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So With The Recent Additions Of Diaz and Solarte, Should The Blue Jays Transition Devon Travis To Left Field?

January 8, 2018

 

So  I woke up on Saturday morning, shook off the Friday night drinks, and decided to go for a brisk January walk to the St. Lawrence Market to pick up some savage delicacies.

 

I walked along the barren January Front Street, as the cold slowly overtook the ol’ body and ice started to form in my beard, and I couldn’t help but think of the summer and all of its coruscating colours.

 

I love to go for my walks, collect my thoughts, and see where they lead me, and, as always, they ventured off to baseball land and what the Blue Jays FO could have up their offseason winter sleeves.

 

After getting my favourite cuts of meat at the market, I headed on down to the Loblaws at Lower Jarvis and the Queen’s Quay. And even though, it felt like it was fifty below zero, I decided to stop first at Sugar Beach and take in some of the peace and calm, as I put myself in front of the frozen beauty of the lake. I stood there for about a minute, felt the wind eat my face, and hurried on over to the Loblaws.

 

I walked up and down the plentiful aisles, always a humbling adult moment for me, and picked up all the things that I need to get me through the good ol’ week ahead. And as I went through my shopping motions, I just couldn't stop wondering what the heck the damn Blue Jays were going to do and what player they might buy off the free agent shelf – or even trade for.

 

So I eventually got back home after doing all of my monkey errands, put things away, and then checked Twitter and saw that the Blue Jays traded for Yangervis Solarte.

 

The deal had just been made and there was very little information coming in about what prospect(s) the Blue Jays had given up for him. As time pressed on, so did the the trade details, and we all learnt that top 20 Blue Jays prospect, outfielder Edward Olivares, and right-handed reliever Jared Carkuff were headed to San Diego.

 

Now, I remember Solarte when he played for the Yankees and when they traded him for Chase Headley, but I don’t follow the Padres too closely – or at all, to be honest, so I did what every Blue Jays fan does and I instantly went to Fangraphs, looked at his numbers, and then dug around for some old articles about him.

 

He has definitely had quite the MLB journey, as he was drafted by the Twins in ’05, was signed by the Rangers in ’12, joined the Yankees in ’14, and was eventually traded for Headley. He spent a ton of time in the minors before getting his big break and had to work hard before finally making the Yankees MLB roster.

 

So now that some time has passed and all the numbers are out on him, Blue Jays fans know that most of his experience is at third base, which, of course, has sent some fans on the thought train of this-is-a-move-to-set-up-a-Josh-Donaldson-trade, but I would probably simmer down a bit on that low hanging baseball fruit because I don't think that is going to happen.

 

However, the interesting position that he has played, besides the 320 games at third base, is the 140 MLB games at second. And you may be asking, why is this interesting? Many people think that the FO traded for him to be a depth player who will fill in when one of the often-injured Tulo or Travis are back on the DL. And, yeah, sure that could be it, but I don’t think that Solarte is going to be starting the season in Buffalo, nor Diaz, as well.

 

I understand that Tulo and Travis are liabilities, and, of course, the FO needed to upgrade their depth in the infield to have better players to be inserted in to the lineup when a worst case Ontario situation happens.

 

However, last year, Ross Atkins said something interesting about a possible position change for Travis in the future:

 

We feel that Devon has earned that opportunity to be the everyday second baseman for us. Who knows? Maybe one day it’s a different position for him because of an acquisition we make – he’s played in the outfield before. He’s a very good athlete.

He projects to be our second baseman; he’s the best alternative we have.

 

Now, is it possible that the Solarte acquisition could be the one to allow the Blue Jays to try to transition Travis into left field? I don’t know if it actually is, I guess I’m just tossing the idea out there for the sake of the toss, but maybe.

 

I know that this is a transition that would take some time (maybe a couple years), but when the Blue Jays acquired Travis from Detroit, the Tigers were in the process of turning him in to a center fielder because they were set at second base with Kinsler and Hernan Perez, who is now with the Brewers, waiting in the background at that time.

 

Aside from the injuries there is no question that Devon Travis could handle that kind of transition. The team can also rest Travis defensively this season and allow him to cover DH duties, as well, but any thought of him as the full-time DH is a bit absurd if you ask me, but what the hell do I know anyway. 

 

I digress, Andrew Stoeten wrote about transitioning Travis to left field last year, so here’s a tiny excerpt about what he had to say:

 

If the Blue Jays make Devon Travis their left fielder, they have a much higher quantity and quality of depth behind him in case he gets injured. They then have him as depth — provided he’s healthy — in behind whoever they bring in to play second base. They also will have Lourdes Gurriel waiting in the wings, potentially at either position, and perhaps also at shortstop.

 

That, to me, feels a whole lot better than sticking with Travis at second, getting a decent utility guy in behind him, and then being worse off at two positions if he goes down, as compared to just one if they go out and get someone like, say, a Dee Gordon — a player I had reservations about a couple weeks ago, but who has upped his season on-base to .339 since then, and his WAR to 1.9, and who (small ball being bullshit aside) would certainly add a dimension of speed and contact that this lineup could use.

 

Now, he was examining the good ol' Birds' options and how the Blue Jays have more depth in the outfield if Travis were to get injured compared to the infield, so maybe me revisiting this idea is kind of just out of January boredom since the Blue Jays have great infield depth now that could fill in for an injured Travis, but the outfield in its current status is kind of bad, amirite?

 

And I know it's a bit crazy to compare Solarte and Gordon, but let's do it anyway. According to Fangraphs, Solarte’s 1.1 WAR isn’t Dee Gordon’s 3.3 WAR for the 2017 season, but the two players may not be that far off as Solarte’s 93 wRC+ is better than Gordon’s 92 wRC+, of course, both below average. However, Solarte’s 2 DRS fares better than Gordon, who broke even in the saving runs department. Yet,  Solarte’s 1.3 UZR compared to Gordon’s .1 UZR could show that he is not that far off from Dee Gordon and maybe he could handle the bulk of time at second with Diaz as the depth guy off the bench. I dunno – just spit-balling.

 

This is probably all hooey, but is transitioning Travis to left field that bad of an idea? The Blue Jays need to find another capable MLB outfielder and not hand Teoscar and Alford (who is a center fielder) positions because they are vacant. It is important to not rush any prospects too quickly, as I think we can all agree that it didn’t do any good for Travis Snider, did it?

 

One thing for certain is that the Blue Jays have better depth than they did a year ago, and even though many fans out there don’t think that these kind of moves are very sexy, they do allow the team to get creative and put them in a much better position when the aches and pains of the long season catch up to players.

 

A Devon Travis transition to left field is probably unlikely, but is it that bad of an idea with prospects like Richard Urena and Lourdes Gurriel creeping closer to the show, or Bo Bichette working his way quickly through the system, and Logan Warmoth, as well?

 

I think it’s fair to ask if Devon Travis has a future at second with the Blue Jays. And if he doesn’t, what should the Blue Jays do? 

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