The Blue Jays toyed with a few different ideas as far as filling their DH spot for 2022, but even without one more bat, they shouldn’t have any problems filling the role.
With about a week until we get to Opening Day there are a few different candidates that could see the majority of time as the designated hitter. Alejandro Kirk and his potent bat make a lot of sense, especially if the Jays carry three catchers to begin the year, which they could do with Kirk, Danny Jansen, and Reese McGuire. There’s also the very impressive Greg Bird, who has likely hit his way to making the big league roster as long as the Jays find a 40-man roster spot to start the year.
While some sort of platoon with those two makes a lot of sense, I think we have to remember that the Blue Jays will cycle plenty of others through the position as well. It’s a sound strategy to keep players rested over the course of a gruelling 162 games season, and we saw the value last year when George Springer wasn’t yet healthy enough to play in centre field, but was able to contribute with the bat while he continued to heal.
Speaking of Springer, I’m sure the Blue Jays plan to give him a half day’s rest as the DH at least once a week throughout the year. It’s hard to take much from last year because of how long he had to leave his glove on the shelf, but even when he’s fully healthy it would make sense to give him regular rest while keeping his potent bat in the lineup.
A good example might be the way the Jays used Vladimir Guerrero Jr. last year. Granted, the 2nd place finisher in the AL MVP race played 161 games in 2021, but he also made 28 starts as the DH. That accounts to once every six games or so, or roughly once a week. I imagine we can expect a similar or even more frequent rate for Springer in 2022 during his age 32 season. Last year he proved how valuable his bat can be when he’s in the lineup, and the Jays are going to do what they can to keep him there, and the same goes for young Vladdy.
In addition to Guerrero Jr. and Springer, chances are the Jays will use that spot for others as well. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. made 14 appearances as the DH in 2021, and Bo Bichette and Teoscar Hernandez each made 11 starts there. It wouldn’t hurt to increase that number a bit for each of them if possible either, and don’t be surprised if that’s the case for Hernandez and Gurriel Jr. in particular, especially after the Jays acquired Raimel Tapia from the Colorado Rockies last week.
On top of all of the players I’ve already mentioned, don’t be surprised if the Blue Jays give Matt Chapman a regular maintenance day as the designated hitter either. While he’s reportedly a lot healthier than he was a year ago, he’s still not that far removed from hip surgery. Even if he’s feeling 100% these days, getting the occasional day off will help his chances of avoiding the IL throughout the entire season, especially as he adjusts to playing on turf more frequently now that his home games are at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
If we add up Guerreo Jr’s 28 starts as the DH last year and double it for Springer, we’ve covered roughly a third of the season. Tack on another 36 for Bichette/Hernandez/Gurriel Jr. and that’s well over half, and adding Chapman gets into nearly two-thirds territory. This is one of the many reasons that I didn’t want to see the Blue Jays sign Freddie Freeman when the rumours were flying a few weeks ago, even if I’ll admit that his bat would have been a dream in the already dangerous lineup in Toronto. This is a roster that needs to use the spot to give their talented regulars a rest now and then, and trying to fit Freeman with Vlad Jr. at first base/DH was going to be very tough.
Instead I believe the Blue Jays made the right decision by trading for Matt Chapman, and it will allow Charlie Montoyo the freedom to get creative with his DH spot. I’m sure we’ll see plenty of Kirk as a bat-only option, and if Bird keeps swinging the stick the way he has lately then he’ll earn his chances too. Realistically, it might come down to riding the hottest hand as much as anything. Even if it would be fun to have a firm starting nine to dream on ahead of Opening Day, I think the Blue Jays are much better off this way.