The Blue Jays have a ton of reasons to be excited about Gabriel Moreno’s future, but he may have provided another with his development more recently.
These days Moreno now ranks as the top prospect in the Blue Jays organization, and with good reason. The 21 year old has been terrorizing opposing pitchers at pretty much every professional level, and is moving through the minor league system at a similar pace to some of their young big league stars. He had a fantastic minor league season by slashing .373/.441/.571 over 32 games in Double-A, and he’s continued to perform at a similar level during the Arizona Fall League.
Moreno’s presence is one of the reasons that Blue Jays fans, myself included, have talked so much about the idea of trading one of the organizations many talented catchers. They finished the regular season carrying three backstops in Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire, and Alejandro Kirk. While they all deserve a big league job, I’d be surprised to see the Blue Jays with all three on the MLB roster in 2022, at least for more than a few games. If Moreno continues his current pace and all goes according to plan, it’s expected that he’ll make his MLB debut at some point in the middle of next season, further adding to the logjam.
What’s even more exciting is that it sounds like Moreno is proving to look more than capable as a third baseman, which could be a significant development when it comes to the Blue Jays’ plans. TSN’s Scott Mitchell tweeted that Ross Atkins said Moreno at third base is “very realistic”, and that’s something to celebrate for a few reasons.
First, if Moreno’s bat turns out to be as special as his performance as shown throughout his minor league career, getting him out from behind the plate isn’t the worst idea, even on a part-time basis. Catchers generally need to sit for at least a game or two a week due to the demand on their bodies defensively, so would be another way to keep his bat in the lineup with a bit of a rest, or possibly even a full-time position switch to take full advantage of his hitting talents.
I’m not suggesting that the Blue Jays are thinking that far ahead, but it could change the way they view the market this offseason. In my eyes, I’ve always assumed that they would pursue a new contract with Marcus Semien to play second base, but if that didn’t work out that Atkins could turn to the third base market. I’m not suggesting the Blue Jays are going to hold a spot until Moreno is ready, but I doubt they’re going to make a multi-year commitment at the hot corner either if they’re thinking about the young phenom playing there sooner than later.
It’s also possible that this development could change the Blue Jays line of thinking behind the plate. I’ve long assumed that they would trade one of their trio of big league catchers, and it’s possible that they could do just that, but which name is dealt could change. My assumption was that Kirk could be the one to go because he’d have the most trade value, and Moreno seems destined to overtake the lot of ’em sooner than later anyway.
Instead, the Blue Jays could hypothetically prefer to trade McGuire and think more long-term with a tandem of Jansen and Kirk. Obviously Moreno could still factor into the mix a bit as well, but not thinking of him strictly as a catcher really changes the picture.
Lastly, if the Blue Jays are serious about Moreno as a third baseman, perhaps that changes their plans for other prospects. I doubt anything will affect the status of Orelvis Martinez, who is likely destined for the hot corner himself, but I’m not sure I would say the same for another high-end infielder in Jordan Groshans. The Blue Jays may have designs on swinging another big trade this offseason, and Moreno’s more solidified positional flexibility might make Ross Atkins and company feel better about making an impact move, and possibly using the depth at the position to their advantage.
Of course, Moreno may just continue to develop primarily as a catcher and this whole line of thinking becomes moot, but I’m not so sure that will end up being the case. My guess is that Moreno is very much impacting and even changing the plans for the Blue Jays these days.