The Blue Jays have to hope that they have their 4x All-Star in George Springer in the lineup as much as possible, but they need to prioritize one thing in particular.
Whatever they have to do to get him there in one piece, they need their veteran leader as close to 100% as they can by the time the playoffs roll around.
I don’t mean to put the cart before the horse at all, and I’m fully aware that the Jays are still firmly in a battle for a Wild Card spot in the AL postseason race. As thing stand at the end of the MLB schedule on Sunday night, the Jays are once again in a three-way tie with the Rays and Mariners. Not far behind are the Twins and Orioles at 2.5 games back, the White Sox just 3.5 behind, and even the Red Sox still hanging around at 6.0 games out. If the Yankees’ slump really prolongs for a while yet then it’s possible the Blue Jays could challenge for the division crown, but more likely they’re going to be in at least a 6-7 team race for three Wild Card spots.
In a perfect world Springer will be able to play as much as possible over the remaining 42 regular season games, and recently he’s reinforced the kind of impact he can have when he is on the lineup card. That said, the Blue Jays do have a lot of capable starters, especially after adding Whit Merrifield and Jackie Bradley Jr. to the picture, and that should hopefully help keep Springer fresh down the stretch. I’m sure his shaky health status was part of the reason for acquiring the pair of veterans.
While John Schneider will want and even need to include his veteran star as much as possible, I’m sure he understands that his value likely goes to an even greater point once the postseason rolls around. This young core doesn’t have a lot of experience with playoff baseball, other than a short cameo in 2020 during the pandemic-shortened season. They do have some veterans that have been there before like Kevin Gausman and Jose Berrios, but Springer easily has the most expensive playoff resume from his time with the Astros, including a World Series MVP. Speaking of the Astros, they’re going to need their best lineup to beat the playoff-tested team in Houston, and the rest of what should be a strong AL field.
If there’s ever a time where they’re going to need him to lead, it’ll be once the playoffs roll around. I’ve called him the “straw that stirs the drink” a few times before, and I think he’s even more important that way once the pressure gets to another level. He’s very much a catalyst for the Blue Jays offence, which is exactly what they need from their leadoff hitter. It’s even more valuable when he’s a guy that’s “been there before”, and has a chance to set the tone early.
Looking at his career postseason numbers, Springer has slashed .269/.349/.546 with 19 home runs and 38 RBI in just 63 games. That’s remarkably close to his career regular season slash line of .269/.359/.495, which shows that he’s never wilted under pressure, or changed much of anything about what makes him such a dangerous hitter.
I believe that the Blue Jays are going to find a way into the postseason this year, one way or another. However, I also believe that one of the biggest keys to advancing beyond the first round will be the health of their roster, and specifically where George Springer’s body is at by the time the fall rolls around. If Schneider can manage Springer’s workload enough to keep him in the lineup when it matters most, and still guide this team to the playoffs, I think that has to be a pretty significant focus right now.