When Bo Bichette returns to the Blue Jays, who should be sent down to the minors?

Rookie Davis Schneider burst on to the scene with an historic weekend in Boston that sparked the Jays to a series sweep of the Red Sox. So who gets sent down when Bo Bichette returns to the lineup?
Los Angeles Angels v Toronto Blue Jays
Los Angeles Angels v Toronto Blue Jays / Vaughn Ridley/GettyImages

For a Toronto team that supposedly didn’t have much in the way of MLB-ready depth in their farm system, 24-year old Davis Schneider’s record tying 9-hit weekend in Boston changed the narrative. The patience he showed waiting for his pitch, and his ability to barrel up the ball are skills the Blue Jays hitters have often struggled with this season. The magic pixie dust he spread in the clubhouse can’t be ignored either as we head down the stretch towards the postseason.

Which creates a dilemma: who gets sent down when Bo Bichette returns from an injured list stint for right knee patellar tendonitis? Bichette was placed on the 10-day IL retroactive to August 1st, which would make him eligible to return as soon as this coming Friday at Rogers Centre against the Chicago Cubs. He’s been rehabbing with the team and took part in some throwing drills on Saturday.

His activation from the IL will create a middle infield logjam, with the newly-acquired Paul DeJong and Santiago Espinal also capable shortstops defensively, and Schneider, Whit Merrifield and Cavan Biggio all vying for playing time at second base.

Merrifield and DeJong aren’t going anywhere, and Schneider looks to have played his way on to this roster. Which leaves Biggio and Espinal as the players on the bubble. Thankfully for the Jays, both still have minor league options and can be sent to Buffalo as infield depth. Given they haven’t seen much playing time as it is, it might help to get them regular plate appearances in Triple-A anyway in case they’re needed as depth.

Schneider bats from the right like Espinal, so Biggio’s left-handedness might be his saving grace in terms of the front office trying to keep a more balanced bench. He’s also got a better OPS of .673 compared to Espinal’s .603, and that bumps up to .708 against right-handed pitchers when he has the platoon advantage. Espinal’s OPS only improves to .617 this year with the platoon advantage versus lefties.

In his small MLB sample size of only three games, Schneider has five hits in 9 PAs against lefties, including two home runs, In terms of platoon splits, he was actually hitting better against RHP at Triple-A, slashing .297/.453/.617/1.070 in 209 at-bats with 17 of his 21 home runs. Against lefties for Buffalo, he was only slashing .230/.328/.420/.748 with 4 home runs in 100 ABs.

Given Espinal has two minor league options still, it appears likely that he’ll be sent down when Bichette rejoins the roster. Which would leave Biggio and DeJong on the bench as infield depth, and a combination of Merrifield, Schneider and Varsho rotating through 2B and LF depending on matchups and who has the hot stick. It’s unlikely they want their 24-year old rookie in a full-time bench role like Biggio and Espinal, so he should get more starts, especially if he keeps driving the offense like this.

MLB rosters will also expand back to 28 players on September 1st, so one of Espinal, Spencer Horwitz, Orelvis Martinez or Addison Barger could be added as bench depth then along with another pitcher.

Implications for 2024?

While the focus should remain squarely on the wild card chase this season, Blue Jays MLB beat writer Keegan Matheson notes that, “Matt Chapman, Brandon Belt and Kevin Kiermaier are all free agents in two months. Whit Merrifield has an $18 million team option, while Paul DeJong has a $12.5 million team option.” It’s unlikely the front office will excercise those options; Merrifield will be 35 and only makes $6.75 million this year, while DeJong is 30 and is making $9 million in 2023.

Which means the front office will need to fill those holes, while arbitration eligible players like Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Daulton Varsho, Alek Manoah, Tim Mayza, Erik Swanson and Jordan Romano will only become more expensive. One way to offset that will be to promote more rookies like Schneider.

Whether that’s Ricky Tiedemann replacing Hyun Jin Ryu, or Triple-A prospects like Orelvis Martinez, Addison Barger and Spencer Horwitz joining Davis Schneider on the big league roster will be a subject for offseason ‘hot stove’ discussion. However, the fact that Schneider has opened up that conversation with an historic start to his MLB career is a very good development for Blue Jays fans.