Blue Jays: Montoyo needs to ride the hot hands down the stretch
The trade deadline brought a lot more depth for the Blue Jays roster, and has set up manager Charlie Montoyo so that he can ride the hot hand in a few areas.
Chances are the 55 year old skipper is going to have to do some finessing with his bullpen group over the last 59 games of the regular season. Fortunately the front office provided plenty of reinforcements ahead of the trade deadline, acquiring both Adam Cimber and Trevor Richards earlier in the month, and then Brad Hand and Joakim Soria over the last 48 hours before the clock ran out. As a result it was expected that the Jays’ bullpen depth chart would see some re-shuffling, ultimately making it stronger in the process.
That will still happen by nature of half of the bullpen turning over, but I don’t think Jordan Romano has to worry about losing his closer’s gig at the moment, at least not to Hand. Unfortunately the new Blue Jays’ left-hander hasn’t had a very good start to his tenure with a new club, taking the loss on Sunday after giving up three runs (two earned) in the 10th inning against Cleveland, and that was following a tough debut where he also allowed a run against Kansas City.
Despite being the team’s most obvious closer candidate on paper, I sincerely doubt that he’s earned much trust from his new manager just yet. The good news is that the Blue Jays have several other late-inning options in Romano, Soria, Cimber, and even Tim Mayza, who could fill the void of a southpaw until Hand gets back on track. For now, it’s a perfect example of an area of the team that Montoyo and Pete Walker will really have to manage over the next two months.
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That’s not the only part of the team that could be in a state of flux going forward. For example, it’s looking like there’s a bit of a shift going on with third base these days, as Santiago Espinal made four consecutive starts at third base over the long weekend. He and Cavan Biggio have been mostly platooning at the hot corner over the last month or so, but I can’t help but wonder if the Dominican might be getting a firmer grip on the job. It made sense that he started against two lefties to begin the Kanas City series, and then Biggio was used at first and second base for the next two games to give Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette each a day as the DH. Still, it felt like an opportunity for Espinal, and he’s been rising to the occasion on both sides of the ball.
The fact is, he’s a far superior defender to Biggio at third, so if he’s going to keep hitting the way he has been in 2021 then it’s hard to argue against him playing every day. We have to keep in mind that he hasn’t had to face nearly as many same-side pitchers because of the platoon set-up, but I wouldn’t be shocked at all if Espinal starts landing on the lineup card more frequently down the stretch. His defence really is a game-changer.
Last but not least, I’m curious to see how Montoyo manages his catching situation over the last couple of months. In an ideal world I think the majority of us would like to see Alejandro Kirk making the majority of starts behind the plate, but his performance is really going to dictate how often he gets the call. I would think that his defence may be the most important factor, and after watching Cleveland steals bases seemingly at will on Monday, it’s clear he could still use some defensive seasoning. That said, Kirk’s ceiling is certainly higher than Reese McGuire’s, and as long as Danny Jansen is injured then the Blue Jays are going to be tempted to see what their youngster can do.
It’s a good problem to have that the Blue Jays now have a lot more depth than they did a month ago, and all isn’t necessarily lost if a player or two start scuffling. That’s going to be an important part of how much success they experience over the next two months, and might even be the toughest task that Charlie Montoyo has faced to date as the Blue Jays’ skipper.