After the acquisition of Yangervis Solarte, some chatter has already begun that Devon Travis could be moved to left field. Based on his ability at second base, his injury history, and his value as a middle infielder when healthy, I’d say that’s a terrible idea.
Somehow I knew this was going to happen, but I didn’t expect the conversation to start so early. Now that the Blue Jays have brought in Yangervis Solarte in a trade with the San Diego Padres, fans and writers are already trying to figure out how John Gibbons can fit the new guy into the lineup every day along with everyone else in house.
The reality is, if everyone is healthy then someone will have to sit, and Solarte may have to do his fair share at times, which feels like a bit of a wasted asset. I get it.
I was glad to see that when GM Ross Atkins was asked about the idea of moving Devon Travis to the outfield, he more or less shook off the idea, although I’ll admit that he didn’t dismiss it altogether. According to an article on MLB.com by Gregor Chisholm, Atkins had this to say after the trade with the Padres was announced, and he was asked about Travis potentially being considered for the outfield:
"“We’ll see,” Atkins said when asked if Travis would switch positions to ease the logjam. “I think first and foremost, we are focused on Devon’s health. He is one of the better second basemen in the game when he is healthy, and once we get him to that point and see how the rest of our lineup takes shape, then we’ll determine how we start to prepare guys for their playing time in the season. There’s still work to do in our offseason.”"
Again, he didn’t completely rule it out, but he rightly pointed out that the Blue Jays need to focus on Travis getting healthy. A position change may not be the best way to do that, especially in an era where baserunners can no longer break up a double play in the same violent way they’ve historically done so.
While putting Travis in left would allow for Solarte to have a regular position, that wasn’t really the purpose of acquiring him. The Blue Jays are all too aware of the need to cover from lost games from Travis and fellow keystoner Troy Tulowitzki, and at some point there’s a good chance that both Solarte and their other new infielder, Aledmys Diaz, will be called on to start every day.
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Even when Travis and Tulowitzki are both healthy, the Jays would be wise to give them regular rest in order to keep them healthy and productive. Having Solarte on the bench allows for that freedom, as it does with Josh Donaldson as well, who could benefit from a few more days at DH to keep his legs fresh over the course of the season.
Diaz still has minor league options as well, so if the Blue Jays really feel like they’re limiting the playing time of anyone to a fault, they can have the former Cardinal stashed in Triple A and waiting to come up when injury strikes. In that scenario, Solarte could play at least once a week for Travis/Tulowitzki/Donaldson and even Justin Smoak, giving him four or five starts a week even when everyone is healthy.
Last season represented his second highest total for games played at 128, with 2015 at 152 being his career high. With his versatility, he is used to not having a regular position to some degree, so it shouldn’t be a terribly difficult adjustment for him to come to Toronto as opposed to how he was used to San Diego. And let’s face it, there will come a time when one or both of Travis and Tulowitzki will hit the DL, so it’s not as if he’s going to be starved for playing time when all is said and done in 2018.
Getting back to Travis, moving him to the outfield negates a lot of his value, even if he might be able to hit enough to warrant playing in the corner outfield. I’m confident that he could adjust to the position defensively over time, but I’m not sure that’s how he’s best used anyway. As a second baseman he’s an above average offensive weapon when healthy, with the ability to hit .300 and displaying gap power. As an outfielder, you’d heard constant chatter about his he doesn’t produce strong enough power numbers, and how his arm is adequate at best.
It’s tempting to play with lineup scenarios to find ways to get everyone in there, but moving Devon Travis to the outfield isn’t the way to do it.