Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons is a fan of the trade that brought reliever Drew Storen to his team, but admits the deal created a hole in the lineup.
The Blue Jays have been left without a clear leadoff hitter after the team acquired Storen from the Washington Nationals on Jan. 8 in exchange Ben Revere and a player to be named later.
While Gibbons said on Prime Time Sports Monday that he “loves the trade,” it has created some questions in Toronto’s batting order.
“I’ve been sitting around ever since we traded Revere just kind of looking at some things and, yeah, it is a hole,” Gibbons told Bob McCown and Michael Grange.
“It’s something we’ve got to figure out; it’s not too, too far off. I’m sure we’ll tinker with it in spring training and come up with what we think is best. When we did trade Benny, we definitely needed that bullpen help and I love the trade, but it definitely created a hole.”
Barring a trade, one obvious choice to lead off when the Blue Jays kick off the 2016 season on April 3 is Troy Tulowitzki. The shortstop took over at leadoff after being acquired at the trade deadline from Colorado, and despite slashing just .227/.331/.373, Toronto went 22-4 with Tulo at the top of the order. The 31-year-old also has a career on-base percentage of .369.
Gibbons says Tulowitzki would likely be open to stepping back into the role in 2016, but feels the veteran might be more comfortable elsewhere.
“Tulo had always told me — and I believe him and I still think he feels this way — he’ll hit wherever we want him to,” he said. “I think he likes it a little bit further down to be honest with you, so we’ll see. But it really is a hole right now.”
Gibbons also addressed another question looming over the team as spring training draws nearer: the fifth spot in the rotation.
In Marcus Stroman, R.A. Dickey, Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, the Blue Jays have four of the members of 2016’s starting rotation set. Who will man that final spot remains cloudy, but Gibbons did shed some light on the situation Monday.
“We’re going to stretch (Aaron Sanchez) out and see how that all plays out in the spring; decide whether we’re better as a team with him in the rotation or in the bullpen,” the Blue Jays skipper said. “And then of course you have (Drew Hutchison) and you have Jesse Chavez. So there’ll be some good competition.”
Of course, a wild-card in the battle for that fifth spot is Hutchison, who went from the 2015 opening day starter to being left off the playoff roster after struggling mightily throughout the season, especially on the road.
Gibbons said that much of Hutchison’s troubles last season came from a lack of fastball command, but in spite of 2015’s inconsistency expects the 25-year-old will bounce back in 2016.
“Part of it is experience, and I think he’s going to be better this year. It’s just refining it just a little bit more and I think that comes with time. He’s still young, and when he gets in trouble he would press like most young guys do,” Gibbons said. “You’ve got to remember too, he was two years removed from Tommy John (surgery), he came back that following year, he threw a lot of innings – I think he threw 180 innings – and I know it had to take a toll physically but he came through healthy, wanted to do it, we needed to see him do it. And then last year he might’ve been a little bit tired too, but who knows.
“But I think he’s going to be that much better this year because we’ve all seen him win.”