Blue Jays showing commitment to defense excellence


The Blue Jays signing of 2B Darwin Barney shows a firm commitment on defense, even among utility players. 

In bringing back Darwin Barney the Blue Jays have addressed one of their few positional needs, a lack of back up infielders. They also made a statement about defensive quality and overall team goals. It is known across the league that the Jays have the most potent and explosive offense around. This season the Blue Jays will get the benefit of having Troy Tulowitzki from game one, and the eventual return of Devon Travis should only make a murderous offense that much worse on opponents pitching. Barney offers a different advantage in his Gold Glove-level defensive capacity.

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With that offense leading the way, Toronto’s defense won’t be asked to carry the load as frequently as some teams. This in no means is a bad thing, Justin Smoak, Ryan Goins, Tulowitzki, and Donaldson are all more than capable defenders in their position. The defensive boost will also be seen in left field, where a full season of Ben Revere, Michael Saunders and/or Dalton Pompey will quickly erase the memories of Colabello.

Goins will inevitably serve as the backup to Travis, giving the Blue Jays two defensive specialists to choose from as their utility infielders in the organization. This is the unsung advantage that championships are won with.

Looking at the 2015 Kansas City Royals, it is clear to see that the Royals employed a very similar mechanic to victory. While their lock-down bullpen gets the bulk of the credit for the dominance, their thrifty defense rarely allowed for a ball in play to go unanswered. For them, a run saved was a run earned. This was tantamount to their successes, as their scrappy offense lacked true fire power.

By adopting a similar devotion to defense, which began last offseason, the Blue Jays will be able to get by with more middle-of-the-road starters. Much like the famed Royals, the Blue Jays will be able to put up winning numbers with tier 2 and 3 starters. While a true ace is something the Blue Jays could (and should) still acquire, something has to be said about the impact the defense has on starting pitching. While the case can still be made that the Royals really won because of their pitching, their defense should not be overlooked.

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The Blue Jays, unlike the Royals, are genuinely elite in terms of run-production. The 2015 wasn’t a fluke, the Blue Jays offense in 2014 ranked 5th in runs scored, and that was without the likes of Donaldson, Tulowitzki, and Martin. By also employing the “run saved is a run earned” philosophy, the Blue Jays maintain the pieces to build upon their American League East title, despite whatever big moves division rivals make in the offseason.

So the quiet Jays should not be seen as passive, but calculating. In the world of baseball, nothing is ever enough, and improvements can always be made. While the Blue Jays haven’t gone out and “won the offseason” they have augmented the Major League’s most feared offense with one of Baseball’s most formidable defenses.