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How the infield picture has already changed

With the Blue Jays trading Aledmys Diaz, non-tendering Yangervis Solarte and cutting Troy Tulowitzki, a lot has already changed with the infield this winter.

At the start of the offseason we knew that the Blue Jays were going to have to do something to address their glut of infielders, and it was a topic we looked at a few times here at Jays Journal as well.

The Winter Meetings haven’t even officially closed yet, and I think it’s safe to say that you could tick that box off on the checklist. In fact, it now looks like the Blue Jays might even want to add an extra veteran infielder.

It all started when they traded Aledmys Diaz to the Houston Astros in exchange for RHP Trent Thornton. The move made a lot of sense, especially because the Blue Jays had so many infielders and were in need of pitching depth, especially in the rotation. Diaz had a nice season in 2019 and was a pleasant surprise, but that’s also why the Jays were able to get a young starter for him, albeit an unproven one.

Then came the decision not to tender Yangervis Solarte a contract, which we all knew was coming for quite some time. After starting the year off as a bit o a folk hero in Toronto, things cratered pretty badly in the second half. Add in the fact that the Blue Jays have plenty of younger and cheaper options that are arguably better already, and jettisoning Solarte made a lot of sense. And then of course there was the Tulowitzki news from a couple days ago.

It adds up to quite a different looking depth chart for the Blue Jays, and one that opens things up for the emerging youngsters more, which is a good thing in the beginning stages of a build. There could still be moves to come like trading Russell Martin (highly likely), or Justin Smoak (doubt it will happen), but here’s how things look as of today.

C- Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire, Luke Maile, *Martin (possibly) goes to the top if he’s not traded

1B- Smoak, Kendrys Morales, Rowdy Tellez

2B- Devon Travis, Brandon Drury, Richard Urena

SS- Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Urena,

3B- Brandon Drury, and eventually Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Assuming everyone is healthy, my guess is that Drury will be the starting third baseman until Vlad Jr. is called up a few weeks into the season. That would leave Travis as the starting second baseman, with Urena to spell both positions. Martin could also do the same at second and third if he’s still around and not catching. Right now it would also give the starting shortstop job to Gurriel Jr, with Urena backing him up there as well.

I actually like the look of this group a lot, and once Guerrero arrives then I would expect that Drury and Travis will split time at second base a little more. The time will eventually come when others like Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio may be knocking on the door, but I don’t think that’ll be early in 2019 anyway.

The biggest benefit to being rid of the trio of Solarte/Diaz/Tulowitzki is opening up that playing time for a potential star in Gurriel Jr, and also allowing the Blue Jays to see what they have in Drury in a full-time role, and if Travis can bounce back and be more like the player we watched in 2015 than the one who had an OPS of .278 last year. It also opens up a clear path for Vlad Jr., not that he wouldn’t have found his way regardless anyway. If those three veterans were around it would be a lot more difficult to achieve any of that, while also respecting the need for the playing time for everyone in order to stay happy and productive.

Some fans are asking why the Blue Jays didn’t just hang on to Diaz if they were going to potentially need another infielder, but that was the cost of acquiring Thornton, who Ross Atkins and company are reasonably high on. And with all due respect to Diaz, if Gurriel is the starter then you can find another guy to be a back-up, and Urena has also looked pretty solid in limited MLB experience.

Next: Tulowitzki now open to a position change

The Blue Jays have been far more active than I expected at this stage of the offseason, but I would expect that beyond adding a depth piece that we’re getting a much more clear picture of how things will look in the infield in 2019. And while I understand that some folks will lament the lost days of the Donaldson-Tulowitzki era on the right side of the infield, something tells me that the eventual look of Guerrero-Gurriel/Bichette over there will be just fine.

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