Three ways the Blue Jays can improve their infield after losing Marcus Semien to free agency

Although they did not advance to the playoffs, it can be said that the Toronto Blue Jays were one of the top three teams in the American League in 2021. Their powerful attack and strong rotation were undermined by a fallible paddock, which is why Toronto went home in October rather than the playoffs. Nothing can go through a season like a bad enclosure.

Here’s where the Blue Jays ranked among the 15 AL teams in various categories last season:

  • Marked races: 846 (3rd plus)
  • Authorized races: 663 (4th less)
  • Race differential: plus-183 (3rd best)
  • WAR position player: 30.5 (2nd plus)
  • Launcher’s WAR: 22.9 (2nd plus)

The Blue Jays lost two key pieces of their 2021 roster to free agency ahead of lockdown: Cy Young winner Robbie Ray signed with the Mariners and third MVP Marcus Semien signed with the Rangers. Toronto adequately replaced Ray with Kevin Gausman. However, they have yet to replace Semien. There is a free spot on the infield at the moment.

“Adding another infielder in a meaningful way or just to complement some of the other young infielders we have would be a good result,” Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told reporters including Scott Mitchell of TSN, before the owners’ lockout. “Don’t feel like you absolutely have to, but we’d love to add another infielder to that mix.”

The Blue Jays are stuck against Vladimir Guerrero Jr. on first base and Bo Bichette on shortstop. In the worst case scenario, they will start next season with Cavan Biggio on second and Santiago Espinal, who replaced Biggio as the starting third baseman last season, on third. That said, there is still a lot of offseason left. Why not look for an upgrade?

According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Blue Jays have roughly $ 137.5 million on the books next season. This includes Gausman, the José Berríos expansion, and refereeing screenings. Toronto recorded a payroll in the order of $ 162 million as recently as 2017 and 2018. They must prepare for the Guerrero and Bichette extensions, although Hyun-Jin Ryu ($ 20 million per year) and Randal Grichuk ($ 10.3 million per year) will be excluded from the books. in two years. The point is, Toronto should have money to spend this winter.

It is therefore not surprising that, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN, the Blue Jays were “very close” to Corey Seager before he joined Semien with the Rangers. With all due respect to Semien, Seager would have been the perfect addition on the pitch given his age (27) and his super-productive left-handed stick. As good as the Blue Jays are offensively, their lineup lacks a left-handed impact hitter. They are very right handed.

Once the lockout is over, the Blue Jays (and every other team) will have to scramble to complete their offseason business ahead of spring practice. This includes continuing to fortify the bullpen and bringing in an infielder to replace Semien. Biggio and Espinal are good players, although ideally one would fill a utilitarian role. Relying on both as regulars is not ideal.

The Blue Jays have money to spend and must replace Semien. What are their options? Let’s dive into it.

Top of the free agent market


Even after the free agent frenzy before the lockdown, there are two prominent middle players available: Carlos Correa and Trevor Story. Correa could join his buddy George Springer in Toronto and add to an already heavy lineup of devastating right-handed hitters. History comes with worries, although Toronto could drag it to second base if necessary.

A thought outside the box: Bring in a new first baseman and bring Guerrero back to third. Vlad Jr. has settled in well early this year and I wouldn’t joke with that, although it’s something to consider, especially with Honorary Canadian Freddie Freeman always available. Dream with me:

  1. FC George Springer
  2. 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
  3. 1B Freddie Freeman
  4. DH Teoscar Hernández
  5. SS Bo Bichette
  6. LF Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
  7. RF Randal Grichuk
  8. C Alejandro Kirk
  9. 2B Cavan Biggio / Santiago Espinal

The only other elite infielder who isn’t on the first base remaining in free agency is Kris Bryant, who could fit in perfectly with the third base for the Blue Jays, and also provide extra depth in the outfield. . I think Toronto would rather add a legitimate midfielder to a Perfect World, although it’s possible that Bryant at his price might make more sense than Story and especially Correa at their prices.

Because he’s a year younger, Correa’s contract exceeds Seager’s, and if the Blue Jays stopped before placing the highest bid on Seager, they likely wouldn’t win a Correa bidding war. . The story is pretty good too, and it’s not completely crazy to think he could end up in a one-year contract at Semien last offseason. That won’t be the case with Bryant (or Freeman).

Mid-range free agents


At the moment, the environment of the free agent market is not very attractive. Kyle Seager is still available and he would give the Blue Jays a left-handed stick with power, which they currently lack, and he would add defensive value at third base. As the guy at the bottom of the order, of course, that could work. Seager wouldn’t be the best or the most inspired of Semien’s replacements, but it could work.

The rest of the mid-range free agent market features stopgaps like Andrelton Simmons, Josh Harrison, José Iglesias and Jonathan Villar. Players who won’t move the needle much, if at all. Given where they are in the competitive cycle (i.e. ready to win now), the Blue Jays should aim higher than the middle of the market. Think of this as the last resort section.

The trade market


Toronto ostensibly has money to spend, and free will is the easiest way to spend that money, although it can also be exploited in the commercial market. Teams will give you great players right away as long as you pay their salaries these days. Look no further than the Reds dropping Tucker Barnhart and Wade Miley, or what the Braves did on this year’s trade deadline.

The retail market is full of high-end infielders. To consider:

Ramírez would be hard to acquire because he’s so good and so affordable, and Cleveland doesn’t have any other big salaries they want to lose. But could you get a better deal for Chapman if you accept, say, the $ 7 million owed to Elvis Andrus or the $ 8.25 million owed to Stephen Piscotty? Calling about Marte and Arizona would likely take out the $ 17.5 million they owe Nick Ahmed.

You don’t have to try too hard to see how the Blue Jays can take advantage of their payroom by accepting a bad contract to reduce the potential cost of another player, like with Andrus and Chapman, or Ahmed and Marten. There are many precedents for such a movement. The last offseason, Cleveland tied Carlos Carrasco to Francisco Lindor to break his contract. It happens all the time.

The other advantage of the Blue Jays is to gain depth, which is always a valuable business asset. Kirk is highly regarded and Gabriel Moreno is one of the best prospects in baseball. Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire are also great viable players. Swapping a wide receiver to meet a need elsewhere on the roster is a smart move, and Kirk and Moreno are important young players who would open a lot of doors. Put Moreno on the table and you’ll have the D-Backs’ attention when it comes to Marte.

Ideally, the Blue Jays would just spend their money on a top free agent and keep all of their leads. However, you can’t completely shut the door on trading, especially now that the market for free agents has cleared up considerably. And hey, take a bad contract in a trade you could get to keep your best prospects too, like the Dodgers did with David Price in the Mookie Betts trade.

The Blue Jays have a great offense and four above average starters with Berríos, Gausman, Ryu and Alek Manoah. The bullpen is not first-rate but can be repaired. Replacing Semien won’t be that easy, however, and frankly his 2021 production could be irreplaceable. There are still ways to replace some of that production, maybe even most of it, and Toronto has the money and the prospects to spend. All that remains is to find the best and most reasonable offer.

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