The Blue Jays made a low-impact deal today, by signing major league veteran Eric Sogard to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training, as reported by Robert Murray. This feels very much like a move to grab some depth to either store on the Bisons’ roster, or to occupy a spot on the Blue Jay’s bench. Obviously a lot rides on his performance this spring, but let’s take a look back through his eight-year major league resumé and get to know what the thirty-two year-old might be able to offer the Blue Jays or Bisons this season.
Between 2010 and 2012, Eric Sogard rode the Oakland/Sacramento shuttle, mostly playing at AAA Sacremento with some some cups of coffee on the big league roster, playing in 68 games over those three years. From 2013 to 2015, Sogard was a semi-regular in the Athletic’s lineup, averaging over 120 games and 380 at-bats a season.Offensively, he doesn’t offer much to phone home about. In his three full seasons in Oakland, he posted OPS+ rates of 92, 64, and 68, on-base-percentages of .322, .298, and .294, and slugging percentages of .364, .268, and .304. These are not terribly inspiring offensive numbers. His walk percentage in those years were well below average, and his strikeout percentages were right at the league average, if not a little better.
In 2016, Sogard underwent knee surgery and missed the entire season, electing to become a free agent and signing with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2017. He played parts of two seasons with the Brewers faring well in 2017, and then absolutely nose-diving last season. Over 299 plate appearances in 2017, he posted an OPS+ of 103 and a respectable .273 batting average. Throw in 37 strikeouts to 45 walks, and he put together a nice partial season for Milwaukee. Unfortunately for Sogard, those numbers didn’t carry over to 2018. In 113 plate appearances he managed only 13 hits and 12 walks. That’s good for a .134 batting average, and an OPS+ of… whelp… 12.
Eric Sogard is probably not going to offer the Jays or the Bisons much in terms of offence. However, I believe he can still be a serviceable defensive utility man. He’s played the majority of his career at second base and shortstop, with a handful of chances at third, as well as a sprinkling of appearances in the outfield. At second base and shortstop, he has career fielding percentages of .987 and .974 respectively, and owns an RF/9 of 4.82 and 4.22. He’s a better second baseman than he is a shortstop, but he’s a league-average-or-better defensive player at both spots.
The all-important question now is, of course: what can the Blue Jays expect from a league-average defender in the middle infield with a less-than-stellar offensive career and no power? Well, his path to the major league roster is going to be tough. Barring injury or trades, the Blue Jays are well-stacked on the infield. Middle infielders abound, with the likes of Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Devon Travis, Brandon Drury, and Richard Urena already occupying spots on the Blue Jay’s 40-man roster. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will more than likely also join that list, as an everyday third baseman within a few weeks of the season opener.
Obviously Sogard will have to play well in spring training no matter what, but even if he lights the Grapefruit League on fire, I don’t think he’s going to be brought north of the border with the team. I think he’ll be spending the majority of his time in Buffalo this season. If he’s able to produce, I think he’ll be a second or third option for the Jays when they inevitably need some infield depth, due to injuries or lack of production. The acquisition of Eric Sogard is another small, though possibly consequential move by the Jays to get as much back-up stockpiled in the minors as possible. This is a smart move for a team that is likely to be young and inexperienced. It’s also always a good idea to have a major league veteran ready to step in, should things get hairy in the majors. Not all big league teams have that luxury.
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