In the days since we posted our January Blue Jays preview, the team’s been busy with several newsworthy items to talk about.
A Classic Look Returns
It was heavily foreshadowed all week, and the Blue Jays finally made the announcement during their “Winterfest” event. The “powder blue” uniforms are back, and this time they’re being modernized.
Patrick Melbourne’s thoughts: I’ve never been a huge fan of the old-style powder blue uniforms — The deep-blue style of the 2012–Present uniforms are much more appealing to me. That said, I’m actually going to go away from my old stance on them, because I really like these.
The matte helmets, the subtle blue mixed with the deep blue on the letter and logo, and the modern name/letter typeface on the back are all extremely appealing to me. I’m looking forward to seeing them on-the-field.
This also reminds me of that day in 2012 when the Jays announced their now-modern look as a replacement for the short-lived late-2000s identity. It seems like it was yesterday.
(h/t Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos, Sportsnet)
Adding to the Infield Depth
Asking around, it’s doubtful that many would have cited the Blue Jays’ infield as a position of desperate need prior to this week’s signing, but the team’s addressed the depth of it nonetheless.
Joining Breyvic Valera, Santiago Espinal, and Brandon Drury in the conversation are former Mets infielder Ruben Tejada and former Giants second baseman Joe Panik, both on minor-league deals with invites to MLB Spring Training.
Ruben Tejada joins the Blue Jays Organization
Tejada was a consistent name in the Mets’ lineup from 2010 until 2015, when he suffered a broken right fibula after a controversial slide in the playoffs from Chase Utley.
In 2019, Tejada returned to New York for six games, but spent most of the season in AAA playing for the Syracuse Mets.
Patrick Melbourne’s thoughts:Ruben Tejada’s an interesting signing for the Blue Jays, because he doesn’t necessarily compliment the current depth chart. He may battle with Breyvic Valera and/or Santiago Espinal in the spring for a backup infield spot, but barring something unexpected he’s not likely to challenge Brandon Drury at the start of the year.
Joe Panik joins the Blue Jays Organization
A few years ago, Joe Panik was a fairly big name in the National League.
Held in high regard by the Giants for several seasons, Panik’s best year came in 2015, where he hit .312 with eight home runs and a 3.3 bWAR in an all-star season.
In each of the next two years, Panik continued as an above-average second baseman for the team. He hit ten homers in both seasons and while his batting average took a dip in 2016, it recovered to .288 in 138 games.
Even though he started to struggle in 2018, he was still a replacement-level shortstop that would have fit in the bottom of several MLB lineups looking for a good defensive second baseman. That’s an optimistic take for a player with a -0.1 bWAR for the year, but it’s the unexciting truth that he wasn’t terrible — just unremarkable with solid defensive play. (For a comparison, Alen Hanson played in 18 games for the Jays in 2019 and produced a -0.6 bWAR. Joe Panik is much better than Alen Hanson.)
Panik remained in a mostly everyday role on a struggling Giants team in 2019, playing in 103 underwhelming games before he was designated for assignment in August. He signed with the Mets two days later and played 39 games for them, producing slightly better numbers (.277, 0.3 bWAR in those 39 games)
He also represents a different kind of player for Toronto in that he doesn’t strike out very often. He only struck out 47 times in 491 plate appearances in 2019, and has never struck out more than 54 times in a season.
While the Tejada signing seems more like a minor-league depth signing right now, the Panik addition feels more like the Shaw one, where it’s a low-risk buy-low situation for a player who could be a near-everyday player if things go well.
There’s no obvious spot for him on the current lineup, but with the outfield situation so unpredictable right now, it’s worth noting that the Jays could think about moving Cavan Biggio to right field and playing Panik at second base everyday with Randal Grichuk in centre field.
Patrick Melbourne’s thoughts:
He might have to change his position to stick around as more than a depth piece, but I think this signing makes a lot of sense for the Jays, especially on a minor-league contract. Experimenting with Cavan Biggio in right field in a way that’s similar to Lourdes Gurriel’s move to left is also an excellent idea for both right now and in-the-future with names like Jordan Groshans on the road to the majors.