The Toronto Blue Jays are 5-7 after two weeks of baseball. Shortstop Jose Reyes has a severely sprained ankle, and will miss three months of action. Of course, considering all of the hype surrounding the Jays this winter, their lack of success this year has plenty of people wondering what's wrong with them and whether or not they're just this year's version of the 2012 Marlins.
But the season is just two weeks old, there are still 150 games left, and less than 10% of the games have been played this year, Yet, the Blue Jays seem to be panicking after Reyes' injury and are throwing their defensive alignment into a blender.
Here's how things are going to play out over the next three months with Reyes out. Maicier Izturis will be taking Reyes' place at short. Jose Bautista is shifting from right field to third base, which the 32-year old hasn't played full-time since 2008. Fourth outfielder Rajai Davis will split time in right field wtih second baseman Emilio Bonifacio. Taking the place of Bonifacio at second will be third baseman Brett Lawrie, currently rehabbing a rib injury. Got all of that?
Keep in mind that over his first two seasons in the bigs, Lawrie has ranked as one of the best defensive third baseman in the league. In the 1400+ innings since Lawrie's debut in 2011, his +34 DRS is by far the best among all third basemen in baseball, his 93 out of zone plays are second in the league behind David Wright (who has played 900 more innings), and his UZR is in the top ten in baseball. Lawrie has also never played an inning at second in the majors, and it'll be interesting to see how well he handles the transition.
Bonifacio's move is something that seems to be for the best, though. He had limited playing time at second coming into this season, and wasn't really great in that brief bit of playing time. In fact, he's not really that great defensively anywhere on the diamond…second, third, center, wherever. Right field is probably the best defensive fit for him, though I'm really not sure how a platoon will work since both him and Davis have the same inability to hit right-handers. At best, they'll give the Blue Jays some league average defense and won't murder the team offensively.
Finally, the move of Bautista to third base is an odd one. He's not in Toronto's lineup for his glove, but if Miguel Cabrera can nearly be a seven win player as an all bat, no glove third baseman, Bautista might be able to as well if he's healthy. I'm not sure if Toronto really had another option for the time being aside from this, especially after Edwin Encarnacion's disastrous defensive run at third came to an end last year.
Izturis is the real wild card here, because he can play third, short, and second, and do so pretty capably. If Lawrie is a disaster at second, the Blue Jays can roll everything back and put him at third, Bautista back in right, and Bonifacio at second, switching Izturis to second as a defensive replacement for Bonifacio late in games and inserting Munenori Kawasaki at short to further shore up the defense. It's the defensive shortcomings of Bonifacio that makes me think that Kawasaki will stick in the majors after Lawrie comes back, especially with Toronto having two outfielders (Davis and Casper Wells) on the bench already.
Toronto shouldn't be panicking yet, though. Their -20 run differential was fueled by a 13-0 whooping by the Red Sox and an 11-1 humbling at the hands of the Tigers, with Dave Bush (no longer with the club) dumping gas on the fire in the Boston game while crappy weather resulted in the disaster in Detroit. Even with awful relief performances in relief from Bush and Jeremy Jeffress, the Blue Jays bullpen has been fine, and their rotation is a puzzle so far, mixing great starts with awful ones. After a four game series in Chicago with the White Sox, the Jays have 13 straight games against AL East opponents, and after that stretch, I'm sure we'll know a lot more about them than we do now. Drawing conclusions about a team, no matter how good or how bad their performance, from a dozen games and two weeks worth of data isn't wise.