The Blue Jays will likely be in the market for a middle infielder again this winter, but don’t expect that to affect Bo Bichette’s future as the shortstop of the present and future in Toronto.
With Marcus Semien set to be a free agent again in a few weeks, Blue Jays fans can’t help but think about what the front office might do if they can’t retain the 2021 All-Star. Semien made the concession to move to second base when signing with the Jays last winter, and that was because of the presence of Bichette at the position.
There was all kinds of debate last winter and into the early part of this season about whether Bichette should be moved to second, especially after he made several errors in the early part of the year. That was only amplified with the presence of a veteran shortstop like Semien, but the Blue Jays stuck to their guns and remained patient, and I believe that it ultimately paid off. Bichette made a lot of strong improvements with his defensive work as the season went on, even crediting Semien for offering tips and support.
Now that Bichette already survived that type of situation once and came out of it as a better and still-improving defender, I really feel like the conversation is dead, at least for the time being. However, with the way the middle infield market is shaping up again for this offseason, we’re bound to hear the same debate again in some circles.
To some degree I can understand that given the names hitting free agency. The field of shortstops is a strong one beyond Semien (who could play SS or 2B), and could include Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Javier Baez, and more. Personally, I have a hard time seeing the Blue Jays being serious contenders for any of those players beyond Semien, but I could certainly be wrong about that. If the Jays were to sign one of Seager, Correa, Baez, or Story, here’s how they rated against Bichette according to Baseball Reference’s dWAR stat.
I know it wouldn’t help their case to sign any of those players to ask them to move to second base, but the only one that was clearly superior to Bichette on defence this season would be Correa. Story was better in 2021, but I also believe that Bichette still has plenty of room to grow, and will do just that as he continues to gain more MLB experience. To be fair, Baez’s numbers weren’t that great in 2021, but he’s shown himself to be a plus-defender wherever he lines up as well.
In my eyes, the mostly likely solution to filling their opening at second base is to re-sign Semien, or perhaps turn to an in-house option or two. Of course, Semien is the ideal choice if they can bring him back, but if that doesn’t happen then I wouldn’t be shocked if Cavan Biggio move back to second, or even to see Santiago Espinal play the position more in 2022 as well. I say that because I believe that if the Jays can’t retain Semien then I think they’re just as likely if not more so to pursue a third baseman instead.
Regardless of how they sort out the infield picture, I think we can write Bichette’s name in ink as the shortstop, just as we can do the same for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at first base. Bichette showed that he can be a defensive asset, and more importantly, he was consistently committed to improving on both sides of the ball, and made steady improvements to boot. As the Blue Jays look ahead to the future, and hopefully one that includes a long-term deal for Bichette at some point, I can’t imagine they’ll move him off of shortstop now.