The Blue Jays made a trade yesterday, though it wasn’t the one anybody expected.
While all the talk had been about how the team needed to acquire some starting pitching depth, the Jays went out and acquired slugger Daniel Vogelbach from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for cash considerations.
Vogelbach, a lefty hitter who spends his time as a first baseman and designated hitter, had what appeared to be a breakout season in Seattle last year. He slashed a .208/.341/.439 line with 30 homers, earning him a nod to the American League All-Star team.
It was a tale of two seasons for Vogelbach last year, though. He carried a .883 OPS into the All-Star game and then went completely cold. From the beginning of August until the end of the season, Vogelbach slashed a paltry .143/.283/.278 line with just five homers over 159 plate appearances.
And then we have this season, which has been a complete disaster for the big slugger. Vogelbach reportedly showed up to Summer Camp 20 pounds heavier than he was in spring training. Over 18 games in 2020, he slashed a .094/.250/.226 line, ultimately resulting in him getting designated for assignment.
The one thing Vogelbach does have going for him is a good eye at the plate. He had a pretty solid 149-to-92 strikeout to walk ratio in 2019 and, this season, he has a very good 13-to-11 ratio. His walk percentage puts him in the top five percent of hitters over the past two seasons. With that in mind, you can assume that Voelbach’s struggles are partly due to him being wildly out of shape and his bat speed slowing down rather than him just totally losing his eye for the plate.
So, what the plan with Vogelbach? It seems like a bit of a strange addition given the Blue Jays’ roster composition, as they already have Vlad Jr. and Rowdy Tellez clogging up the 1B/DH slots.
Dan Vogelbach introducing himself to Rowdy Tellez pic.twitter.com/JKgNnj0Ecu
— Jonah Birenbaum (@birenball) August 24, 2020
As Jonah points out here, Vogelbach and Rowdy seem like… pretty much the same guy. Both are big guys with big bats from the left side who aren’t going to be a factor in the field.
The key difference is the walks. While Rowdy is a strikeout machine (he had an ugly 116-to-29 strikeout to walk ratio last year) Vogelbach, as I mentioned above, is a better on-base guy. Even in his nightmarishly bad 2020 thus far, Vogelbach has a .250 on-base percentage, while Rowdy is getting on base at a .296 clip.
I wonder if the play here is to bring in Vogelbach as a rebound candidate to become Toronto’s big lefty bat, which would then open up the possibility of using Rowdy in a trade.
Ross Atkins suggested the other day that we’re more likely to see old fashioned baseball trades in which teams swap big-league player for big-league player rather than deals involving prospects, given the fact there’s no minor-league ball going on right now. Logic would indicate that the team plans to use Vogelbach in Rowdy’s role while flipping Rowdy for some pitching help.
Otherwise, having both Vogelbach and Rowdy on the team roster seems weird.