If the Toronto Blue Jays want to improve their team defence, they should look to their past to better their future.
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The 2020 Blue Jays earned the team’s first postseason appearance in five years. Their goal now (as it should be) is to continue to improve and go deeper in to future postseasons.
There has been much speculation about adding one or more players from outside the organization. GM Ross Atkins has stated that one priority is to improve on team defence, which definitely needs to improve for the ball club to move forward.
Whatever moves they make, there will definitely be some hold overs from 2020. Even if the Jays acquire better defensive players from outside the organization, the team will only go so far unless internal improvements are made.
So what can the organization do to help facilitate the necessary improvement?
Here’s one idea. They could draw on their past and hire former Blue Jay players who were superior defenders to help the current Jays work on their game.
Just for fun, let’s take a look at what that might look like.
First Base – Justin Smoak
33 year old Smoak has played in MLB from 2010-2020. He was with Toronto from 2015-2019. His best season to date was in 2017 when he made the American League all star team, posting a very good .883 OPS.
Unfortunately his offence has declined each season since then. His OPS in 2018 was .808, .749 in 2019 and .611 in 2020. Smoak is currently a free agent and it’s possible that his playing days are done.
One thing that was always consistent about Smoak’s game was his defensive ability at first. He was a finalist for the AL gold glove award in both 2018 and 2019. Additionally, Smoak knows many of the current Blue Jay players, having played with them in 2019. He became a leader to his young teammates that season. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to go from veteran leader to defensive coach, specifically to work with Guerrero jr on becoming a better fielding 1B.
One possible obstacle is that Smoak might not want to retire from playing. If the Jays were to do this right away for Smoak and Guerrero to work together now, they could put a clause in Smoak’s contract that he could opt out should another organization sign him as a player.
Second Base – Roberto Alomar
This is a relatively easy one. The MLB Hall of Famer is known as one of the best defensive second basemen ever to play the game. He has 10 gold glove awards to his name.
Alomar is already employed as a special adviser for the Jays and one of his roles includes helping provide instruction to the players. He might already be doing something like this. If he is, great. If not, perhaps his duties could be adjusted so that helping Cavan Biggio with his defence at 2B would be his primary focus.
Biggio is already a decent fielding 2B. In 2019 his DRS at that position was -1, in 2020 it improved to +2. With help from Alomar, it could get significantly better.
Shortstop – John McDonald
This one is a bit tricky since McDonald is already employed by Cleveland as a field coordinator. If Toronto wanted to secure McDonald’s services, they would need to work something out with Cleveland to do so. Maybe a trade of some sort?
McDonald managed a 16 year career as an MLB player in spite of a career .596 OPS because he was an excellent defensive shortstop. He posted a .974 career fielding percentage over 6,450 innings played.
Assuming the Jays were able to secure McDonald’s services, it sounds like his role with Cleveland is similar to what Toronto would want him for.
With Bo Bichette’s athleticism I believe his ceiling as a two way player is very high. With a little extra help on defence from McDonald, there is no telling how good he could be.
Outfield – Devon White
For long time fans of the Jays, Devo is the standard for outfield defensive excellence. He is the owner of 7 gold gloves and a career .986 fielding percentage.
He is employed by the organization, as hitting coach/first base coach for the AAA Buffalo Bisons so the Jays could increase or change the scope of his duties. It would be very interesting to see how much talented players like Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel jr could improve their defence by working directly with one of the best.
Going outside the organization to improve the team is exciting but it comes at a cost. Free agents cost a lot of money and trades mean giving up established players or prospects which can be less than ideal for a team trying to compete. Using resources such as this for the purpose of improving internally could yield significant results at a much lower cost.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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