Blue Jays: The balance of special treatment for star players
It’s been a difficult start to the season for many of the Blue Jays budding young stars, and finding a balance of how to treat them is going to be difficult for manager Charlie Montoyo, and maybe even the front office.
Lately the biggest problem for the Blue Jays is that their offence has gone ice-cold. Other than decent performances from Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the lineup has greatly struggled, scoring just two runs on six hits over the last two games. However, the quiet bats haven’t been the only issue, and if you ask the average Jays fan what the biggest concern is after the first 17 games, most would you it’s been the defence.
Unfortunately it hasn’t been just one offender either, as there are a few concerns with the glove work in the early going. Cavan Biggio has greatly struggled with the transition to playing third base full-time, as he’s already made three errors over his first 12 starts, and I think it’s fair to say that his throwing arm plays better with the shorter throw from second. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has looked overwhelmed in left field as well, and looks worse than he did last year as an outfielder when it was a lot more new to him than it is now.
And then there’s Bichette, and a growing concern about whether he can stick as a shortstop at the highest level.
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It’s been a question that’s followed the 23 year old over the last few years, and he’s worked very hard to establish himself at the position. The Blue Jays made it a priority to keep him as a shortstop as they did their offseason shopping, and signed Marcus Semien with the understanding that he’d have to move to second base after having played at short for the Oakland A’s. Bichette was and is one of their core stars, and the Jays were committing to letting him play his preferred position.
That’s part of the special treatment that happens for star players in the big leagues, and there’s more to the equation than just keeping the player happy. Having them comfortable on defence can help them produce the best results in the batter’s box, and confidence is part of Bichette’s game. Obviously that can work the other way if things aren’t going well too, but there’s no doubt that young Bo wants to hang on to his long-time position, and he’s not the first to feel that way. The most obvious example would be Derek Jeter spending his entire career as the shortstop for the Yankees despite his declining ability. I’m not suggesting that Bichette should be treated like a first ballot Hall of Famer, but the concept of keeping a star player happy is pretty similar.
For the Blue Jays and Bichette, part of thinking is that they’d like a player with his special talents to stick around for the long-term, so showing commitment and confidence in the Florida native is significant as well. However, if he can’t improve on the performance we’ve seen from him in the early going of 2021, it may come to a point where the Blue Jays have to choice but to make a switch.
In my mind, I don’t think that happens this season unless Bichette’s defence really craters. Yes, they have a ready made solution with Semien on the roster, and they could theoretically flip the two keystone defenders. However, Bichette would not be thrilled with the move at all, even if it was warranted, and Semien will be a free agent at the end of the season. Based on the way he’s hit so far, the Jays may not be motivated to bring him back either. One way or another, they need a shortstop of the future as well as the present.
So while it’s been very frustrating to watch Bichette’s early season struggles on defence, and it’s warranted to question his future as a big league shortstop, don’t expect the Blue Jays to make a hasty change with their young star. They’re going to give him every opportunity to turn things around, and even if it’s tough in the short term, they absolutely should exercise every bit of patience they have.