Blue Jays 40-man Roster Review: Santiago Espinal’s role in question after recent addition

Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryley Delaney
5 months ago
The Blue Jays have a bunch of utility players on the 40-man roster.
This, of course, begs the question of if one of them would be traded, and who’d it be? Well, the front-runner for that is Santiago Espinal, who’s coming off of a disappointing campaign after what appeared to be a breakout. 
The Blue Jays acquired Espinal from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for eventual World Series MVP Steve Pearce ahead of the trade deadline in 2018. A couple of years later in 2020, Espinal made his big-league debut with the Blue Jays.
Espinal started to get more playing time in 2021 when the Blue Jays needed a third baseman, and he slashed .311/.376/.405 with two homers in 246 plate appearances with the Jays that year for a 115 wRC+. However, it was his defence that mattered most, as he had 8 Defensive Runs Saved and 4 Outs Above Average in 551 2/3 innings fielded at the hot corner that season.
After adding a ton of muscle during the subsequent off-season, Espinal broke out offensively for the Blue Jays in 2022 while playing at second base. He slashed .267/.322/.370 with a career-high seven home runs in 491 plate appearances, with a 100 wRC+. He cooled off in the latter part of the season of the season, but his first half led to an All-Star nomination after Houston Astros star José Altuve withdrew.
Espinal wasn’t able to build on that successful performance in 2023, as he took a considerable step back both offensively and defensively. This past year, the 29-year-old slashed just .248/.310/.335 with two homers in 254 plate appearances, for an 80 wRC+ and a 0.1 fWAR, down from 2.3 in 2022. In 304 2/3 innings at second base, Espinal had -1 DRS and -3 OAA, down from 4 DRS and 10 OAA when he was the full-time second baseman in 2022. His third base defence was better in 161 innings, as he had -1 DRS and 2 OAA.
With Matt Chapman potentially leaving the team in free agency, Espinal is among the handful of names who could be in the mix to play third base, though the signing of Isiah Kiner-Falefa might indicate that Espinal is on the way out and a younger name might replace his role as a backup infielder. The likes of Davis Schneider and Ernie Clement passed Espinal on the depth chart last year thanks to their contributions offensively, and others like Otto Lopez, Leo Jimenez, Orelvis Martinez, and Addison Barger might be next.

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