Blue Jays: Timing of Rowdy Tellez’s demotion seems a little strange

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 25: Rowdy Tellez #44 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts after striking out during the ninth inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on June 25, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 25: Rowdy Tellez #44 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts after striking out during the ninth inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on June 25, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

Rowdy Tellez was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo after Sunday’s game, and I can’t help but wonder if the move was a strategic one from the front office.

After Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Yankees in New York, the Blue Jays made a roster move by sending Rowdy Tellez back to Triple-A, and as of this writing they had not announced a corresponding move.

At first I wasn’t terribly surprised to hear the news, as Rowdy has slowed down from the nice start he had to the season and now sits with an uninspiring slash line of .227/.280/.436 with 14 home runs and 40 RBI in 78 games and 264 at-bats. That’s not going to get it done for a big league DH/first baseman, however, he is technically still a rookie and is adjusting to the big leagues, so there has been reason for patience. It appears that patience has run out, at least for the time being.

While the overall numbers suggest that the Blue Jays may have made a wise move sending him down, I wondered about the timing of the decision given his recent performance. He went 0-1 in a pinch hit at-bat on Sunday, but he had come into the series finale with the Yankees having collected at least one hit in six out of his last seven games. Nothing to write home about, but much better than the slash line of .205/.253/.452 he put up in June.

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That still only left him 6-25 to begin July after Sunday’s plate appearance, but it still seems like a bit of an odd time to send him down to me. That said, I wonder if there might be a couple of reasons for why he was demoted on Sunday and not sooner, or perhaps not at all.

My first thought was that they just finished a series in New York at the hitter’s haven that is Yankee Stadium, especially for left-handed hitters. That right field porch regularly turns routine fly balls into home runs, and it didn’t hurt to give Tellez the chance to swing away while he was in town, especially as one of the few left-handed hitters in the lineup. The Yankees also threw two righties in Masahiro Tanaka and Domingo German during the three game set, with J.A. Happ pitching the middle game.

With that same line of thinking, it’s possible that the Blue Jays felt that sending Tellez down before heading to Boston might be good timing. The Jays will be at Fenway for a four game set, with both Eduardo Rodriguez and Chris Sale lined up to start during the series, although the other two are slated to be Rick Porcello and new addition, Andrew Cashner, who should throw the first two games of the series. Fenway can be a nice hitter’s park in the same way, but it doesn’t have quite the same potential for video game numbers from left-handed swingers.

I also can’t help but wonder if this decision could have something to do with the trade plans that the front office are no-doubt working on right now. Tellez is unlikely to go anywhere, but his 1B/DH partner in Justin Smoak is on an expiring contract, and there’s a very good chance he’s traded sometime in the next couple of weeks. The Blue Jays may also want to get some extra showcase at-bats for guys like Eric Sogard or Freddy Galvis, who could also be on the market.

I had considered that maybe this was a precurser to a trade announcement, and in that case it was possible that the Blue Jays needed the space on the 25-man roster to make things work. It doesn’t appear that’s the case, at least not yet, so we’ll have to wait and see how Ross Atkins and company decide to juggle the roster if and when those trades start to happen. I don’t think Tellez’s stay in Triple-A will do long though, and perhaps no more than the rest of this month. However, my colleague, Clayton Richer, wrote about Tellez just two days ago, asking whether or not he’s the answer at first base for the long term.

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Maybe it was as simple as the Blue Jays not wanting to demote Tellez prior to the All-Star break and have him spend his time off doing anything but resting and recuperating. Whatever the rationale, the California native will continue to work on his craft in Buffalo and hopefully get back to the hitter that he was late last season, and earlier this year. If he can, the Blue Jays will find a place for him in the lineup whether they make trades or not.