Jose Bautista thought he was finished being a third baseman. Brett Lawrie had never even gotten started at shortstop. Yet both players were forced to change positions after Yunel Escobar injured his groin in Sunday’s loss to the Rangers.
With Kelly Johnson absent due to a sore hamstring and Yan Gomes getting sent down before the game, the Blue Jays opened Sunday with only Rajai Davis and Jeff Mathis on the bench. After Escobar’s injury, manager John Farrell shifted Bautista to the infield for the first time in 2012 and put Lawrie in a position he hadn’t played since high school.
Bautista started 25 games at third base last year and is certainly no stranger to the position, but he had started in right field exclusively this year. Lawrie started out as a second baseman in the minors before being shifted to third upon being acquired by the Blue Jays in the Shaun Marcum trade with the Brewers.
The Blue Jays could have simply used Lawrie at second and moved Omar Vizquel to shortstop after Escobar went down. However, they probably didn’t want to risk Lawrie having to turn a blind double play when he hasn’t worked on it in a couple of years. At least at shortstop, he could see a runner bearing down on him. The Jays certainly didn’t want to risk an injury to such a big piece of their future.
The Jays also had the option of forfeiting their DH and using Edwin Encarnacion at third base or even shortstop had they wanted to go that route.
Barring physicals and roster reshuffling, the Yankees and Reds are all but ready to finalize a deal involving right-hander Sonny Gray, Fancred’s Jon Heyman reported Saturday. The exact return has not been confirmed, but Heyman hears that the Yankees will receive top infield prospect Shed Long and a draft pick in exchange for Gray, with an as-yet unnamed third player possibly involved as well.
According to several reports earlier in the day, negotiations came down to the wire as the Yankees first had their eye on the Reds’ no. 6 prospect, 22-year-old catcher Tyler Stephenson. The Reds ultimately elected to hang on to Stephenson and send Long to New York, as they currently have a greater need for catching depth and weren’t expected to be able to provide a full-time role for the infielder in 2019. Long, 23, is ranked seventh in the Reds’ system and appears to be nearing his MLB debut after batting .261/.353/.412 with 12 homers and a .765 OPS across 522 PA at Double-A Pensacola last year.
Gray figures to step into a prominent role within the Reds’ rotation, which is likely to be a mix of recently-acquired left-hander Alex Wood and right-handers Tanner Roark, Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani, and Tyler Mahle, among several others. Despite Gray’s struggle to remain productive on the mound — he’s three years removed from his only All-Star campaign and turned in a disappointing 4.90 ERA and 2.16 SO/BB rate in 2018 — he might yet help stabilize a team that trotted out the fifth-worst rotation in the majors last season. If, on the other hand, the veteran righty finds the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ball Park a little too unforgiving this year, the Reds can take some comfort in the fact that he’s due to enter free agency in 2020.