Blue Jays: Travis Shaw’s signing should push Brandon Drury out

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 15: Brandon Drury #3 of the Toronto Blue Jays is congratulated by teammates after he scored against the San Francisco Giants in the top of the fifth inning of a Major League Baseball game at Oracle Park on May 15, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 15: Brandon Drury #3 of the Toronto Blue Jays is congratulated by teammates after he scored against the San Francisco Giants in the top of the fifth inning of a Major League Baseball game at Oracle Park on May 15, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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The Blue Jays signed Travis Shaw to a one-year deal on Sunday, and his addition to the club has me wondering if they will still need Brandon Drury in 2020.

When the news broke that the Blue Jays had reportedly signed Travis Shaw on Sunday morning, it was met with mixed reviews at first. That’s mostly because there’s a good chance that signing Shaw means that Edwin Encarnacion won’t be returning to Toronto, and even if the fit with the player they got likely makes more sense, nostalgia can sometimes rule the day.

It’s probably true that there isn’t room for Encarnacion as well now that Shaw is in the fold, that is, if we’re assuming that the latter will help fill the first base/designated hole in the lineup. That might be exactly what it means, but having Shaw and his skillset on the roster has me asking a different question:

Do the Blue Jays still need Brandon Drury?

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With all due respect to Drury, that was a fair question before the Blue Jays had to make a decision about whether or not to tender him a contract before the arbitration deadline. They chose to do just that, and I suspect it has a lot to do with the skillset that he brings to the table. He can play all over the infield (although, it’s a pretty big stretch to play him at shortstop), and can even play the outfield in a pinch. Having him around gave the club insurance for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at third base, Cavan Biggio at second, and also for Rowdy Tellez at first base.

The thing is, Shaw can fill that role as well, and I suspect he’ll move around the diamond a bit next season in order to keep his bat in the lineup with regularity. I don’t know that there will be the same urgency to get Drury playing time, especially now that Shaw is in the fold. Assuming that the Blue Jays want to make Bo Bichette, Guerrero Jr, Biggio, and Tellez all full-time starters, Shaw is going to be moving around to stay active anyway. He’ll get some at-bats at designated hitter as well, but that’s also a position the Blue Jays could look to use with their plethora of outfielders.

If we assume that the Blue Jays are going to run a four-man bench now that rosters will move up to 26 players in 2020, that can also give us an idea of what they’ll need from that back-up group. To give us a more clear picture, let’s look at a potential lineup for 2020, using the players currently on the roster as of this writing.

1- Bichette (SS)
2- Biggio (2B)
3- Vlad Jr. (3B)
4- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (LF)
5- Teoscar Hernandez (CF)
6- Shaw (1B)
7- Randal Grichuk (RF)
8- Tellez (DH)
9- Danny Jansen (C)

If that were the starting lineup the majority of the time, then the bench will look something like this:

1- Reese McGuire (back-up catcher)
2- Derek Fisher (back-up OFer)
3- *Infielder capable of playing shortstop (ex. Richard Urena)
4- Drury?

Even if Drury can play shortstop in a pinch, or Gurriel Jr. has experience there in the past, I can’t see the Blue Jays rolling without a true back-up at the position. It could be Urena, or perhaps a free agent that’s yet to be signed, but one of those positions needs to be filled by a real shortstop. There’s also the question of whether the Blue Jays carry any of Billy McKinney, Jonathan Davis, or Anthony Alford to start the year as well, the latter of which is out of minor league options and will have to make the 25-man roster in order to be retained.

The one thing that Drury has going for him in this scenario is his right-handed bat, as he could platoon against southpaws with Shaw, or perhaps with Tellez. However, there are better ways to carry a right-handed half of a platoon than Drury’s .642 OPS, especially when his defensive abilities could be redundant now that Shaw is under contract.

Realistically, the Blue Jays could probably still play with their lineup configuration and find room for Encarnacion, but it would likely require saying farewell to Drury. They could make Encarnacion the primary DH, and he would be a huge upgrade as the RH portion of a platoon, who would also start against same-siders as well. Between regular rest for him and Tellez, Shaw would have plenty of at-bats between first base and designated hitter, and would also be able to back-up Guerrero Jr. at third on his off-days. In that scenario, the lineup could look like:

1- Bichette (SS)
2- Biggio (2B)
3- Vlad Jr (3B)
4- Encarnacion (DH)
5- Gurriel Jr. (LF)
6- Shaw/Tellez (1B)
7- Hernandez (CF)
8- Grichuk (RF)
9- Jansen (C)

Bench

1- McGuire
2- Fisher
3- Urena
4- Shaw/Tellez

To me, that would certainly make a lot more sense and the Blue Jays would be a more dangerous lineup. That said, it’s entirely possible that Ross Atkins and the rest of the front office aren’t all that worried about adding to the lineup, especially with the starting rotation and bullpen still a greater priority. Still, the idea of adding a more potential right-handed bat like Encarnacion’s has to be tempting.

Maybe the Blue Jays see some unlocked potential in Drury’s bat that I don’t, but I feel like we had a big enough sample size from him in 2019 over 120 games and 447 plate appearances. Prior to Sunday, I would have made an argument for the need of a player like him on this team, but now that Shaw is going to be a Blue Jay I don’t know that I feel the same way.

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My opinion really doesn’t matter though, so it’ll be interesting to see how the front office proceeds from here. Something tells me that they’re not done tinkering with the roster, and suddenly Drury’s job doesn’t feel so safe.

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