Santiago Espinal is probably the least concerning of the three listed here. However, this does not mean there isn't still plenty of questions surrounding his future in Toronto.
Last season was undoubtedly a tough one for Espinal, as he recorded the lowest batting average of his four years in the Majors. In addition, he produced his worst OBP, slugging percentage, OPS and OPS+ since his rookie season.
The 29-year-old also struggled on defence, no matter where the Blue Jays placed him. He spent playing time at shortstop, as well as second and third base, but was unable to make any position his own.
Not helping Espinal, was that the season before had been a breakout year for him, highlighted by the first All-Star selection of his Major League career. Essentially, this previous success only helped accentuate how poorly he performed overall in 2023.
For many, the Dominican Republic native's positive impact an offence in 2022, was just a continuation of what he had shown a year earlier, but over an extended period of time. This made his poor play last season even more surprising, leading to some suggestion he could be traded during the offseason.
The question is, has Espinal now reached a peak never to be recaptured, or does he still have it in himself to bounce back this coming season? The fact the Blue Jays still have him on their 40-man roster, seems to indicate they believe -- or hope -- the latter to be the case.
In this respect, it is at least worth noting what the right-handed bat showed at the end of last year. As per Jays Journal's Eric Treuden, he compiled a .375 batting average with a 152 wRC+, six doubles, six runs driven in and four runs scored in his last 51 at-bats of the regular season campaign.
Of course, it's one thing to have this type of production over the short-term, but it's another thing to achieve it on a more lengthy basis. If nothing else it does at least offer some hope, albeit there's also the issue of if he can be better once again on defence.
Another reason why the Blue Jays are hoping Espinal can get his act together, comes down to the team-friendly aspect of his contract situation. He will earn $2.75M this coming season, and is not in line to become an unrestricted free agent until after the 2026 campaign has concluded.
Espinal may well never go back to becoming an every day starter, but he still has it within himself to be a valuable bench player for the Blue Jays in 2024. If however, he struggles again like last season, his days in Toronto will likely be numbered.