It’s a curious case, the Blue Jays’ acquisition of Daniel Vogelbach.
Starting pitching was on Ross Atkins’ mind when Toronto’s general manager was first asked about next week’s trade deadline. It seemed even more likely that the organization would be on the market for rotation help days later, with Matt Shoemaker (lat strain) and Trent Thornton (right elbow inflammation) joining fellow right-hander Nate Pearson on the injured list.
So you’d be forgiven if you were left scratching your head late Sunday night when the Jays announced they were sending cash considerations to Seattle to acquire Vogelbach, the 27-year-old old slugger who had been designated for assignment last week by the Mariners, a team struggling to generate offence this season.
It doesn’t mean Toronto can’t still go after starting pitching before Monday’s deadline; it can. And it’s not like the buy-low investment in Vogelbach was all that significant; there were no prospects conceded to seal the deal. Vogelbach has hit right-handers a little bit over the course of his five-year big-league career, with a .436 slugging percentage and a .777 OPS, and he earned an all-star nod last year after a hot start, so, despite hitting .094 this year, there is some potential there.
“We’re just looking for another bat that can impact the lineup,” Montoyo said.
But Vogelbach, even with big power and the ability to take a walk, seems more like the odd man out than the next man up
His bat isn’t a given to get him into the lineup. After hitting .238 with 21 home runs and a .505 slugging percentage before the all-star break last season, Vogelbach hit .162 with nine homers and a .341 slugging percentage after the break. He is 5-for-53 this year.
His one-dimensional game also doesn’t much fit with the Jays’ philosophy, which emphasizes versatility.
Toronto was already dealing with a logjam at first base and designated hitter before bringing in Vogelbach, whose limited defensive ability and speed means he hasn’t played in the field since last season. Manager Charlie Montoyo preferred to cycle players through the designated hitter spot last season, but it has largely been dominated this year by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Rowdy Tellez, who the manager said lineup alongside with Vogelbach rather than being sacrificed for the new guy.
The Jays are currently carrying a three-man bench on their 28-man roster, a byproduct of a hurting group of pitchers. The reserves in Toronto’s 6-4 win over Tampa Bay on Monday were catcher Reese McGuire, Tellez and Brandon Drury, who offers versatility Vogelbach can’t.
Even when the team returns to a four-man bench, some infield help or another outfielder would likely be the priority. And for a young team looking to hit its stride in the coming years, Vogelbach will be taking some valuable at-bats away from young talent the Jays are still developing.
Adding another bat to the lineup and another body to the bench makes sense for the Jays, and they may still do so while they search for pitching.
“I think we’re looking at all options,” Montoyo said. “The main deal right now is our pitching. We lost two starters in one day so it’s trying to see what we’re going to do with that but, yeah, we’re looking at all options, that’s for sure.”
Vogelbach is now one of them, even if it’s not yet exactly clear why.