Blue Jays add Escobar to bolster infield depth

February 16th, 2024

DUNEDIN, FLA. -- The Blue Jays have added another chair to an already crowded table, signing veteran infielder to a Minor League deal with an invitation to MLB Spring Training.

Escobar rolled into the Blue Jays’ complex just prior to 8 a.m. on Friday morning, chasing what would be his 14th MLB season with six organizations. That experience is what can set Escobar apart amid a group of infielders in camp that’s already very deep.

The switch-hitting 35-year-old played more shortstop and even some outfield when he was younger, but Escobar has shifted to a focus on second and third base in recent years. His offensive game has gone through peaks and valleys at times, but the talent is evident with five 20-homer seasons and a career .735 OPS. Escobar is coming off a down year, though, where he hit .226 with a .613 OPS between the Mets and Angels.

Escobar is still an intriguing player to have in camp on a Minor League deal, though, particularly given his experience. It’s the roster fit where this becomes more interesting.

Outside of Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., this infield could be a set of revolving doors. Isiah Kiner-Falefa can play anywhere, Cavan Biggio isn’t far behind and Santiago Espinal has shown versatility in the big leagues. Justin Turner will see time at both corners along with DH days, while Davis Schneider is expected to bounce between second base and left field based on matchups.

Take it a step further and you’ll find Ernie Clement, who impressed in 2023 and has earned a longer look. Top prospects Orelvis Martinez, Addison Barger and Leo Jimenez are all part of this equation, too. It’s a crowded position, but again, Escobar brings a level of experience that is difficult to match.

The competition for Toronto’s bench will be complicated but fascinating. The choices will be a matter of philosophy and strategy as much as performance in camp as the Blue Jays try to maximize all four spots. This goes well beyond right-handed and left-handed bats, too, as the Blue Jays consider deeper matchup factors. Escobar is now right in the middle of that mix, looking to extend what’s already been an impressive career.