TORONTO – During a off-season visit to Toronto, Bo Bichette met Ross Atkins at the General Manager's Rogers Center office. Blue Jays President and CEO Mark Shapiro was also present, and the trio changed a number of topics, including one that might be tricky – the club's intention to pursue shortstop agent Didi Gregorius.
Finally, after his promotion on July 29, Bichette had just positioned himself with the majors as a franchise cornerstone with an electrical two month. During his rapid advancement by the minors, he had worked tirelessly on his defense to reverse the exploratory reports that he was unable to stay short.
The pursuit of Gregorius could easily be misinterpreted, if not worse. Atkins and Shapiro wanted to make sure that this didn't happen.
"It was presented to me as:" We are following Didi, don't worry, we have already told him that you are our shortstop, "said Bichette in an interview on Saturday during the club's annual winter festival." I could imagine that this is probably a reason why he didn't come here. At the same time, there is definitely a certain type of player with a certain stature for which I would definitely be willing to change positions. "
Gregorius finally signed a $ 14 million one-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies that offered the 29-year-old the type of regular shortstop season the Blue Jays simply couldn't. They are fully committed to Bichette in the middle and should be, considering how quickly the 21-year-old's defense has developed over the past two years.
In the first few weeks of his tenure in the majors, his defense was so far from expectations that the front office decided not to keep veteran Freddy Galvis as an insurance policy. The Cincinnati Reds finally asked him to hand the position over to Bichette.
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All of this makes the club's persecution of Gregorius all the more revealing how Atkins and the Front Office have run their business and seen team building in general this off-season.
Based on the lineup at the end of 2019, a medium infielder would have been the last on the team's long list of needs, which was crowned by the gaping holes of the pitching staff. With Vladimir Guerrero Jr. third, Bichette short and Cavan Biggio second, the Blue Jays seemed ready for the years to come.
Here, however, the emphasis on the position flexibility of the organization opens a way to increase creativity.
Gregorius offered a defensive upgrade on the second base, insurance in the infield area, and an impact left-handed bat. Each of these elements would have upgraded the Blue Jays as a whole.
Had he signed, Biggio would have been placed second in a super-utility role – Atkins even asked the 24-year-old if he wanted to play midfield during a November conversation – thereby deepening the overall line-up.
And instead of engaging with specific position needs – the central area remains an unsolved problem as the free agent market offered few solutions – the Blue Jays instead looked for the best upgrades they could fit into their puzzle.
The process can be turbulent for the players involved, but for them there is a balance between pursuing their own interests and sometimes a personal step backwards to improve the group.
"I talked to (Atkins) about something completely different, and he just slipped so much that I might move a little further and then fall into midfield," said Biggio. "He didn't say anything about Didi, but he only told me that he didn't want to limit himself to free hand. I thought: go and get who you need. Whether it is moving a lot or mainly on the second base and moves occasionally, it only helps the team. "
Bichette feels the same way.
"It's an interesting question," he said about the balance between self and team. "I worked really hard to be a shortstop in the big leagues." It would not be easy for me to do without it. At the same time, my main goal is to win a World Series. However I can do that, I'll do it.
“It would be a big deal if someone came in and took the position that would have exaggerated us. I won't name names out there, but there are certain people on the block that I would be more than willing to move to. "
Little trouble is needed to find out who it could be, because the Cleveland Indians have brought the four-time all-star Francisco Lindor to the retail market throughout the off-season, and like every sensible front office, the Blue Jays have looked Interestingly enough, this week Atkins said, as colleague Ben Nicholson-Smith wrote, that he was "extremely open to something essential" and added that this would most likely be done through trade, with the caveat that doing business like this is very difficult to do. "
In other words, nothing is imminent, but the Blue Jays still have the ability to do something great when the opportunity arises.
Thus the position of the club remains largely unchanged. Travis Shaw replaces the late Justin Smoak and replacement catcher Luke Maile, who was not advertised to set up a Danny Jansen-Reese McGuire tandem behind the record.
Like Biggio, Shaw can move around the diamond in second and third place with experience. Manager Charlie Montoyo will be able to use different lineups for different situations.
“If Vladdy is injured at third base and you want to give him a day at DH, Brandon Drury can play third, Travis Shaw can play second, Rowdy (Tellez) can play first and me into throw the right field and you can still keep my racket in the lineup, ”said Biggio. "My position depends on many different things that are going on in our team."
The heavy lifting this winter has come to the pitching side, with ace Hyun-Jin Ryu, right-handers Tanner Roark and Chase Anderson, and Swingman Shun Yamaguchi to strengthen a pitching staff used by the majors ERA finished 21st with 4.79.
Her signatures sparked a wave of optimism in the lineup that the way back from a 67-95 season that brought the Blue Jays fifth overall in the 2020 draft is in full swing.
"I definitely think that our clubhouse is much more confident than the media or anyone else seems to be (about the team's chances)," said Bichette. “To see how they go out and get the boys to help us win now – I don't think anyone expects us to win the World Series, but these guys will help us keep growing and getting better and push it along.
"I'm totally excited about it."