It wasn’t that long ago that the Blue Jays looked to be building their infield around a trio of second-generation stars whose fathers combined to go to 20 All-Star Games over the course of their respective careers. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio all made their big league debuts in 2019, and all three hit the ground running. Fast forward to 2023, however, and only two of the three have panned out as core pieces. Guerrero and Bichette remain focal points in a talented Blue Jays lineup, but the now-28-year-old Biggio is clinging to a roster spot and could force the Jays to make a decision soon if the can’t turn things around.
While Biggio was never as considered as touted a prospect as either Guerrero or Bichette, he nevertheless looked like a potential key contributor from the moment he debuted. Between his 2019 debut and the shortened 2020 season, Biggio played in 159 games and totaled 695 plate appearances — effectively a full regular season’s worth of playing time — and batted .240/.368/.430 with 24 home runs while going a perfect 20-for-20 in stolen bases. His 26.5% strikeout rate was a bit bloated, and he wasn’t exactly an elite defender at second base, but Biggio walked at a huge 16.1% clip, ran well and showed above-average power.
Since that time, however, Biggio’s output has cratered. In a nearly identical number of plate appearances, he’s batted just .204/.307/.340 with 15 home runs and six stolen bases (eight attempts) — including a disastrous .127/.191/.238 showing in 68 trips to the plate so far in 2023. Biggio has been displaced at second base in recent years — first by Marcus Semien (2021), and then by Santiago Espinal (2022) and Whit Merrifield (2023). The Jays have bounced Biggio around the diamond a bit, giving him more time in the outfield and some time at third base, but the move to a utility role hasn’t been a productive one, clearly.
Biggio remained a disciplined, albeit less impactful hitter in 2021-22 (12.5% walk rate), but this year’s small sample of plate appearances doesn’t line up with even those down seasons. Biggio has walked in just 5.9% of his plate appearances — less than half his 2021-22 levels — and is striking out at a career-worst 38.9% clip. He isn’t suddenly chasing balls out of the strike zone with reckless abandon, as his 21.3% chase rate is right in line with his 2021-22 levels and well shy of the the league-average 31.5%.
However, Biggio’s contact rate when he does chase has plummeted to a career-worst 46.9%. His contact rate on pitches within the zone, meanwhile, has fallen to 80.6% — another career-worst. Heading into the 2023 season, Biggio made contact on 53% of his swings when chasing a ball off the plate and 85.4% on pitches within the zone.
The Blue Jays are a particularly right-handed team, so it’s perhaps understandable if they hope to get Biggio’s left-handed bat going. Brandon Belt, Daulton Varsho and Kevin Kiermaier are the only lefty-swinging regulars in the lineup. Biggio and outfielder Nathan Lukes are the two lefties on the bench at the moment. Of those five lefties, however, only Kiermaier and Belt have been productive at the plate. Varsho is hitting .206/.279/.359 in his first year with Toronto, while Lukes has gone 2-for-12 in a tiny sample of 14 plate appearances while making his MLB debut.
A lack of bench production, in general, has been a killer for the Blue Jays thus far, though others around Biggio have begun to pick up the pace. Espinal, for instance, opened the season mired in an awful 2-for-31 skid, though that looked rather fluky in nature, given his tiny 9.1% strikeout rate and .071 average on balls in play. He’s hitting .310/.370/.429 over his past 47 plate appearances, including a 3-for-3 effort on Saturday. Danny Jansen was scarcely better early in the year, beginning his 2023 with a 3-for-32 spell. He’s batted .247/.310/.506 since.
There’s been no such turnaround for Biggio, who has just two multi-hit games on the season and has only received 19 plate appearances in the month of May. The Jays clearly value his ability to play all over and provide some speed, as he’s lined up at second base, first base and in right field this month in addition to a trio of pinch-running appearances. However, Merrifield and Espinal have gotten the majority of playing time at second base, even against right-handed pitching, despite the fact that they’re both righties themselves. Biggio hasn’t played a complete game since May 6 and has only started twice in the past two weeks. He hasn’t been on the injured list; he just seemingly hasn’t been in the team’s plans.
For the time being, an injury to Espinal — which the Jays conveniently announced while I was finishing this piece — could open some additional time for Biggio. Utilityman Otto Lopez is up from Triple-A Buffalo in place of Espinal, and he could also enter the mix for at-bats.
Biggio has multiple minor league options remaining, but the Jays don’t have many infield/outfield options who are having productive years in the minors and are options to fill his spot. Lopez is batting only .213/.273/.260 in 139 Triple-A plate appearances, and top infield prospect Addison Barger hasn’t been much better at .237/.333/.329 in 87 plate appearances. Infielder Leo Jimenez is hitting .292 with a .370 on-base in Double-A but has just a .308 slugging percentage. This year’s 73 plate appearances are also his first experience above A-ball. Former top prospect Orelvis Martinez is batting .151/.226/.479 in Double-A. Each of Lopez, Martinez and Jimenez bats right-handed anyhow, and the Jays may want to keep as many lefty options around as possible.
One such option could be 25-year-old first baseman/left fielder Spencer Horwitz, who’s out to a terrific .326/.450/.437 slash in 169 Triple-A plate appearances. Horwitz isn’t hitting for much power and doesn’t project to, but he’s walked in 17.8% of his plate appearances and has torn up right-handed pitching at a .362/.492/.500 clip (.244/.347/.293 against lefties). The former 24th-round pick doesn’t bring the speed or defensive versatility to the table that Biggio would, but the Jays already have Lopez (and, once healthy, Espinal) on hand as a backup infielders who can play many of the same positions as Biggio. Lukes, meanwhile, can play all three outfield spots. Biggio’s defensive versatility is nice, but the Jays have other options at most of the spots he can cover.
This certainly isn’t a call to designate Biggio for assignment, but the Jays are a win-now team who aren’t getting much out of a valuable 26-man roster spot. It’s also tough to see how Biggio can be expected to get back on track when he’s had 19 plate appearances this month and is starting, at best, about a game per week. Again, perhaps the injury to Espinal can change that, but Merrifield still figures to be in line for a large portion of the work at second base.
The Jays showed last year they were willing to carry Bradley Zimmer for most of the season as practically an exclusive pinch-runner/defensive replacement, but Biggio has had more recent success than Zimmer had and at least ostensibly could have more of a future with the club. They could option him for everyday at-bats and see if that can jumpstart his contact abilities; at the very least, it might bring the Jays a more productive lefty bat off the bench, if Horwitz were indeed to be the chosen replacement.
From a bigger-picture standpoint, it’s increasingly tough to see where Biggio fits in if he can’t improve his production. He and the Jays agreed to a $2.8MM salary for the current season over the winter, avoiding arbitration in the process. He’d be arb-eligible again next winter, and it’s hard to imagine the team keeping him around if he has such a limited role and even more limited productivity. If Biggio can’t get things going, he’ll be a clear non-tender candidate following the season. For the time being, a shuffling of the bench mix makes sense both to maximize the utility of the big league roster and to hopefully get him back on track in Buffalo — an opportunity that simply isn’t present in the Majors right now.
This had to be coming for Biggio. The article says it all.
Otto Lopez hasn’t been hitting in AAA. He’s not really an upgrade over Biggio. The Jays need to figure out their bench
Jays farm system is god awful
Craig needs to give his son some coaching on how to hit.
He was good until they started signing guys to take his spot and made him a utility guy. Just like some guys can’t close or can only close some guys are better playing one position
Does good = awful in your world?
He was good in 2019
Eventually will be nontendered. Possibly traded to a team who thinks they might be able to unlock some potential. Time will tell.
Sounds like a Bloom guy
A better headline would be: Cavan Biggio Just Sucks At His Job
The man has options; you don’t want to give up too soon on him, just look at Brandon Marsh, Jerred Kelenic & Mickey Moniak.
Moniak? He’s running a 600 babip, that’s not gonna continue.
Toronto just needs Trout to complete their 2nd generation star quintilla. Steve Trout had a couple of good years to be considered a star. Gary Varsho is the stretch but I remember his playing days with the Cubs so good enough for me.
Mike Trout is NOT the son of Steve “Rainbow” Trout.
Steve however, is the son
of Dizzy Trout…..
All are related to Luhr Jensen
Trout is not related to Tim Salmon, nor Randy Bass. None listen to Billy Ocean or Greg Lake. None played alongside Mickey Rivers, even though Rivers was an Angel.
Last year I made a comment on here suggesting that the Blue Jays were completely botching their window of contention and it didn’t go over too well. It’s hard to disagree with that statement now. After a series of poor free agent signings and trades, the Blue Jays don’t appear any closer to getting over the hump than they were three years ago. In fact things look much more dire these days. They have arguably the least talented big league team in the AL East and easily the weakest farm system in the division.
I don’t think signing Kevin Gausman and trading away virtually nothing for Matt Chapman qualify as a series of poor free agent signings and trades.
No, those moves were good. I thought it was clear that I was referring to the Ryu and Springer signings and the trades for Varsho and Berrios. Extending Berrios being especially moronic. Allowing Semien to walk is also looking pretty bad these days. Does that sum it up for you?
Allowing Semien to walk…
You make it sound like it was the Blue Jays choice, and not Semien’s. Still, for the contract he signed, it looks like the Rangers made the bad choice.
Not really. Springer has generally performed well with some injury problems. It’s too early to tell with the Varsho trade, Ryu was a gamble but they didn’t come up completely empty there, and Semien was the opposite of a “poor free agent signing”. The Berrios trade was bad, clearly a declining, fatigued power pitcher that was inexplicably extended. Add in Chapman and Gausman and I’d say, overall, that’s some decent work from a front office trying to attract free agents that don’t necessarily want to move their families to a different country.
Berrios a power pitcher? never was, and he’s been back to career norms if not better after his first two starts.
The biggest issue for me is the state of the farm system. We don’t have anyone pushing the roster. Our “top prospects” are not mlb quality and we haven’t produced a prospect worth talking about in a few years. It’s tough to watch right now. The roster is incomplete, but we are also only 50 games into the season and we all know baseball really gets interesting starting in june
Who remembers comments and reactions from a year ago? Good grief. Let it go.
I’m sure you would if you ever made a relevant one instead of criticizing everyone else’s comments…Ronk is simply reminding people he’s a year ahead of the writers and should have a job
I definitely remember when people say dumb stuff I like to screen cap it right away and bring it up every time they comment. Keeps them in line nicely. I do gods work
You and canadianyankee should date.
You should get better opinions. Generally when people personally attack random strangers on the internet it’s because the stranger said something that was true and didn’t like. If you like having your hot takes mad fun of a week or month later. Don’t say dumb stuff.
Biggio absolutely sucks. This experiment has to end. Common sense says he never should have been given 2.8 million
Common sense and arbitration awards are almost mutually exclusive terms.
And, his papa was a cheater.
That’s what your mother said, Trebek.
Cavan Biggio for Hunter Dozier
Maybe, a change of scenery for both would do some good
Yes the jays need another RH bat who strikes out a lot who only plays corner.
You can never have enough of that
2 of Jay’s starting OFs bat LH(Varsho and Kiermier). Belt the DH and backup LF also bats LH. That leaves one OF who bats RH Springer. Of the 3 starters only Varsho strikes out on the high end of today’s standards.
Crazy to look at Dante Bichette’s BR page and see he only has 5 career WAR with the numbers he put up. I don’t remember him defensively. Must have been absolutely brutal.
Well, and there were a ton of corner outfielders with great to ridiculous offensive numbers at the time.
The whole concept of W.A.R suggests traditional stats have little meaning, but traditional stats must have been used to calculate Dante Bichette’s value since W.A.R didn’t exist when he played. How is it even possible to calculate WAR for players who played when there was no such thing?
WAR can be confusing.
One thing I will point out to you that might make it a bit easier to understand, is that war is positional. So if Dante Bichette played 150 games in left field; his stats, including advanced defensive metric stats are compared to all the other left fielders and their time in left field.
Not every player is in the same spot every game, and WAR knows that as well. Your war refers to how you fared against other players who played the same position as you.
If Chone Figgins played 80 games at 3b; his war for those 80 games is based on other 3b
If chone figgins plays 80 games at 2b, his war for those 80 games is based on other 2b.
Really, it’s an inning by inning, or even out by out formula. Because if chone figgins moves from 3b-2b mid game; only specific 3rds of an inning are counted towards war at that position. So if he plays 3 innings at 3rd, for those 3 innings; his war is as a 3b.
@MLB fan, WAR is derived from traditional stats and then adjusted for other factors such as position and park. That said, In Bichette’s case he was an absolutely horrible OFer. He would have been best utilized as a DH on an AL team back then.
Had Bichette played exclusively as a DH; his war would be astronomically higher. That would be a fun experiment. We need to tweet Jomboy
^^^^great read on war
Personally, as a lifelong, obsessive stats need; I love war. I love that there is universal stat that allows me to basically skip comparing any player from a given season to everybody else who played his position that year. It gives you a clear idea of where a player ranked at his position. It gives you a clear idea of who were the most dominant players in a given season. It gives you a good marker for “was a player a good player? Was he worthy of an everyday spot?”
Especially useful when discussing guys EXACTLY like Bichette, which is why I’m so fired up about discussing here I think. He’s like the ideal player to use in a war discussion.
Some really good, interesting takes, thanks.
What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.
I really hope this post was a poor attempt at sarcasm.
And a lot of those hitting numbers were in pre-humidor Coors Field, which WAR adjusts for.
He was pretty terrible in the outfield with very limited range. Coors is actually the second most spacious outfield next to Kaufman.
And he wasnt actually a very good hitter. Those raw numbers lack context: he played half his games at pre-humidor Coors in an era of high run scoring.
Before the season started he had limited value. I saw him mostly as a change of scenery candidate. Now, I think there’s a 50/50 chance he goes through waivers unclaimed.
A tough spot is performing without a clear path to playing time. Biggio is getting by on (his father’s) name recognition and on many teams would be at AAA right now. Could just be he needs a change of scenery, could be he’s just not a good hitter. Either way the Jays are going to have to make a decision sooner or later
Option him and bring in someone from the minors. Can’t imagine anyone is worse down there than a wRC+ of 17 or an OPS+ of 20. Why waste his time up here when it’s clear he’s not ready and needs more work.
They put Espinal on the IL earlier today and called up Otto Lopez and his 35 wRC+. Technically Lopez is better????
Why not Spencer Horwitz? Again, you can say he doesn’t have the versatility and speed, but the fact remains, if you can’t get on base in the first place, that versatility and speed mean nothing. They could throw up a mannikin to hit for him and get the same result. Worse case, Horwitz is terrible up here but he’s got a hot bat and you never know what happens. He plays LF too, so it’s not like he has no wheels at all.
As far as Horowitz goes, it’s safe to say he’s a first baseman that has an OFs glove. He has about 400 innings in the OF over the past 5 years. With Espinal on the IL the Jays needed to replace his skill set which Lopez kinda does.
Going forward, the Jays need a proper 4th OF. Horowitz isn’t that guy. He may be inline as a bench bat backing up Vlad next year. I don’t think he has a clear path to playing time with the Jays. His value is that of a trade chip IMO.
1st base DH types with no power and no defensive value aren’t trade chips. They’re free agent fodder once they become slightly more expensive than the league minimum. See the free agent list for DH and 1st every year. It’s twice as long as any other position.
Lopez had been better recently, but they opted with Clement who’s been insane
I though I had all you handles blocked. Live and learn.
Found Meghan Markle’s burner account…
I feel bad for Cavan but this is the life of a professional athlete. You either have it or you don’t. His swing at the plate reminds me of golfers. Last time I checked you are supposed to drive through the ball not swing like you would a golf club. So sad to see him fail. Maybe another team can help him figure out his swing while he still has some time left in his MLB career.
Truth be told though is the whole team is not hitting other than Bo for the time being. I’m not sure what Vladdy is doing at the plate but he looks like his timing is all messed up. Very frustrating to watch. Springer should be moved down in the lineup and Bo should be leading off. George has been struggling for quite some time.
Sometimes when I watch Vladdy play, I swear he’s afraid of the ball.
The Jays are an utter disaster and the minor league system is barren. There is serious trouble ahead. Shapiro and Atkins have failed miserably. Shapiro spoke of having waves of talent continually churning in to have a sustainable winner. That has not even been close to happening. They are reliant on two hone grown guys in Bo and Vlad, and a bunch of free agent signings and trade acquisitions. 4/5 of the rotation on made up of free agent signings. Only Manoah is drafted and developed. Its pathetic.
The Jays lost it when I went to Denver.
2B and corner OF who can’t hit are NFL players. That’s what Jerry Glanville would say.
This guy wishes he lived in Canada, probably posted this whole hiding under his desk with gunshots overhead.
A change of scenery may be the best option foe Cavan.
Cavan’s problem is they won’t let him wear his dad’s elbow guard with the 5 foot dangling strap. It’d put at least 50 points on his OBP.
He seems to start every year slow. There are no better options. Wait him out for now.
But It Do
MLBTR needs to stop trying to be discount Fangraphs. Unless they’re arguing Biggio is a trade candidate, this just isn’t in their wheelhouse.