To begin the 2021 season, Blue Jays infielder Cavan Biggio was handed the reigns to the hot corner but by the end of the year, there were a few different names who ended up splitting some time at the position.
Biggio struggled this year both at the plate and on the left side diamond. Combined with the fact that he also hit the injured list a couple of times, this led the way for Santiago Espinal, Kevin Smith, Jake Lamb, and Breyvic Valera to take some turns at the position over the course of the season. Espinal was the one who took advantage of the opportunity, starting 62 games and slashing .311/.376/.405 with a .781 through 222 at-bats.
With the offseason a few weeks away, there are some major questions/issues that the club will need to address. While the major question at hand is whether the club will be re-signing Marcus Semien, Robbie Ray, and Steven Matz, the front office will also have to decide on whether they are going to try and look outside the organization to try and improve third base during the offseason.
Looking at the current options, if the organization does not add anyone, Espinal would most likely be the one getting the nod for some increased reps at the position with Smith, Valera, and potentially Biggio waiting in the wings (with the team most likely using him elsewhere). Considering the season he had in 2021, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to give him an increased look this spring with the potential for him to take on a full-time role for the 2022 campaign and potentially beyond. Defensively, Espinal sported an 8 bDRS last year at third base while making some pretty good fielding plays, standing out amongst the other players who took up the role this season.
If the club does want to improve third base this offseason, there are a few options the front office could consider from outside the organization.
On the free-agent market, the biggest name available is Kris Bryant, who should generate some considerable interest across the league considering he is not only a talented player but also isn’t tied to a qualifying offer because he was traded midseason (at least under the current CBA). He will be one of the best upgrades but obviously the most costly, with other more affordable options like Kyle Seager (if his club option is not exercised) and Eduardo Escobar being available if the Blue Jays front office is looking for veteran experience who won’t take as large a chunk out of the payroll compared to Bryant.
With the Blue Jays having a few core players heading to free agency, the club will need to look at what they want to do at third base for the 2022 season.
If Ross Atkins and co. are looking to improve through trade versus free agency, Jose Ramirez is a name that has crossed the Blue Jays radar before, although the Jays and the Cleveland Guardians were not able to come to an agreement at the trade deadline. This is something the two sides can explore again this winter but acquiring Ramirez will cost some serious prospect capital, which may bother fans who were not too happy with the Jose Berrios trade that cost the club top prospects Austin Martin and Simeon Woods-Richardson. Ramirez isn’t the only potential third base target, and while there hasn’t been any indication that the Blue Jays have inquired with other teams in regards to trades, Oakland Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman is another option that the team could explore.
Considering the Blue Jays have some core players heading to free agency in Semien and Ray, Atkins has already commented on the third base situation, “there are ways for us to field teams without signing a third baseman, but it is an area that we will obviously be thinking about in free agency and trade.”
What do you think Jays fans? Should the club look for a veteran third baseman this offseason or run with internal options this upcoming season at the hot corner?