The Jays are rebuilding, so the idea of them contending this season can be put to rest early. What Jays fans can expect is inter-squad competition and players playing for the opportunity to get traded. Two players to watch for are Billy McKinney and Brandon Drury.
The cornerstone piece moved back to Toronto in the deadline deal for J.A. Happ, Billy McKinney has something to prove after being labeled expendable by the Yankees.
The Yankees have a stacked first-team outfield and a cupboard full of prospects. Career-wise, McKinney is probably better off having been traded and he showed the Jays why they’d be happy they went out and got him.
In raw ability and impact at the MLB level, McKinney stands alone atop a pile of MLB or fringe outfielders the Jays have. Pillar, Grichuk, Hernandez, White, Pompey, Alford, and Davis are all competing for two spots right now.
Why? Because while defensively and positionally solid in the outfield, McKinney also boasts leadoff hitter qualities that make him a team necessity. He’ll battle for the spot, but with Devon Travis now out he’s likely to win it. With that position, McKinney will have a chance to show off his offensive abilities while getting to see more baseballs than any other Blue Jay.
It’s exciting having a 24-year-old player who is MLB ready getting a chance to make an impact on a team poised for youth-fuelled success for years to come.
Originally acquired by the Yankees as a depth, rotational infielder last season, Brandon Drury is now a Jay and is probably playing for a way out.
Another piece in J.A. Happ’s trade to the Yankees, Drury, the once-promising Arizona Diamondback third baseman, became a low-value trade chip and add-in to the rebuilding Blue Jays.
It’s an almost impressive fall from grace after his more-than-solid 2016 and 2017 seasons. He was a solid hitter with mediocre power who bolstered the bottom half of Arizona’s batting order. Beyond that, he was a reliable defender on the hot corner and at 22-23 years old looked a piece for the Diamondbacks to build around.
After he was targeted and acquired by the Yankees he played in just 18 games last season and failed to impress. He showed limited flashes in an injury-ridden 8 games with the Jays but now has a chance to validate Ross Atkins’ decision to send Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to AAA to start the season.
For Drury it’s going to need to be defence first. It’ll be paramount if he’s a responsible and reliable third baseman as Vlad’s bullshit smokescreen for starting in Buffalo is dependant on developing his defensive game. Drury can help justify this by playing well himself and cooling the MLBPA’s ire on the service time situation in Toronto.
He’s now 26 and probably will enjoy the lesser-than spotlight playing on a rebuilding team in Canada. It’s an opportunity Drury can take and use to his advantage to get back to his best like in 16/17.
Should he do so and want to stay in Toronto there is no reason he can’t etch out a spot for himself on this young team. If he doesn’t want to stay, he can be motivated by a move back to the States, getting the Jays a solid return on a reclaimed player.