’re looking ahead to the coming season, which we all are doing thanks to a cold, dreary winter, right now, there are limited options available for the Blue Jays.
It might be for that reason that there is a notion floating around that, assuming health, Devon Travis could be slotted in as a left fielder. Most recently, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm mentioned this as a possibility. He says that Travis could make the transition, depending on what happens the rest of this offseason. So, considering there is nothing going on in the way of roster news, let’s pretend that the season started tomorrow. What is with the Devon Travis to LF talk?
First of all, you have to consider what is in left field right now. Basically, it is downright scary. Ignoring the right field situation, which looks even worse (unless you assume that Teoscar Hernandez will handle that job), we’d be facing a duo of Ezequiel Carrera and Steve Pearce, which produced a combined OPS of .761. There is also the option of bringing Anthony Alford up and letting him figure out how to be an everyday big league outfielder. Of course, doing so would run the risk of repeating what happened when the Blue Jays tried this with Dalton Pompey.
So, one can see why an upgrade in left field might be in order. Counting on the club landing a Lorenzo Cain or Jarrod Dyson is not a given. So, we can’t really blame them for looking within the organization for an answer. And, Travis would be an offensive answer. We know his injury history, so this whole exploration is dependent on him being healthy for a season, which is tough to imagine, but play the game anyway.
For his career, which is about a season and a half (of his 3) he’s slashed .292/.331/.462 with 112 wRC+ and 5.5 fWAR. He’s projected to provide ~1.5+ fWAR next season. That is largely dependent on him playing second base. But, with this new idea, that could change. There very well could be an adjustment period where his defensive value takes a hit. But, the club could see it as a worthwhile venture.
Let’s assume that Aledmys Diaz (or, less likely, Gift Ngoepe) has a a nice Spring Training at the plate. That could mean that they play their way into an everyday second base job. The club could see value in keeping Travis’ bat in the lineup, since there really isn’t anyone else who can leadoff for this club. They’d have to consider left field. And, really, this wouldn’t be any different, since we all assumed Diaz would play some left field, which was part of the attraction. The pieces would just be different.
If this is the case, and Travis is healthy, you can’t sit his bat. So, left field might be the easiest way to get him playing time. Of course, the counter to this is that putting a guy who went through an outfield experiment and was quickly moved away from it back into the outfield might cost the team some runs; it flies in the face of run prevention.
Travis has provided 6 DRS (increasing each year) in his 3 seasons with a UZR/150 of 3.8. In a grand total of 4 big league innings, Diaz has given 0 DRS at second base. Actually, he’s only had 115 innings in total at second base between the Cuban League, Arizona Fall League and AAA. He’s made 2 errors in total. But, can the Blue Jays be that confident with this as their depth?
As well, is Travis’ bat really a corner outfield bat? He’s hit 24 home runs total for his career. Not that HR totals are everything, but wouldn’t you like to see more? Though, if his bat in the lineup means more runs, (which you have to think it does) the club might not care.
Oh, and do you want to send a guy out to play on the outfield turf when he has a history of issues with his knees? Wouldn’t he be better off playing on the Rogers Centre dirt?
Really, what this comes down to is the Blue Jays looking to field the best team they can. Maybe, putting Devon Travis in left field with Diaz at second base provides the Blue Jays with a better overall product. If it were up to me, Travis would play second base and we could run the ‘Diaz/Zeke/Pearce in LF’ experiment. Or, even better Alford would be ready to take over the left field job and none of this would matter.
Whether this idea makes sense, or not, everything could be solved if the Blue Jays front office went out and found an outfield solution. I know I asked us to put aside the right field hole for a moment, but discussing Travis to LF completely ignores the gaping hole where Jose Bautista used to roam. The overall outfield situation is not as comfortable as an easy Travis/Diaz band-aid.
Instead, the front office could go a long way to putting this somewhat silly discussion to bed by finding a more secure solution. Lorenzo Cain is still out there. Just saying.
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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.