The Jays have made exactly the kind of trade that you’d have expected the Jays to make — at least a couple weeks ago you would have — flipping a pair of Buffalo Bisons, catcher Erik Kratz and starter Liam Hendriks, to the Kansas City Royals for Danny Valencia.
Valencia is a third baseman, though not a particularly great one according to the metrics, but passable enough to get his bat into the lineup, which will certainly help the Jays, given that he’s a right-handed bat who hits lefties quite well.
In a very small sample (68 plate appearances) he has slashed .354/.386/.492 against left-handed pitching this season. He obviously doesn’t walk a tonne against them, and he’s benefitting from a pretty high BABIP, but those are still some terrific numbers, as are the ones he’s put up if you increase the sample to previous years, when he played for the Twins, Red Sox, and Orioles. Over his last 228 plate appearances against left-handers, spanning 2012 to 2014, he’s maintained that high BABIP (.358), and those sparkling numbers, posting a 138 wRC+, and a .330/.346/.530 slash line, with eight homers and 17 doubles.
Increase the sample to include his entire big league career against lefties and it’s more of the same.
In other words, this is a very nice piece the Jays have just acquired themselves, given that it cost them almost nothing. Kratz was useful enough, but clearly expendable as the third catcher on the depth chart. And Hendriks may have started the Triple-A All-Star Game, with Sean Nolin returning to health, Todd Redmond still available in the bullpen, and Brandon Morrow possibly making an eventual comeback, he could justifiably be considered the eighth or ninth starter on the depth chart, with little hope of moving up the pecking order next year, given that Aaron Sanchez and Dan Norris are expected to be knocking on the door by then.
Speaking of next year, Valencia, who makes just $532.5K this year, he’ll still be under team control then. And the year after. And the year after that, as well. Yes, this winter will be his first crack at arbitration, meaning that the Jays hold his rights for three years after this one — though, according to an MLBTR piece from the spring, he is out of options, so who knows if he ever actually manages to stick around that long.
He didn’t have much of a future in Kansas City, with former top pick Christian Colon getting moved up to add some depth to the Royals’ infield, and Mike Moustakas getting a vote of confidence, according to Andy Martino of the Kansas City Star. As for what the future holds here, Valencia fits very well with the current roster and its many platoon situations — and Alex Anthopoulos, via a tweet from Mike Wilner, suggests that he’s a guy that they’ve looked at for a while now.
The Jays will hold off on announcing a corresponding move until Valencia reports, and one wonders what it might be. With Esmil Rogers being D’d FA over the weekend to make room for Reimold, the club is down to seven relievers, and you’re not going to see them go down to six. Anthony Gose has been seeing a lot of time lately, and has been doing well, but he has options and is somewhat redundant with four other outfielders now on the roster — though Colby Rasmus would be the only one left over who is capable of playing centre for an extended stretch. If a Gose demotion ends up being the move, on the 3B/2B/1B/DH front the club has a spot for all of their current pieces, with Kawasaki, Goins, Francisco, and Johnson going against right-handers, with Valencia, Tolleson, and Reimold going against lefties, with a giant, Edwin Encarnacion-sized hole in that particular configuration (though Johnson doesn’t have a particularly large platoon split). However, if Gose stays, Bautista can move to first against right-handers — as he’s been doing from time to time — until Edwin is back, with Kawasaki, Goins, and Francisco handling 3B/2B/DH, with Johnson being made the redundant part. Unless! You could also use Johnson at DH and Francisco at third, with one of Goins or Kawasaki being demoted.
Goins and Gose both have options, while none of the others do, so I could see it coming down to that. However, the Jays certainly seem to like the defence they both bring and have been playing them a lot lately to good effect. I could see them erring on the side of keeping whatever depth they can. Would be nice to be able to keep a Kawasaki around for the balance of the season, and Dan Johnson, too, one supposes, but with Edwin, Lind, and Lawrie on the mend, some tough decisions are going to have to be made sooner or later — and for someone maybe tomorrow, when Valencia likely arrives, will be “sooner.”
We shall see. What we already know, though, is that this team is better now than it was yesterday, and that it cost them pretty close to nothing.
I can live with that. I can so fucking live with that.