The Toronto Blue Jays are going to be a younger team in 2019. Having waves of good solid prospects coming into the fold at multiple positions has changed how the team will operate in the future.
Yet there are some veteran holdovers from past rosters that remain active, with question marks surrounding their places in the future. Russell Martin (35), Troy Tulowitzki (32), Kendrys Morales (35), and Justin Smoak (31) are all but certain to see a loss in playing time of some sort. Yet most if not all of them will likely be on the Blue Jays next season.
Contracts are one part of the reason, with the likely concessions on the Blue Jays part having to be made to deal Russel, Troy, or Kendrys. It’s likely more worthwhile for the Jays to keep some of them around to mentor the younger players and possibly increase their values for trade, as long as the team is still able to function in an effective manner. You also don’t want to handcuff new manager Charlie Montoyo by having a bloated roster with spots being held because of money over talent.
And thus begins the tedious task of quantifying what players leadership brings the most value weighed against their cost.
I’ll start with Russell Martin. Our Canadian home town hero who dabbled into other positions last season in an attempt to diversify his playing value. Russell showed an ability to not just catch, but also play third and shortstop. Russell has also played games in the outfield, and could likely play first in a pinch. His value as a Canadian born player who can mentor young pitchers and catchers, while playing a super utility role is going to leave him on the Blue Jays roster for 2019. If the Jays were going to move him, look for a trade deadline deal, or for competing teams with a catcher injury later in the season to come calling.
Justin Smoak has really come into his own on the Blue Jays. His power stroke and top-tier defense puts him high in the class of MLB first baseman. Making a modest eight million this upcoming season, he’s not going to break the bank of a team willing to acquire his services from the Blue Jays. His value will almost certainly outweigh his cost, and that in itself might be a reason for the Jays to keep him. With a season likely to be down from past ones, the Blue Jays front office might choose to leave him in place to fill some seats early in the season, and potentially flip him at the deadline to a contending team for a solid prospect.
Troy Tulowitzki has been a bust while wearing a Blue Jays jersey. With 20 Million and 14 million guaranteed contract seasons in 2019/2020 and a four million buyout in 2021, Troy may be around for a while. Without eating a large portion of his contract I cannot see the Blue Jays being able to move the veteran, and that is if they can get him on the field in the first place. Also with young players knocking on his positions door, and time working against the veteran’s body, it may make sense at some point to consider using Tulowitzki in other positions like DH or first base.
This further escalates the need to make room at other positions to allow rookie players to get their playing time. Make no mistake about it, Tulowitzki would be the ideal mentor to one or more of the upcoming shortstop prospects, as he is easily one of the best at the position in the last 10 years. It may soften some of that contract blow knowing Bo Bichette is learning his ranks from the best in the business.
Kendrys Morales is probably the easiest moved Blue Jay. Sitting on a one year, 12 million dollar contract, and having had a decent year at the plate, if the Jays were inclined enough to pay a portion of his salary I could see a team potentially taking a flier on him. The days of teams wanting DH only power bats seems to be fading, even for a switch hitter with a lot of pop. Teams these days want flexibility with their DH spot, and so do the Blue Jays. Kendrys is reported to be a great clubhouse player, and mentor to the younger players. The fact that he speaks Spanish would immediately slot him into a mentorship role for the younger Spanish-speaking rookies. Him being a power hitter might also shield some of the younger players from criticism if things do not take off offensively for the Blue Jays right away in 2019.
Bringing in a Spanish-speaking manager Montoyo might make the Jays a little less uncertain about dealing the veteran if the right deal were to come along.
All together the Blue Jays have some really good mentors in place for their young rising crop of rookies. How sustainable having four of them on a team clearly rebuilding will have to wait to be seen. I would suspect that not all of them will be around come the start of the season, and that one or more will be moved in an effort to free up playing time and roster spots for the better of the future.
The question for management is, which ones do you keep?