There is no doubt that the Toronto Blue Jays have liked what they’ve seen from trade deadline acquisition Danny Valencia thus far. The soon-to-be 30-year-old has been thrust into the starting role at third base and has been a steady presence with a .269/.304/.398 slash line in 32 games with the Blue Jays, justifying the cost of Liam Hendriks and Erik Kratz.
However, it is too early to label him as a potential full-time player at the hot corner in 2015.
Such was the case on Friday, when Gregor Chisholm reported that the Blue Jays could consider Valencia to fill a full-time opening next season. He even got manager John Gibbons to raise the possibility that Valencia could be featured at third base and allow Brett Lawrie to become the full-time second baseman, even if he backed off it a bit later in the quote.
"“Maybe he’s the third baseman, Brett’s the second baseman, who knows? That’s not definite … I’m not saying Brett’s our second baseman next year.” – Blue Jays Manager John Gibbons (h/t Gregor Chisholm)"
The reason why Gibbons flip-flopped a bit there? Well, it wasn’t necessarily about hurting Brett Lawrie’s feelings, he’s as much of a question mark as anyone. Rather, it was because Gibbons and the Blue Jays have been down this road before, particularly with the guy that is now losing at-bats to Danny Valencia, Juan Francisco.
Remember the month of May? You should, Blue Jays fans have clung to that month all season long, hoping for it to return. Part of the reason the Blue Jays were so successful was because Toronto had made a great waiver find in former Brewers corner infielder Juan Francisco. The 27-year-old had come to Toronto to hold the fort for the injured Lawrie and had started his Blue Jays career on fire, particularly in May. By hitting an incredible .284/.365/.689 with 7 home runs and 20 RBI in the second month of the season, not only had he pushed Lawrie to second base upon his return, but Francisco had also earned Alex Anthopoulos praise for having possibly found the next Edwin Encarnacion.
If only the magic could have continued.
However, since May ended, Francisco has been miserable, slashing .190/.247/..379 with 7 home runs and 19 RBI. Moreover, he has struck out 69 times in 190 plate appearances and walking just 13 times in the process. It was that level of play that created the necessity to go out and get Danny Valencia at the trade deadline.
With that all said, Danny Valencia isn’t off the rocketing start that Juan Francisco put up in May and his 30 strike-outs against 5 walks in 102 plate appearances is nothing special either. And while Valancia does offer more of a defensive upgrade over a guy like Francisco at third base, it is his platoon splits that will scare you off of using him in a full-time role. Granted, Chishom does a great job of painting Vaencia as a guy that was backed into a corner by the perception that he cannot hit right-handed pitching, the data doesn’t do much to support Chishom’s argument that being rewarded with a full-time role will correct it either.
Now, Valencia’s performance against like-handed pitching is significantly better that that of Juan Francisco (.161/.215/..212), but it still isn’t anything to get excited about. His 2014 mark of (.222/.259/.324) doesn’t really do much to quell that concern either.
That all said, the Blue Jays are stuck in a position to at least consider the possibility. Lawrie has shown that his healthy cannot be counted on from year to year, as he’s declined in games played in each of his three years as a regular, prompting the Blue Jays to try and find alternatives like a Valencia. The upcoming free agent class is nothing to be proud of either, with a likely overpriced Chase Headley or Pablo Sandoval headlining the group at third base. With the Blue Jays needing to focus their funds in other areas, namely the outfield and the bullpen, the chances of a sexy pick-up at third base are not likely.
So, we’ll just latch on to Valencia for the time being, but we won’t get burned by putting the horse before the carrot again either.