Blue Jays: Izturis retirement good news for Andy Burns
The unfortunate and unexpected retirement of Blue Jays 2B Maicer Izturis creates increased opportunity for a handful of names led by Andy Burns
Baseball’s transactional side can be a heartless game, especially when dipping below the star names.
Maicer Izturis’ retirement on Friday comes at the end of some difficult luck and a string of injuries. While the loss doesn’t necessarily create a “hole” that the Blue Jays must scramble to fill, it does leave an empty slot on the organizational depth chart.
For names like Andy Burns, Jiovanni Mier, David Roberts, or Jon Berti, who are capable of keeping their heads above water at second base, this could be good news.
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Toronto’s major league depth should be fine for now. Troy Tulowitzki will open the season at shortstop while some combination (potentially even some platooning) of Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney will cover second with a reserve.
Devon Travis is on the road back from his shoulder procedure, but to be safe, the Blue Jays should be expecting to be without him for the first two months of the season.
This leaves the job of “next man up”, which could have been occupied by a healthy Izturis, wide open.
The 25-year-old Burns, selected by the Blue Jays in round 11 of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft, has developed into a steady bat with impressive positional flexibility as he’s ascended to the triple-A level.
With the Buffalo Bisons in 2015 he posted a slash line of .293 / .351 / .372 (below average SLG% for him) in 527 plate appearances.
Burns appeared in 46 games at second base, but also saw 50 at third base, 13 at first base, eight at first base and eight in the outfield. Should one of Toronto’s three middle infielders go down at the major league level, his versatility in a reserve role could bring legitimate value to John Gibbons for a short stretch.
It’s also very possible that the Blue Jays seek out a similar player to Izturis from the veteran free agent pool, or waits until later in the month and hit the waiver wire as rosters are juggled.
Don’t forget the 2015 offseason experiment with outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. at second base, as well, which began in the Arizona Fall League and extended in to spring training. Smith Jr. brings a dynamic athletic skill set and youth, though his recent shoulder injury sliding in to home plate would need to be sorted out first.
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This could also free him from a now-crowded outfield depth chart beyond the major league level with Junior Lake, Domonic Brown, Darrell Ceciliani, Ezequiel Carrera, Dalton Pompey and others.
In the end, Izturis was brought aboard for a reason and to fill a role. One that’s now vacant and accepting applications.