Should the Blue Jays use a brief IL stint to get Vladimir Guerrero Jr. back on track?

With the Blue Jays cruising to a series win in Cincinnati Sunday to keep them in the thick of the wild card race, they might have also been presented with an opportunity to reset their struggling first baseman Vlad Guerrero Jr.’s season.
Toronto Blue Jays v Cincinnati Reds
Toronto Blue Jays v Cincinnati Reds / Jeff Dean/GettyImages

With the Blue Jays cruising to an easy 10-3 win and series victory Sunday against the Cincinnati Reds, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was removed from the game after the top of the 4th inning with left middle finger discomfort, and replaced on the field by Cavan Biggio.

Alert Blue Jays fans may have noticed that three of the team’s five home runs in the win came off the bats of players who’d recently been out of the lineup with nagging injuries. Kevin Kiermaier, Bo Bichette and George Springer all went yard.

Keirmaier suffered a nasty gash on his right elbow that required 8 stitches after slamming up against the “cheese grater” gate in center field at Boston’s Fenway Park. That ended with a 10-day IL stint before he returned Friday for the weekend series in Cincinnati.

Bo Bichette was also on the IL from August 1st with right knee patellar tendonitis until he was activated Saturday. And Springer had missed the previous two games after jamming his left ankle Wednesday at home against the Phillies.

Add in Danny Jansen and Matt Chapman, who’ve missed time this past week as well with assorted bumps and bruises, and lots of regular starters have had an opportunity to rest and recover a little bit ahead of the final playoff push.

Could a 10-day IL stint help?

Baseball players always have nagging injuries at this time of the year, and staying as healthy as possible is a big part of the grind in running the gauntlet of a 162-game season to qualify for the postseason. Could a 10-day IL stint help Vladdy at this point in the season to work on his fitness, clear his head, and come back strong for the final month of the season when the Blue Jays play their final 15-games of the regular season against AL East opponents Boston, New York and Tampa Bay?

Guerrero, has struggled this season, especially compared to his 2021 MVP finalist season. He’s batting .265 with 18 home runs, 72 RBIs and an OPS of .775, all below the lofty expectations fans have for him as a key member of the Blue Jays core; and, also well below his career average of .280 and OPS of .845.

For context, Vlad ranks 121st out of 140 qualified MLB players this year with an fWAR of 0.4… and that ranks him 11th on the Blue Jays. Perhaps more damning is a comparison of his recent stats with Bo Bichette out of the lineup since August 1st: instead of picking up the slack and carrying the team on his back in his 5th MLB season, Vlad has only hit one home run with 6 RBIs this month, while slashing .238/.333/.333/.666.

Compare that with young Seattle slugger Julio Rodríguez, who with his team’s postseason hopes hanging by a string, has carried the Mariners into a wild card seeding with 4 HRs, 22 RBIS, and a slash line of .412/.444/.659/1.103 in August.

Mike Petriello of MLB wrote an excellent dive into some of their reasons why Vlad might be struggling compared to his career numbers. Is it a conditioning issue? Bat speed? Missing his old ‘La Gente del Barrio‘ mates? Whatever is holding him back, would a stint on the IL help to reset his swing, clear his head, and get Vladdy back on track ahead of those key division matchups in September?

Making that decision easier might be the fact that Triple-A first baseman Spencer Horwitz has absolutely been raking for Buffalo, slashing .379/.493/.586/1.079 this month. With Bichette, Springer, Kiermaier, Chapman and Jansen all back in the lineup, now might the time to switch things up with Vlad. Hopefully an IL-stint can do the trick to get him going again? Let’s hope so.