Blue Jays: Stopgap option or not, this feels like a joke
The Blue Jays started 35 year old catcher Russell Martin at shortstop on Saturday. Yes, you read that right, and it’s not a good sign.
Russell Martin was originally drafted as a third baseman, and there’s no denying that he’s got some of the best hands in the big leagues. He’s been an elite defensive catcher for parts of 13 seasons, and those hands have been a big part of what’s made him so effective behind the plate.
They’ve also made him serviceable at third base in a pinch throughout his career, as he’s played 33 games at the hot corner, with each of the Dodgers, Pirates, and Yankees giving him at least one appearance at the position, and 15 of those appearances coming with the Blue Jays. Last season it was necessitated (I guess?) with injury issues to Josh Donaldson and several others in the infield, but the hope was that scenario wouldn’t play out again with guys like Yangervis Solarte, Aledmys Diaz, and more added this offseason.
For as decent as Martin has looked at third base, it’s not a great sign for the Blue Jays when they have to resort to playing him there. Ideally he would get to rest his legs completely when he’s not catching, but lately he’s been in the lineup with regularity. This would make more sense if he was hitting the cover off the ball as well, but he entered Saturday’s game with .157 batting average.
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For as annoyed as I have been seeing his name in the lineup at third base over the last few years, I truly wasn’t prepared to see John Gibbons‘ lineup card for Saturday’s game. In case you missed it, Martin made his first career start at shortstop. At the age of 35. A position he’s never played at a professional.
I’m aware that the Blue Jays are currently without a shortstop on their 25 man roster, and to me, that’s almost as ridiculous as starting Martin there. Gio Urshela has a capable glove, but the lineup is in dire need of any offensive help they can get, so I assume that’s why John Gibbons went with Martin at short. Of course, there’s that whole .157 batting average thing that nullifies that argument.
I also realize the Blue Jays are due to get Aledmys Diaz back sooner than later, and using Martin at short could be nothing more than a stopgap option. However, I would argue that doesn’t make this situation any less ridiculous. In fact, I’d go as far as calling it a straight up joke.
I don’t like to get that negative when it comes to my beloved Blue Jays, but this feels like a cruel prank being played on the fan base. I’m also a big fan of Russell Martin, but in this case I would argue that his influence on the Blue Jays and John Gibbons could be viewed as a detriment to the team. I know things are pretty dire in the depth department, but if you ask me, it should never come to something like this. Sure, he made a couple decent plays on Saturday, but that doesn’t change my opinion at all. The fact that he was able to convince Gibbons that it’s a good idea concerns me a great deal.
At a time in the calendar when it feels like the ship is sinking, these decisions wreak of desperation. Perhaps that’s because times are pretty desperate, but allowing Martin to play short feels like an admission that it just doesn’t matter anymore. I know that’s not true, but it’s the opposite message I want to see from both the manager, and the front office.