TORONTO -- Over the winter, as the Toronto Blue Jays explored different avenues to augment the roster, Cavan Biggio’s versatility provided Ross Atkins with the type of flexibility manager Charlie Montoyo enjoys daily when filling out a lineup card.
The luxury of not only the 25-year-old’s ability to play multiple positions around the diamond, but also his willingness to do whatever is asked of him, wasn’t lost on the GM. He was free to pursue Francisco Lindor, D.J. LeMahieu and Ha-seong Kim among others before landing on Marcus Semien, because he knew Biggio could fit the overall puzzle in so many different ways.
“He prioritizes team,” the GM said back in November, “and that’s a huge benefit.”
Wisely, Atkins didn’t take that for granted, making a point of keeping him in the loop right “from the very get-go about what free agents they were going to go after and pursue and what that means for me, what that looks like for me,” Biggio said Thursday.
Eventually came word of a move from primarily second base to third, after Semien opted for the keystone with shortstop occupied by Bo Bichette. Biggio, no stranger to the hot corner after starting 10 of the final 14 regular-season games and both playoff contests there last year, is looking forward to the change.
To that end, Montoyo said the bulk of his reps this spring will come at third base, with outings elsewhere on the diamond on a per-need basis. Biggio intends to get his usual pre-game work at other positions to keep fresh, but is making better footwork a priority in his work with infield coach Luis Rivera.
“I’m really excited to see how good I can get at that position,” he said. “What I showed last year is just kind of scratching the surface on what I can do there, so I'm looking forward to the rest of spring with that.”
An interesting question is whether he’s still scratching the surface at second base, too, where he’s appeared in 122 of his 159 big-league games.
Aside from his 10 games at third, he’s also got a total of 26 outings at all three outfield spots, plus eight more appearances at first base. It was more of the same in the minor leagues, where the bulk of his work came at second base but included stops at each of the positions above, plus two innings at shortstop, too.
The challenges of doing that in the minors, let alone the majors, shouldn’t be underestimated, and given Biggio’s importance to the club, he’s certainly earned some stability. And given his work ethic and determination, he’d surely make significant progress focused on one spot.
Still, when he says “I really don't want to think about it from an individual level, where I can be the most successful at,” it’s reflective of both his selflessness and maturity.
“Certainly if I play second base every single day I'm going to get really good at second base, versus only playing it a certain amount of time,” said Biggio. “But you look at a season like last year, if I would have just stayed at second base the whole season, I don't think our team would have been as good with getting guys in the lineup that we wanted to get in… Individually, in a perfect world, I mean, maybe I'm playing second base every single day, or whatever position it is, I can get really good at it. But I don't think that value is as high as me moving around for the team and whatever Charlie wants me to do that particular night.”
Not everyone would take such a holistic perspective to their own roles, which is why Montoyo quite justly says “that kid is special.” It also helps explain why Biggio -- along with Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Danny Jansen -- was urged to immediately take on a leadership role once he arrived in the majors.
Worth remembering is Jansen, at 181 career games, is the career leader on that front within the bunch, underlining just how much was put on the group so quickly, especially while the veterans around them were largely of the transient variety.
The addition of George Springer, in particular, but also Semien changes that.
Through his dad Craig’s ongoing work with the Astros, Biggio has known the star outfielder since he was a teenager which is why “I'm more excited about what kind of presence he brings to the locker room.”
“Despite a guy like Justin Smoak (in 2019) and Joe Panik last year, we were missing a guy like George,” said Biggio. “He was in a similar situation in Houston, they made a couple of playoff runs and whatnot. But the biggest thing is that he’s seen it and he’s done it and he's done it well. When questions come up in the middle of the year and we don't necessarily have the answer to them, he can provide insight and help guide us along the way.”
The Blue Jays’ hope for Biggio is that he simply continues on his current path, delivering a steady diet of tenacious at-bats at the plate while taking the field wherever he is needed.
“There's always a plan at the beginning of the year,” Biggio said. “It’s a long season and things are going to change. Communication is the biggest thing for me, with where and when I'd be playing a certain position.”
For the time being, that’s mainly at third base, although his super-utility skills are at the ready.