Jonathan India’s name has been swirling in trade rumors for months, and the Blue Jays are the latest team to show some interest in the Reds second baseman, according to Bob Elliott of the Canadian Baseball Network (X link). Toronto has been mentioned as a speculative fit for India given the Jays’ need for second base help, though there isn’t any indication that a trade might be close, or whether this is anything beyond due diligence on the Blue Jays’ part.
Since Matt Chapman and Whit Merrifield are both in the free agent market, the Jays have been left pretty thin at both second and third base. In-house candidates Cavan Biggio, Santiago Espinal, Davis Schneider, and Ernie Clement are all on the big league roster, while any of Addison Barger, Orelvis Martinez, or Leo Jimenez could make their Major League debuts in 2024 and work their way into the infield picture.
While Toronto has plenty of options in terms of volume, however, there isn’t much in the way of proven Major League capability. Biggio and Espinal have been inconsistent during their big league tenures, Schneider and Clement both hit very well in small sample sizes in 2023, and the rest have no big league track records at all (though Martinez and Barger are highly-regarded prospects).
India could provide an answer at second base, though the former NL Rookie of the Year isn’t exactly a sure thing coming off two somewhat underwhelming seasons. Since winning the ROY in 2021, India has hit .246/.333/.394 with 27 homers over 960 plate appearances for Cincinnati, with hamstring injuries and plantar fasciitis impacting his ability to stay on the field. Public defensive metrics have also been very unimpressed with India’s glovework, so his contributions as a second baseman specifically could be limited.
Even with these factors in mind, India just turned 27 two days ago and is only entering the first of three arbitration-eligible years, so Cincinnati normally wouldn’t be looking to trade such a controllable player. And, technically, the Reds aren’t open to a deal, as president of baseball operations Nick Krall has stated that the team isn’t “motivated” to move India elsewhere. The question of big league experience is also a factor in Cincinnati, as while the Reds are overloaded with young infielders ready for more MLB time, Krall also values the stability and depth India brings in the event of injury problems, or if some of the youngsters need more minor league seasoning.
That said, the Reds’ signing of Jeimer Candelario only added to the infield surplus. If Candelario is now taking regular time at third base, that leaves India, Matt McLain, Elly De La Cruz, and Noelvi Marte all competing for middle infield spots. Even if Candelario slides over to first base, Christian Encarnacion-Strand also needs a place to play, and the DH position provides some a few extra at-bats for the Reds to juggle all these options.
The fit in Toronto also wouldn’t be perfect. As noted, India would be a defensive downgrade at second base, and the keystone is also the better defensive spot for most of the Blue Jays’ in-house options. In his look at India’s trade market last month, MLBTR’s Nick Deeds observed that while the Jays are planning to contend in 2024, they also might not want to block Schneider or Clement entirely from at least semi-regular playing time. Speculatively, an India trade package could involve the Jays sending one of their most experienced infielders (i.e. Biggio or Espinal) back to Cincinnati so the Reds could have some of the depth they crave, though pitching is the Reds’ greatest need.
It has been a quiet winter in terms of actual transactions if not headlines in Toronto, as the Blue Jays’ business has in some ways been impeded by their pursuit of Shohei Ohtani. Obviously GM Ross Atkins and his front office weren’t singularly focused on Ohtani over the offseason’s first six weeks, yet after coming up short to the Dodgers in the Ohtani race, the Jays still have a pretty full to-do list that includes the two infield positions, left field, DH, and perhaps the rotation and bullpen.