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Blue Jays Utility Infielder Free Agent Options

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The Blue Jays need a utility infielder. What options are there on the free agent market?

With the unfortunate news regarding Devon Travis, Ryan Goins will step into his shoes at second for at least the first few weeks of the 2016 season. This, of course, creates a hole on the bench. Cliff Pennington and Steve Tolleson signed elsewhere and are not available; Maicer Izturis was bought out; Darwin Barney, Jonathan Diaz and Munenori Kawasaki are free agents and the Blue Jays have no major league ready utility infielders in the system. The Blue Jays will look at the minor league free agent market to help fill the spot.

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Qualifications:

1. Preferably, the acquisition will be able to field short, second and third since neither Justin Smoak or Chris Colabello play both corner positions. At minimum, the acquisition should field second and third as Goins could slide over to short to backup Troy Tulowitzki. However, if Goins were already out of a game, that could cause problems—better to have a true utility infielder.

2. The new player should have major league experience

3. The acquisition should be relatively expendable for when Travis returns (minor league deal and/or optionable).

4.  The new infielder needs to be a plus defender. The Jays’ pitching staff needs a solid defence and its not as if the Jays are in want of runs.

Potential candidates:

(After scouring the available major and minor league free agents, the following middle infielders meet the qualifications listed above)

[table id=135 /]

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Aviles, Rodriguez and Barmes aren’t likely because they should be able to find big league deals. Izturis is unlikely because of being bought out and could use a fresh start elsewhere.

Field, Kozma, Johnson and Casilla have played very little at 3rd and Roberts is very inexperienced at SS but otherwise they are fits. Diaz, Parrino, Sellers and Bianchi are fits but bat very poorly. Petit is marginal defensively and Orr hasn’t played in the majors in 2 years.

Negron, Bernier, Valaika, Solano, Hicks, Barney, Kawasaki and Herrera play each position and have passable bats. “Go with what you know” seems to be backed up by the evidence here. Barney and Kawasaki lead these names in terms of career bWAR (8.3 and 1.9 respectively) and dWAR (7.5 and 1.2). Barney would be the preferable option but would cost more than Kawasaki and could even net a big league deal. Negron would be a solid third choice (Negron is also an effective outfielder). Roberts could work if the Jays aren’t fazed by his lack of experience at SS.

Next: Blue Jays and the 18-Batter T-T-Tango

Waiver claims could introduce some new names to this conversation but as things stand now, the Blue Jays should attempt to sign Barney, Kawasaki or Negron (in order of preference) as their utility infielder for opening day. In addition to that role, anyone among the potential candidates would be useful as AAA utility infielder depth—especially Herrera, Bernier, Solano and Hicks.

A bench “jack of all trades” infielder, who’ll likely be required for only 1-2 months, isn’t a glamorous MLB job but it is on the Jays’ shopping list and someone’s gotta do it.

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