The Blue Jays may have made a mistake picking Votto-Vogelbach combo over Brandon Belt

Mar 1, 2024; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach (20)
Mar 1, 2024; Tampa, Florida, USA; Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach (20) / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

One of the bigger named free agents that left the Toronto Blue Jays this offseason is two-time champion and 13-year veteran Brandon Belt. The lefty-swinger had an outstanding year for the Jays in 2023, despite the fact that things started off on a historically awful note.

The 2016 All-Star appeared in just 103 games for Toronto last season, but he still made his mark. In that time, Belt hit 23 doubles, 19 home runs and drove in 43 while also leading the team in OPS and OPS+. Technically speaking, he was the very best hitter on the Blue Jays last year.

Belt remained a bit of a question mark durability-wise, but he appeared in over 100 contests for the first time since 2019, which does mean something. He is an incredible clubhouse presence who was very popular amongst his teammates.

And yet, he remains a free agent. Teams have shown interest here and there, including the reigning champs the Texas Rangers, but nothing has come to fruition.

Belt teased retirement a bit late last year, but all indications are that he plans on playing at least one more year. The Blue Jays should have brought him back, as he did a great job in his stint last season.

Instead, the Jays have settled for a combination of Daniel Vogelbach and Joey Votto to replace him. Similarly to Belt, they come with their fair share of warts and, truthfully, are not on the same level as Belt is.

Vogelbach, 31, does an efficient job of getting on base (typically via walk), but he is and always has been a "home run or bust" type of baseball player. He doesn't hit singles, he doesn't hit doubles and he certainly doesn't hit triples. He hits the ball over the fence, draws walks, and does little else.

This is not to say that there isn't value in what Vogelbach brings to a team. He owns a career .753 OPS over eight years which is nothing to scoff at, but he isn't what this Blue Jays team needs. He is very much prone to strike out as well, which is not likely to go over well amongst followers of the team.

Then there's the 40-year-old Votto, who is a living legend. After spending the first 17 years of his big league career on the Cincinnati Reds, he joined the Blue Jays on a minor league contract just last week.

This is the very same Joey Votto that has over 2,100 base hits, 350 home runs and has one of the highest career OPS's we've seen from a player in recent memory. The big "but" here is the fact that he's aging and, well, showing it.

Last year, Votto managed to post a 99 OPS+ in 65 games, hitting 14 home runs and getting on base at a .747 clip. That's not bad by any means, but this was his follow-up to a year in which his OPS+ dipped down to 89. He's not getting any younger and health has not been on his side as he nears the end of his career.

Votto is sure to be a Hall of Famer once he hangs up his spikes for good, but he's also no longer the player he once was. He's shown a willingness to accept an assignment to Triple-A if he fails to make the Blue Jays out of camp, so there's nothing wrong with stashing him in the minors, but he also may not actually stick around when it comes down to it.

So, the Blue Jays have replaced their best hitter with a strikeout prone batter and a 40-year-old who is a shell of the player he once was. To Vogelbach's credit, he's swung a hot bat this spring and made Gerrit Cole cry a few weeks ago, so it's not that he hasn't done anything for the Jays. Both of the Vs would be nice depth pieces and are good to have on hand as backup plans, but that doesn't take away from the fact that Belt should've been brought back before calls were made to either of the other two.