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  • Writer's pictureNoah Scott

Will Santiago Espinal's Jays Tenure End Sooner Than Expected?

Back in 2022, the Jays entered into a very interesting position when it came to their 4th outfielder. After signing a 5 year $52 million deal with the Jays that started in 2019, Grichuk was unable to turn into the player the Jays expected him to be, which put him in an interesting spot in 2022. While Grichuk would have been completely fine as the club’s 4th outfielder for that season, Grichuk’s skill set was not what the team needed as their 4th outfielder so they flipped him to the Rockies for the left-handed hitting Raimel Tapia, who fit that role much better. This is a very similar situation to what the Jays have with Espinal as while he would be “ok” as the left-handed platoon option off the bench, his skill set isn’t exactly what the Jays need right now. 

Santiago Espinal is coming off a disappointing season where he slashed just .248/.310/.335 (80wRC+) in 93 games, good enough for a 0.1fWAR. These numbers also include a decline in his ability to hit left-handed pitching, as he slashed just .252/.302/.355 (80wRC+) against them in 2023. Espinal’s usual great defence also declined, making him essentially a rebound candidate in all departments of his game for 2024. While there is a good chance Espinal rebounds somewhat in 2024, the Jays most likely need more certainty out of their platoon-hitting infielder, especially since this is a very big season for them and they're already banking on a lot of rebounds.   

The recent signing of Eduardo Escobar also helps add a bit more guarantee than Espinal as while he is coming off a season he recorded a -0.9fWAR, he slashed .284/.319/.450 (108wRC+) against left-handed pitching in 2023 and provides the same defensive versatility as Espinal. Moving on from Espinal also helps create a path for the AAA infield prospects who also could provide more certainty in that role offensively. 

With a lot of decisions needed to be made before opening day about the construction of the roster, I would keep an eye on Espinal as in my opinion he is in the same position Grichuk was in not so long ago, and we saw how that situation turned out. Cleveland, Miami, and San Francisco are three teams that I could see looking to bring on Espinal. After Rosario signed with the Rays, the free agent shortstop market is thin with the likes of Tim Anderson and Brandon Crawford, so it would make a lot of sense for teams to pivot to Espinal that need a "cheap" infielder.

(Cover Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

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