Blue Jays: There’s no need to rush Luke Maile out the door
Luke Maile was worth 1.2 wins to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2018. The youth movement is here, but Maile shouldn’t be rushed out for Reese McGuire yet.
The Toronto Blue Jays off-season has been interesting to say the least. They’ve definitely been a bit more active than a season ago, especially before the holiday season. There’s been some good depth moves, and there’s been major shockwaves with a straight up release of Troy Tulowitzki and trade of Russell Martin.
It’s clear the front office is giving the keys to the kids in 2019, which has led people to believe Reese McGuire is going to be the backup to Danny Jansen. Not so fast. Luke Maile is still around and can still be valuable to the 2019 club.
2017 was a complete write off for Maile after he arrived in Toronto. He played in 46 games with 136 plate appearances. In those plate appearances, he had a wRC+ of 1. That’s 99 below the league average of 100. Maile was unplayable and worse than Jeff Mathis, who was with the Blue Jays in 2012 and one of the worst hitting catchers ever.
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After such a disastrous season, it was revealed Maile was dealing with a nagging knee injury nearly the entire season. For those who don’t know the mechanics of hitting a baseball, your knees are one of the most important parts of your body to have healthy to swing. Almost all Blue Jays fans were ready to move on from Maile and understandably so.
In 2018, with a fully healthy knee, he shut all his doubters up. He was productive in his 231 plate appearances and finished the season with a wRC+ of 95 and fWAR of 1.2. He also was the best defensively he’s been in his career at a 5.5 dWAR. His 1.2 fWAR ranked him #19 among all big league catchers with at least 150 plate appearances. There’s a legitimate argument to be made Maile was one of the most valuable backup catchers in all of baseball. The turn around was quite impressive and unexpected.
Maile’s first half of the season saw him contribute a wRC+ of 89. The second half saw an improvement to 106. He wasn’t a roll over at the plate and had the highest walk rate of his career at 10.8%. If Maile can continue what he started in 2018 into 2019, it is entirely possible that Luke Maile becomes a trade chip at the deadline.
That’s why there’s zero rush to get Reese McGuire to the big leagues to backup Danny Jansen. When McGuire gets to the big leagues, he will be an offensive improvement over Maile. However, with McGuire’s injury history, the front office should take it slow.
There’s been chatter amongst the Blue Jays Twittersphere that McGuire should backup Jansen from the get-go. People are forgetting Luke Maile is still on the roster but they shouldn’t. Maile was a solid contributor in 2018 and barring something unforeseen, he will open as the backup to Danny Jansen to start 2019. There’s no need to rush Maile out the door just yet.