The Blue Jays have apparently told Freddy Galvis that he’ll be the starting shortstop this year, and with no disrespect to the veteran, I believe that decision is a mistake.
The 2019 season is supposed to be all about rebuilding and sticking to the “process”, at least as far as we’ve repeatedly heard from Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro this winter.
The Blue Jays’ front office has preached patience in the early stages of a rebuild, and while there have been potential opportunities on the free agent market this winter, the plan has been around looking at the big picture, and building a winner from the ground up. That’s an understandable strategy when you consider where the Blue Jays sit in the vaunted AL East these days, but it’s also a tough pill for some people to swallow, including fans, and their own players like Marcus Stroman.
It takes discipline to go through an internal rebuild like this, and for the most part the front office has been very disciplined with their decisions and have made great efforts to open playing time and opportunity for their young players. There is an exception though, and one that I truly don’t understand.
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Earlier today Freddy Galvis told the media that he has been told he will be the everyday shortstop until further notice, according to John Lott of the @TheAthleticTO, which I imagine was part of the reason that he signed in Toronto as a free agent earlier this offseason. Galvis makes sense as a depth contributor with the Blue Jays this year, especially because of his ability to play both keystone positions, and because the depth chart needed some help at short before his signing.
However, the idea of giving him the everyday job means that Lourdes Gurriel Jr. will not be the full-time shortstop, something that I was really looking forward to seeing this year. I’m aware that he performed better at second base than at shortstop last year, but I felt like he made steady improvements as he gained more big league experience at the position, and I feel like he has the tools to make a great shortstop, especially with that strong arm of his.
Instead, it’s likely that Gurriel will back up Galvis at short, and see regular playing time around the diamond. That will likely include the majority of starts at second base, but he’s also capable of playing at third, and in the corner outfield spots. Don’t get me wrong, his positional flexibility could be a great asset, but I feel like his potential could be greater than that.
Some folks would argue that it doesn’t matter with the eventual arrival of Bo Bichette coming down the pipe, and I can understand that line of thinking. In my mind though, I always felt like 2019 was the perfect opportunity for Gurriel Jr. to show what he can do at shortstop, and to have a full-time chance there before Bichette is ready for the highest level. It’s looking like Bichette will start the year in Triple-A, a level he has yet to experience, but he could push for a big league job later this season. He’s not going to start the year in Toronto though, especially with the current battle for playing time in the Blue Jays’ infield, so it was a great chance for Gurriel Jr. to get his shot.
With Galvis apparently blocking that opportunity, I can’t help but point out that it’s a deviation from the Blue Jays’ stated philosophy so far. They’ve made sure that opportunity and playing time existed for the likes of Danny Jansen with the trade of Russell Martin, and it looked like they had opened up the same for Gurriel Jr. by dealing Aledmys Diaz, and cutting Troy Tulowitzki. Instead, they’ve installed another veteran for the time being, and for the most part it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
Galvis is a fine player, and this isn’t meant to be an attack on him. I understand that he could add value to the Blue Jays’ pitching staff with his defence, something that could be important before this year’s trade deadline. However, I feel like Gurriel Jr. has the potential to do the same at shortstop, and unless the Blue Jays have a change of heart or Galvis gets injured, it sounds like Gurriel will get the majority of his starts elsewhere.
In the earliest stages of a rebuild and with a talented infielder with a rocket for an arm, this is one decision I don’t really understand.