Yes, that’s Dioner Navarro donning a first baseman’s glove and getting reps at first base. Seems kind of odd, doesn’t it?
Considering what’s transpired surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays the past few years, for some reason it doesn’t seem all that odd to have the backup catcher potentially getting some work in as a backup first baseman.
It’s the Blue Jays’ equivalent of seeing a dog walking upright down the street reading a newspaper whistling “Sweet Georgia Brown”. In some circles that might be completely unusual; but in Blue Jays Land, it’s and ordinary Tuesday morning.
Dioner Navarro at first is an unorthodox idea, but admittedly it’s one that is so crazy, it just might work. Here are a few others that John Gibbons and the coaching staff might consider trying out this season.
Dioner Navarro at First Base
“How hard is it to play first base? It’s incredibly hard.” That famous exchange for Moneyball reiterates just how difficult a position change can be. But transitioning a catcher into a first baseman is perhaps the most natural position change in baseball.
Has Dioner Navarro ever played a lick of first base in his entire career? Only two minor league games back in 2012, but if ever there was a time for him to put on a first baseman’s glove, now would be it.
It would seem unfair to suddenly start him as a first baseman, but as a late-game defensive substitution, I say why not?
Also, if it maximizes the potential to get both Edwin Encarnacion and Dioner Navarro’s bats into the lineup, then it can only stand to benefit the Blue Jays.
Make Miguel Castro the Closer
Some think this is merely inevitable, but if Miguel Castro continues on the path that he’s going, it might not be very long before he rockets up the Blue Jays’ bullpen depth chart.
It’s no secret that John Gibbons kind of hesitantly declared Brett Cecil will be the team’s closer to start the season. Cecil has not closed since his college days and that’s not to say that he can’t do it at the Major League level, but his role likely plays better as a high leverage/situational reliever.
Where Miguel Castro could really excel is in those save situations; where the game is still relatively close, but often where he has the opportunity to enter the game with the bases empty and a clean slate.
Bat Dalton Pompey Second
Bluebird Banter touched on this earlier this offseason, but they make an interesting case for John Gibbons to bat Dalton Pompey second in the lineup sandwiched in between Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista.
Currently, Russell Martin has the inside track to be the Blue Jays number two hitter, but by plugging in a different bat into the two spot, it allows the Blue Jays to enjoy a more balanced lineup.
John Gibbons is notorious for tinkering with starting lineups, and if for some reason the top of the batting order fails to produce while Pompey is enjoying success in the bottom third of the order, then Gibbons might be inclined to move him up in the order.
It’s certainly a lot to ask of a rookie, penciling him into the lineup in between two All-Stars, but if Pompey can get on base at a decent clip, just imagine how even more lethal the top of the Blue Jays order would be.
Go with a Six Man Starting Rotation
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the Blue Jays bullpen will likely be comprised of many former and current starting pitchers, as well as plenty of long relief pitchers.
Innings limits will be a concern for many of the Blue Jays’ young arms like Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris, and one way to mitigate that and control their innings is to go with a modified six man starting rotation.
Norris and Sanchez project to comprise two of the spots in the starting rotation, but there are plenty of arms in the bullpen that could make a spot start here or there if need be. And if one of those two falter out of the gates, it seems advantageous to keep them on the roster rather than send them back down to the minor leagues.
Marco Estrada, Todd Redmond, Liam Hendiks, maybe even Miguel Castro or Roberto Osuna could be tasked with picking up some innings and may start the odd game this season.
With the plethora of those arms, it at least allows John Gibbons the option and flexibility of going with a six man rotation if the need arises.
Play Danny Valencia Against Righties (When Needed)
Logic would dictate that a career .327/.368/.502 hitter against left-handers should only ever face left-handers. Such is the case with Danny Valencia, as his career splits against right-handers are .226/.264/.351.
Over the course of career, Danny Valencia has seen nearly twice as many
at bats against righties than lefties, so clearly he wasn’t always
protected from right-handed pitching his entire career.
Valencia received a lot playing time last season batting against right-handed starters, but that was mostly because the Blue Jays really didn’t have anybody else to man third base.
Could that have been a precursor to give Danny Valencia an extended look at right-handed pitching this season?
I don’t think John Gibbons is afraid to resort Valencia to purely a platoon role, but of the opportunity comes up to keep his glove in the game, Valencia may just start seeing more righties than he’s used to.
Image courtesy of Barry Davis