Blue Jays: “Sometimes it comes down to personnel”

When asked some questions before Tuesday night’s game against the Royals, John Gibbons had some interesting answers, as usual.

If this really is the last season for John Gibbons as the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, then tonight’s game will be his last at the Rogers Centre. He was given a standing ovation by a few sections of fans on several occasions on Tuesday, and I imagine that will continue this evening.

Gibby is a popular man among a lot of Blue Jays media and fans. One of the many reasons for that is his laid back attitude, and how candid he’s been over the years. He’s always been professional, but at the same time he’s maintained the attitude of a straight shooter. Sometimes you even get the feeling like you’ve known the man for a long time, even if you’ve never met him.

He’s obviously not going to change now, and when he was asked a few questions before Tuesday night’s game he left us with a few noteworthy statements to think about.

In a tweet from Sportnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith, the writer mentioned that he asked Gibbons about how the Blue Jays could improve their defence in general for next season. Obviously big league experience for many young players is going to be a big factor, but it’s not going to be that simple, and even Gibbons would acknowledge that.

“Sometimes it comes down to personnel, you know. Sometimes at certain spots you need a change in personnel if you want to get better”

The Blue Jays’ skipper didn’t go as far as to explain what he meant specifically by the comment, and there’s really no reason for him to do that right now. There’s every reason for he and the Blue Jays to want to end this relationship on a positive note, especially since he’s well respected in the organization, and well liked overall.

It’s entirely possible he was talking about himself and some or all of his coaching staff as well, but it’s hard not to have a look at the defensive numbers of the Blue Jays this year and wonder if there weren’t a few specific positions he had in mind with that comment.

The obvious one would be in the outfield, where the defensive foibles of Teoscar Hernandez have been a source of frustration for most of the season. According to baseballreference.com, Hernandez was a team-worst -2.0 in dWAR, and was among the worst defensive outfielders in the American League. There’s a good chance the Blue Jays will give him another opportunity in 2019, but the leash may not be as long if he doesn’t show improvement early in the season.

Perhaps he was also talking about Yangervis Solarte, who comes in with a dWAR rating of -0.7 on the season. That was of course split mostly between second and third base, but it was a tough year with the glove for Solarte, and there’s a decent chance he could be shopped this winter with the glut of infielders in Toronto right now.

And not that Gibby would be one to pick on his veteran players, but even Kevin Pillar had a down season on the defensive side of things. When you add that to the fact that he’s approaching 30, has a lot of hard miles on his body, is getting more expensive, and still hasn’t taking a significant step forward at the plate, perhaps Gibbons can see the writing on the wall in centre field as well.

There’s a good chance I’m reading more into the comments than what Gibbons meant with them at the time, but I’d have to agree with the statement regardless. The Blue Jays defence will improve next year by nature of roster turnover and experience for their young players. Lourdes Gurriel’s -0.8 rating will improve with more experience, and there’s no way Justin Smoak will rate as poorly as he did this year again, right?

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Gibbons is almost certainly correct that there are a few changes that need to be made in order to see significant improvement, and time should sort that out shortly. The Blue Jays have a ton of talent on the position player side of their system, and the cream will eventually rise to the top, especially as the winds of change continue to blow in Toronto.