Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is ‘open to playing some third base’ as Blue Jays pursue Freddie Freeman

As the Toronto Blue Jays continue their pursuit of free agent first baseman Freddie Freeman, GM Ross Atkins told reporters Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is “open to playing some third base,” according to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi. Atkins added “it’s unlikely that we don’t add another position player,” citing the infield as the most obvious place to add a bat.

Toronto has been linked to Freeman since before the lockout, and their interest has continued in recent days. The Blue Jays have yet to replace Marcus Semien, who slugged 45 home runs last season and joined the Texas Rangers as a free agent, and they have the flexibility to pursue a second or third baseman. Guerrero’s willingness to play third opens up first base as well.

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Vlad Jr. came up through the minors as a third baseman and he played the position his first season in the big leagues. He moved to first base full-time in 2020, and this year he broke out as one of the game’s great hitters. No move has been made yet, though the Blue Jays don’t seem to be afraid of messing with a good thing by moving Guerrero back to third. Consider the possibilities:

  1. CF George Springer
  2. SS Bo Bichette
  3. 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
  4. 1B Freddie Freeman
  5. DH Teoscar Hernandez
  6. L.F. Lourdes Gurriel
  7. RF Randal Grichuk
  8. C Danny Jansen
  9. 2B Cavan Biggio/Santiago Espinal

Moving Guerrero to third to accommodate Freeman would be reminiscent of the Detroit Tigers moving Miguel Cabrera back to third base to make room for Prince Fielder in 2012. Cabrera and Fielder were a dominant middle of the lineup combination, though the club’s defense took an enormous hit , so much so that Fielder was eventually traded and Cabrera moved back to first.

In all likelihood Freeman will sign a long-term contract, so playing Vlad Jr. at third wouldn’t be a one or two-year experiment. Toronto has to consider how these two would coexist for the next 5-6 years, assuming of course they sign Guerrero to a long-term contract extension. He will be eligible for free agency after the 2025 season, when he will still be only 26.

The other option is putting Guerrero (or Freeman) at DH. Sign Freeman, trade (or bench) Grichuk or Gurriel, put Hernández in the outfield and Vlad Jr. at DH. That’s an option. The team’s defense would take a big hit, but the Blue Jays have enough pitching and would have enough offense to paper over a poor defense, at least in theory.

Last season Guerrero, who turns 23 on Wednesday, hit .311 while leading the American League in home runs (48), on-base percentage (.401), slugging percentage (.601), OPS (1,002), OPS+ (169) , and total bases (363). For his career, he’s posted minus-3 defensive runs saved in 97 games at third base and minus-2 in 167 games at first.

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