TORONTO – Through a hyper-local lens, the Toronto Blue Jays’ parting with Freddy Galvis is relatively straightforward. For a team focused on 2020 and beyond, opening up more defensive innings and extra at-bats for young players over the remainder of the season makes total sense. So, too, does giving a highly respected veteran like the 29-year-old shortstop a chance to play regularly for a team still chasing a wild-card berth, like the Cincinnati Reds are.
A split, accomplished in August through outright waivers, is the right thing for both sides.
Still, there’s a broader perspective to this, as well, one which ties into the elimination of the August revocable waiver period and shift to a single, July 31 trade deadline in the majors.
In general terms, what seemed to happen this year was that buyers waited until the last minute to strike deals, expecting that sellers would lower their prices before the cut-off in order to get something, anything in return. Only they largely didn’t blink and some notable buyers, the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers among them, didn’t make any substantive adds.
Within the larger game of chicken, a non-essential complementary piece like Galvis became somewhat lost in the shuffle. The Blue Jays could have given him away for nothing at that point, but they didn’t, believing then there was more value in maintaining him as a security blanket for Bo Bichette than clearing him out for nothing but financial relief.
The equation changed as Bichette showed he was more than capable of playing big-league defence at shortstop on a daily basis. That allowed the Blue Jays to comfortably pull the chute on Galvis, knowing there were interested contending teams that would pick up the remainder of his $4 million salary and either a $5.5-million club option for 2020 or $1 million buyout.
They made sure there was a soft landing for him before throwing him into the abyss.
The fact there were multiple claims for Galvis underscores how sensible it would have been for one of those clubs to invest a lottery-ticket prospect for a plus defender in the midst of a strong offensive campaign, even if only for depth issues.
There’s a lesson here for next year’s deadline, both about bolstering depth and in about not overplaying leverage against sellers.
“Potentially,” said Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins. “It’s really interesting because this Freddy Glavis move was somewhat similar to Curtis Granderson (who the Blue Jays traded to Milwaukee last Aug. 31). We got Demi Orimoloye (an advanced-A outfielder) and now, not having that outlet, you don’t have that alternative. So could be.
“But it’s a matter of what other teams are willing to do. They were transparent about that at the deadline and there wasn’t a deal we were comfortable doing.”
Now, the flip side to that is other teams may very well have figured that the Blue Jays would eventually end up in the spot they were this weekend, when they decided to put Galvis on waivers, and that they would have another shot at him either through a claim or in free agency if he cleared.
They would have been right, as it turned out, but they surrendered control over the outcome in what is essentially a post-deadline buyout market made up of veterans cut by teams looking to clear playing time for young players. Galvis probably won’t be the last player to change hands in such fashion.
As the Blue Jays continue to pivot toward 2020, you have to wonder how pending free agent Justin Smoak fits into the mix, although he has a unique value as the last remaining grownup on the roster.
Galvis brought plenty to the table in that regard, especially given the connection he was able to build with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Teoscar Hernandez, but as Atkins pointed out, “a lot of the mentoring has happened.”
“A lot of these guys have already learned and grown a great deal and I think it will continue to happen among the group that’s in there,” Atkins continued. “I would love to have Freddy around on a daily basis. But I also feel Freddy’s earned the right to play every day and he’s going to a place where he’s going to be playing on a regular basis. That outweighed it.”
For the Blue Jays, the best use of the season’s remaining six-and-a-half weeks is in figuring out just how good Bichette, Guerrero and Cavan Biggio are defensively, ensuring continued opportunity for Brandon Drury, Teoscar Hernandez, Derek Fisher and Billy McKinney and eventually giving another look to Rowdy Tellez, Jonathan Davis and Anthony Alford.
As Atkins very correctly pointed out, “having the flexibility to use that DH spot is very valuable for this young team.”
Atkins insisted that Galvis was happy to finish out the season with the Blue Jays and hadn’t requested the change, but “I was just open with him about what it could mean for him and he was very appreciative.”
In doing right by him, the Blue Jays also did right for themselves in the process.