Blue Jays: Lindor Should Have Been More Of A Priority Last Offseason

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 08: Francisco Lindor #12 of the New York Mets in action against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field on April 08, 2021 in New York City. New York Mets defeated the Miami Marlins 3-2. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 08: Francisco Lindor #12 of the New York Mets in action against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field on April 08, 2021 in New York City. New York Mets defeated the Miami Marlins 3-2. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

It’s not every day that an elite player becomes available on either the trade or free-agent market.  This transpired this past offseason when all-star shortstop Francisco Lindor was made available by his former club the Cleveland Indians.  Despite the quality of player Lindor is, there weren’t too many suitors for the four-time All-Star, and it seemed like the Mets, Yankees, and Blue Jays were the only teams in line to land the switch-hitting shortstop.

Acquiring Lindor made a lot of sense for GM Ross Atkins, as the Jays were one of the few teams in baseball looking to spend after a season that saw a lot of clubs lose money thanks to having no gate revenue due to COVID-19.  The Blue Jays wanted to take advantage of this buyers market and add a star.  The prior relationship that President Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins had with Lindor from their time together in Cleveland led a lot of people in the industry to point to Toronto as the best landing spot for the Puerto Rico native.

As I’m sure we’re all aware, this did not materialize and Lindor was shipped off to Flushing Meadows back in January for an underwhelming return that saw no notable big league talent or top prospect heading the other way.

The Jays were able to pivot and still ended up adding quality players such as Marcus Semien and George Springer, who were believed to be their top targets.  Though it’s still early, we’ve seen the Jays infield struggle defensively early this season, headlined by shortstop Bo Bichette, who’s made 6 errors and countless other miscues.  With the massive amount of mistakes being made defensively, the question has to be asked if the Blue Jays should have made more of an effort to acquire Lindor this winter, to help stabilize the infield while still adding an elite bat to their lineup.

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For starters, I think that the primary reason why the Jays didn’t pull the trigger on Lindor was because of Bichette.  Atkins was well-positioned to beat the Mets week offer for Lindor from a prospect standpoint and had the financial flexibility to offer up a similar extension that the Mets handed out to him at a price point of 341M over 10 years if they managed to land him.

The Jays have been committed to developing Bichette as a shortstop, and rightly so, as he’s far more valuable to the organization if he is playing short instead of a position like second or third.  Acquiring Lindor would have meant pulling the plug on Bichette at short which is something that I don’t think the Jays were ready to do last offseason.

The organization was betting on steady improvement from Bichette from the defensive side of his game, but so far this season we have seen the complete opposite of this.  Bichette has posted a -6 Outs Above Average (OAA) according to Statcast (which will probably drop even more after his rough night against the Rays) which is currently dead-last amongst qualified shortstops this season.  The Florida Native has also cost the Jays 4 runs this year, which ranks second last amongst qualified shortstops, only sitting in front of Eugenio Suarez of the Reds who is playing off of his natural third base position.

Bichette ranked in the bottom half of the league in both of these statistics in 2019 and 2020, so this poor defensive play is not a new trend for him.  Lindor is a complete 180 of Bichette on the field as he has posted an OAA of 67, and saved 51 runs since 2016 which ranks third and second among shortstops respectively.

Though Lindor has struggled with the bat so far during his time in New York City, posting a slash line of .204/.344/.286, he’s still managed to keep a positive WAR of 0.2 thanks to his elite defensive play.  Bichette has cost the Jays countless outs and runs so far this season and having Lindor at shortstop would be a completely different look for this team as you would go from a liability to one of the premier defenders in all of baseball at the position.

Look at the impact Troy Tulowitzki made when he came over from Colorado back in 2015 and replaced Jose Reyes.  The Jays went from a below-average defensive team to one of the best in baseball because of Tulo and I think that Lindor could have made that same impact with this current club.

I know an argument from fans will be that they can just add a shortstop next offseason, and this a valid point.  Next year’s free-agent class is loaded at the shortstop position with high-impact names such as Trevor StoryCorey Seager, and Javy Baez set to hit the market.

Relying on free agents wanting to come to play for you as a Canadian-based team is never an effective option.  Yes, the Jays were able to land Springer last offseason but that is an anomaly in the franchise’s history.  It’s nearly impossible to convince non-Canadian athletes to come north of the border in any sport, not just baseball.  Most of the time, if you want an elite player to come to a Canadian market it has to be via trade.

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The Jays had a golden opportunity to add one of the best shortstops in the business this past offseason, but for a variety of different reasons, they chose to go in a different direction.  With shortstop looking like a need for this team, not anteing up for Lindor may come back to bite the front office if they are unable to upgrade the position in the future.