Blue Jays need to address the keystone for 2018

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 9: Second baseman Devon Travis
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 9: Second baseman Devon Travis /

The Blue Jays haven’t received a lot of production, or even healthy games for their starting keystone this year. With both Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis having a history of injuries, it’s a position that needs greater depth going forward.

For Thursday night’s game for the Blue Jays against the Yankees, they started Ryan Goins at shortstop, and recent acquisition Rob Refsynder at second base. With all due respect to both of the active players, that’s not how Blue Jays’ fans envisioned things going in August.

The keystone was supposed to be occupied by 5 time All-Star Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop, and blossoming star Devon Travis at second base. Both players currently reside on the DL, and it’s possible that we won’t see either again until 2018.

Devon Travis has played just 50 games this season, and is rehabbing from his latest knee ailment. Things are reportedly going well with his rehab, but after having missed significant portions of his other two seasons in the majors, he’ll need to prove he can stay healthy sooner than later if he wants to be considered an elite second baseman in baseball. There have also been some rumours of the team considering a position change for the talented hitter, but it remains to be seen if they follow through with that idea. The offensive tools are there wherever he plays (and second would be ideal), but he just hasn’t been able to stay healthy so far in his young career.

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He is working towards a return to the lineup before the end of the season, but it’s a greatly debated topic among Blue Jays’ fans whether or not he should do that, even if he’s healthy enough to do so. A healthy Travis adds a badly needed component to Toronto’s lineup, and with the 2017 season looking like a long cause, it might make more sense for him to focus on coming into 2018 at 110%.

In Tulowitzki’s case, he’s back on the DL after sustained ligament damage in his ankle, while running to first a couple weeks ago. He stepped on the first baseman’s foot while trying to leg out a hit, and with that we have bid adieu to his 2017 campaign. He was transferred to the 60 day DL earlier this week, making it all but official that he’ll miss the rest of the year. Assuming he’s done, he finished the year having played in just 66 games.

The Blue Jays have three years left with Tulowitzki on the books, and also have three years of control over Travis, who will enter arbitration for the first time during this upcoming offseason. They both provide potential upside next year and beyond, but it’s getting nearly impossible to rely on them to stay healthy. In Tulowitzki’s case, his contract makes him a very difficult player to move in a trade, and Travis has a ton of upside, so it’s tough to give up on him either.

With that in mind, the Blue Jays need to make a greater back-up plan for 2018 if they intend to compete. With all due respect to Goins, Refsynder, and Darwin Barney, the Blue Jays need to bring in someone who is a capable starter, because the reality is, they’re going to have to start at some point with a keystone of Tulo and Travis.

The Jays may already have that answer in house, as someone like Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has been making serious progressions, and is capable of manning either position, at least based on recent experience. He’s hit .272/.307/.395 in 23 games at AA New Hampshire, but has struggled to find his groove at the plate in Triple A. He’s a candidate to get a September call-up, and the bet is the front office will be paying close attention to him in particular, seeing how he responds to the biggest level.

If Gurriel isn’t ready, and he may very well be another year away, the Blue Jays will need to look elsewhere to address the position. Someone like a Jed Lowrie type, who could end up being bought out by the A’s this offseason, may be more suitable. He’s not the sexiest name to pursue, but the name is flexibility, and he can provide that while also bringing a lot more on offence than we’ve seen from any of the replacements this year.

Next: Blue Jays Injury Updates: Tulo, Travis, and Jones

We will see some turnover with the Blue Jays on next year’s roster, but chances are the keystone partners of Travis and Tulowitzki will be back again for another turn. Maybe they’ll both finally enjoy a healthy year next season, but the safe bet is they’ll both need some time off at some point, and making a strong back-up plan could be the difference between contending, and maybe a much larger rebuild.