When the Blue Jays signed Ruben Tejada on Friday, Ross Atkins gave himself even more of the beloved flexibility that’s become a focus word of the front office’s work.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Blue Jays’ GM, Ross Atkins, loves the word “flexibility”, and applying it to roster building, and pretty much every media interview he gives.
It’s become a word that many Blue Jays fans were starting to loathe, mostly because it felt like it was being used as an excuse to bow out on expensive free agents, or to make significant roster improvements in general. However, after an off-season that’s already had the Blue Jays sign Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark, Shun Yamaguchi, and trade for Chase Anderson, the resentment toward the front office has certainly lessened.
That said, I couldn’t help but laugh as I started to think about the Blue Jays’ latest move, signing utility-man Ruben Tejada to a one-year, MiLB contract. Sure enough, Atkins achieved some of his beloved flexibility with this move too.
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I alluded to it earlier today while talking about the updated battle for the back-up infielders job. On the current 40-man roster, the options include Brandon Drury, Breyvic Valera, and possibly Santiago Espinal, who has yet to play a MLB game. Because they’re an imperfect trio for the role, the idea that the Blue Jays could use a true utility-man has been talked about for a while, including by yours truly.
The reality is, Bo Bichette is going to start the vast majority of games at shortstop next season and provided he stays healthy, there won’t be a tremendous need to back up the position. However, the Blue Jays need to have someone who is capable of taking over at shortstop on a full-time basis should Bichette hit the Injured List at any point. With all due respect to Drury, Valera, and even Espinal, the Blue Jays probably didn’t have that type of player in the organization before Friday. Drury played just five games at shortstop last season, Valera has made just four MLB appearances at the position, and as we mentioned earlier, Espinal has yet to make his big league debut.
Signing Tejada gives the Blue Jays an experienced option at shortstop, but because he agreed to a MiLB deal, it also gives the front office some options. In fact, my guess is that Tejada will be all but guaranteed to start the year in Triple-A with the Buffalo Bisons. Having him on that minor league deal means that they can stash him in AAA until they need him, much like what he experienced last season when he only got into nine MLB games.
If the Blue Jays roll with a 4-man bench as I expect they will, Tejada’s contract gives them some extra flexibility. They can open the season with a bench of Reese McGuire (back-up catcher), Drury (utility), and even retain two outfielders from a group that includes Anthony Alford, Derek Fisher, and more. Drury could make the 2-3 starts at shortstop a month that Bichette would need off of his legs, and Tejada is waiting in the wings if he’s needed.
Signing a back-up infielder to a MiLB deal is a small part of the process of getting ready for the 2020 season, but once again, Atkins and company revealed how much they love to leave their options open, and Tejada’s contract gives them even more of their beloved flexibility.