The Toronto Blue Jays’ situation at shortstop has been less than ideal since Bo Bichette went down with a knee injury a couple weeks ago. Joe Panik has gotten a lot of starts, with Santiago Espinal playing a platoon role. With Bichette’s return date uncertain (he’s at least resumed baseball activities), the Blue Jays opted for some immediate help, which will serve as potential Bichette insurance if his return is delayed and as a decent bench piece/pinch runner when Bichette comes back. Ken Rosenthal first reported Jonathan Villar is headed from Miami to Toronto/Buffalo. Craig Mish first reported the return as Griffin Conine.
Blue Jays receive:
Eric Longenhagen put a 40 on Conine in the offseason, noting his power, but also his strikeouts. The 23-year-old has yet to play above Low-A. Villar is a little bit below average as a batter and a bit below average as a shortstop as well. He’s generally a good baserunner and base stealer, though he’s been thrown out five times in 14 chances this season and his sprint speed is down quite a bit from previous years.
He’s owed a little over $1 million in salary the rest of the way and will be a free agent at the end of the season. He is more of an extra piece who the Marlins might have been trying to move salary due to two other recent developments. First, the Marlins just traded for Starling Marte, potentially adding salary. Second, Craig Mish is reporting the Isan Díaz is returning to the Marlins. Earlier this season, when the Marlins had their COVID-19 outbreak, Díaz chose to opt out of the season due to safety concerns. The 24-year-old lefty bat was set to be the team’s everyday second baseman this year and seems likely to return to that role once he is officially reinstated.
For the Blue Jays, Villar is an easy addition who provides some insurance, helps raise the floor for the season, and gives them a bench option as they try to make the playoffs. The team is currently 18-14 and would be in the second and final Wild Card spot if the playoffs were to start today. The only team close to the Blue Jays for that spot are the 16-16 Tigers, and given the lead and the healthy talent gap between the clubs, the playoff odds for the Blue Jays are at nearly 80% with a month to go.
While moving Villar might be seen as a move that signals Miami has given up on the season, with the team acquiring Marte and getting back Díaz, the club is better positioned for the playoffs now than it was a day ago. The Marlins’ 14-15 record currently has them tied for second in the NL East and in a playoff position. While their playoff odds were only at 22% entering the day, that’s still enough hope to think a good run over the next month is a possibility. They also took a flier on the son of a former Marlin, Jeff Conine, with the hope that the younger Conine’s power can push him to the big leagues.
Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.
I don’t like Griffin Conine as a prospect but the fact that the Marlins got Villar for virtually nothing (I think they traded a random org depth guy to the Orioles after he was claimed on waivers) and got a guy who can actually pass as a prospect is a really good set of moves fort hem.
Plus Villar helped them to a .500 record this year already, money in the bank.