Danny Valencia established himself as a valuable member of the Toronto Blue Jays over the past two seasons
[Update: since joining the Athletics, Valencia has gone 5-12 at the plate, including one home run and two doubles. He’s also made two starts at third base, underscoring his versatility. It can be hard to find useful players like this – the Athletics found a winner in Valencia.]
Somewhere out there in the great baseball universe Danny Valencia is still playing baseball. (Actually, he’s now a member of the Oakland Athletics, but this makes for a less dramatic opening sentence and headline.)
It’s now been a week since the Toronto Blue Jays sacrificed Valencia to the waiver system so that Ben Revere could enjoy an everyday spot in left field. We’ve had time to dissect the move and digest it – in other words, we’ve had time to accept the loss – so I don’t want to revisit the controversial decision in great detail.
I’ll simply note that between Chris Colabello and Justin Smoak, the Jays have one player who can hit and one player who can defend. Valencia, to some extent at least, could do both and at multiple positions to boot. What Valencia’s departure ultimately signifies is Toronto’s intention to play Josh Donaldson every day for the rest of the season; there’s really no one left on the current roster who can make a spot start at third base without compromising the infield defence.
Instead, I want to acknowledge and celebrate Valencia’s short time in Toronto, highlighting his strong work ethic and versatility. Valencia only dressed in 108 games for the Jays over the course of two seasons, but he left an impact in the dressing room and obviously one on the fans.Jul 11, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Toronto Blue Jays third basemen Danny Valencia (23) reacts after hitting a three-run home run against the Kansas City Royals during the ninth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
More than anything else, Valencia could hit. He was particularly effective against left-handed pitchers and the Jays often reserved him for situations where a southpaw was on the mound. In this sense, he was the ultimate luxury piece – the baseball equivalent of a “special team” all on his own. For his career, Valencia has hit left-handers for an impressive .326 batting average across 641 plate appearances. He’s proven less effective against right-handers – .231 (1,020) – but he made significant strides in this department over the past two seasons.
For the present season, Valencia is still a punishing option against left-handers at .317 (89), but he’s also raised his game against the right-handers, hitting .284 (93). A lot of this work was accomplished with the Jays between last season and this season as Valencia improved over 70 points from a dismal .211 (160) in 2014 to reach a new career high in 2015 (he hit .280 (211) against right-handers in 2010 – his previous career high). This gave the Jays room to utilize Valencia in more situations.
On the defensive sides of things, it would be misleading to say Valencia was a strong defender, but he did provide the Jays with a rather versatile glove in that he could cover left field, third base and first base. Whatever you might think about Valencia’s ability to defend, it’s worth noting he recorded 22 assists and zero errors in 11 starts at third base this season.Jun 22, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Jake Elmore (10) is tagged out by Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Danny Valencia (23) as he attempts a triple during the third inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Jays don’t have this flexibility any longer and I’m sure they’ll come to regret it when Donaldson needs a rest down the stretch. Neither Colabello nor Smoak has ever made an MLB appearance at third base while Munenori Kawasaki (another bench option) committed two errors in 18 starts at third base last season (Valencia made two errors in 32 starts at third base last season for the Jays).
It might not seem like it today, but the Jays will feel the loss of Valencia at some point this season. I understand and accept the need to sacrifice someone for Revere, but I think they chose the wrong guy. Perhaps Valencia will make this point himself next week when the Jays host the Athletics for three games.
What are your thoughts on the Valencia decision? Will the Jays miss him or was he expendable? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
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