It’s encouraging that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is working hard with the goal to return to third base, but that wouldn’t really help the Blue Jays all that much.
It’s a very good thing that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has dedicated himself to fitness this offseason, and the early returns have been very encouraging.
That said, one of the goals that’s been driving Vlad Jr. is a desire to return to third base for the Blue Jays. He ended up having to shift across the diamond once the 2020 Spring/Summer training got re-started, and that was largely because of his own doing. He hadn’t been a great defender at the hot corner during his rookie season in 2019, and showing up to camp out of shape wasn’t going to help his cause, which necessitated the move.
For the most part, Guerrero Jr’s desire to return to third base is a great thing, especially if it’s the motivation he needs to get in better shape. However, as I examine the free agent market, I’m not sure that he’s going to get his wish regardless of how good he looks back at third. The biggest reason I say that is because there’s really not much on the free agent first base list, and Vlad moving likely means they’d need another first baseman.
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Yes, I’m aware that Rowdy Tellez is a first baseman, and I’d be fine with seeing him on the field a little more. The problem is though, the Blue Jays have a stated goal to get better defensively as a group in 2021 and beyond. With all due respect to the corner infielders, I’m not sure how that happens with Vlad Jr. at third and Tellez at first. Passable? Absolutely. An improvement, or better yet, enough of an improvement to make a difference? Highly unlikely.
What if Tellez just stays at DH and the Blue Jays go get another first baseman? They could do that, but the free agent market doesn’t offer many solutions. After Carlos Santana signed with the Royals earlier this week, the best remaining options are probably Mitch Moreland and C.J. Cron, followed by players in the Travis Shaw-esque tier (he’s available too, of course).
They could trade for a slugging first baseman, and I’m sure there will be options available. However, if they went that route then they’re more or else stuck with the arrangement for the time being. That means if Vlad Jr. is struggled in a return to third base, they can’t simply move him back to first. That would only really be an option if they signed someone who could play both infield positions, like Shaw or even Justin Turner. I’m sure the Blue Jays are encouraged with Vlad Jr’s goal, but I doubt they’ll be willing to set him up with a safety net.
To me, the best idea would be for Vlad Jr. to continue to keep that goal in mind, and be prepared to play both first and third base next season, with the former as his primary spot. There will be days off, platoon situations, and injuries to cover, so having the option is a good thing.
As for banking on, or planning for a return to third? I’m not sure I see that coming together.