Blue Jays acquire RHP McElvain from Reds for INF Espinal

March 21st, 2024

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays started to solve their infield puzzle on Wednesday, trading to the Reds for right-handed Minor Leaguer .

Espinal, 29, became the subject of trade rumors early this year, especially as Toronto brought in veterans such as Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Joey Votto, Eduardo Escobar and Daniel Vogelbach to add to an already-crowded group that also includes Davis Schneider, Ernie Clement and Cavan Biggio as utility options in the infield.

Blue Jays get: RHP Chris McElvain
Reds get: INF Santiago Espinal

The move opens up a 40-man roster spot for competing guys like Votto and Vogelbach, or for another catcher as Danny Jansen recovers from a fractured right middle finger.

“It's always bittersweet when a guy that's been around for a long time is moving on,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said on Thursday. “It’s a good opportunity for Espi to go and play. But I speak for a lot of people in the clubhouse for everything he did for this team. For me, in particular, and the guys, from the Minor Leagues all the way up. Awesome guy, we wish him the best, but it’s always tough when you’re saying ‘so long’ to a guy that you’ve known for years.”

An All-Star in 2022, Espinal saw his playing time diminish last season, and he was mostly utilized in a platoon role at second base. He landed on the Blue Jays as a Minor Leaguer in ‘18, traded from the Red Sox for Steve Pearce, and earned a big league promotion in ‘20. Over four seasons with Toronto, Espinal batted .273 with a .698 OPS, 11 homers and 99 RBIs, but his numbers took a significant step back last season.

The Blue Jays tendered Espinal a $2.725 million contract this offseason, showing trust in his ability to fill a utility role again for the club. But Clement’s strong spring -- and his contributions to the Major League team last season -- became too hard to overlook, and the addition of Kiner-Falefa filled the third-base void left by Matt Chapman’s departure in free agency.

“We have a pretty good idea of how we think we're gonna land in terms of [the 26-man roster],” said Schneider. “And once we do land there, we feel comfortable with guys bouncing around to all those different spots [in the infield].”

The 23-year-old McElvain pitched at Single-A Daytona and High-A Dayton in the Reds’ system last year, posting a combined 3.75 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP.