Toronto Blue Jays News

Toronto Blue Jays: The Rebuild from 2018 to Now

Evan Gignac
Sep 29, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (27) hugs first baseman Justin Smoak (14) after hitting a double against the Tampa Bay Rays during the seventh inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 29, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (27) hugs first baseman Justin Smoak (14) after hitting a double against the Tampa Bay Rays during the seventh inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports /
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June 24, 2018; Anaheim, CA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Tyler Clippard (36) second baseman Yangervis Solarte (26) and first baseman Justin Smoak (14) celebrate the 7-6 victory against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

2018: Russell Martin, Justin Smoak, Devon Travis, Yangervis Solarte, Aledmys Diaz

This infield was the byproduct of the ageing infield core we saw in 2015-2016. This was the last year on Martin’s contract, and he spent most of it acting as a mentor to the rookie Danny Jansen. Devon Travis was truly a sad story. He was an uber-talented hitter and solid fielder but his knee issues just kept him from finding any consistency. His 79 OPS+ in 2018 would be his last season with the Blue Jays, a truly disappointing end for a talented player.

Solarte was puzzling. He was an electric factory when he was hitting well but his poor defensive play and otherwise lazy tendencies meant he wasn’t in the long-term plans. Aledmys Diaz had an admirable 105 OPS+ filling in for the constantly injured Troy Tulowitzki. He would be shipped out to the Houston Astros the following year for Trent Thornton. The missing cog in this infield was Josh Donaldson. Injuries limited him to 32 games in a Jays uniform in 2018 and he was eventually dealt to the Cleveland Indians later that year.

Danny Jansen, Smoak, Cavan Biggio, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Freddy Galvis/Bo Bichette

This was a fun infield in an otherwise not fun season. Smoak’s swan song in Toronto saw him post a 101 OPS+. His time as a starter in Toronto was an underrated run of success. From 2017 to 2019 he posted an OPS+ of 119 while also being a stellar defender.

Biggio and Vlad would make their debuts early into this year. Biggio was an on-base machine while Vlad showed flashes of what was to come in the batter’s box while being an abysmal fielder at third base. Freddy Galvis was nothing short of a beauty but nonetheless was usurped by Bo Bichette later that season. Bichette would break a record by hitting double in his first nine consecutive games.

2020: Jansen, Guerrero Jr., Biggio, Travis Shaw, Bichette

This was the young core’s first season as starters and it yielded mixed results. Vlad was disappointing. He came into the 60 game season clearly out of shape. While he managed to play in all 60 games, Vlad’s future as a generational star was in question. Biggio was a stud yet again, posting 122 OPS+ over 59 games at multiple positions. Bichette was one of the best shortstops in baseball when he was on the field. He hit .301 with a .512 slugging over 29 games. After signing a one-year deal the offseason prior, Travis Shaw had his moments. He was disappointing for the most part while playing third base.

Blue Jays
Sep 26, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (27) in the sixth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports /

2021: Jansen, Guerrero, Marcus Semien, Biggio/Santiago Espinal, Bichette

This may be the best infield to not make the postseason in the history of baseball. Vlad broke out and finished second in MVP voting. Bo stayed healthy while hitting to a 123 OPS+ and improving defensively as the season went on. Marcus Semien proved to be a historic pickup, as he finished third in MVP voting behind Vlad and Shohei Ohtani.

The only disappointing part of this infield was Biggio. He was fantastic in 2019 and 2020, but injuries limited him last year. Santiago Espinal did his best to pick up the slack, as he provided great defence at the hot corner and hit .311 over 92 games.

2022: Jansen, Guerrero Jr., Biggio, Bichette, Espinal

Watching Vlad, Bo, and Biggio as full-time big leaguers is beyond satisfying. The Blue Jays’ ability to identify and develop talent must be applauded, as it has set them up for continued success. This is going to be a fun infield to watch going forward. I also fully expect them to add to this infield prior to Opening Day. Vlad at first, Biggio and Espinal at second, Bo at short, and an all-star calibre third baseman is a recipe for postseason contention, and I’m here for it.

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