Many believed Maicer Izturis would be the starting second baseman for the Toronto Blue Jays during the 2013 MLB season, and there is still a very good chance he will be. However, manager John Gibbons informed the media that the second base job is most definitely an open competition during spring training.
“It’s up for grabs,” Gibbons said. “We’ll see how it all plays out. We’ll see in the end what makes us stronger.”
The problem Toronto is facing is not necessarily a bad one, but it is something that Gibbons could lose sleep over. Izturis is the better defensive infielder but his competitor, Emilio Bonifacio, has plenty of potential on offense and defense.
The 32-year old Izturis has played the majority of his career with the Los Angeles Angels, while Bonifacio was traded to the Blue Jays from the Miami Marlins. Bonifacio has the better batting average and is able to get on base more in recent years, but Izturis is better when it comes to knocking in runs as well as hitting the long ball. Since both players bat righty, there is no way to platoon, which means whoever wins the job in spring training will be the second baseman for the entire season unless performance slips.
Bonifacio does have an edge in one area in particular. He is capable of playing in six different spots on the field, including all three outfield positions. He has played 128 games at third base, the most of any position, but he has also suited up 164 times to play in the outfield. Izturis only plays three infield positions, but has a far superior skill set.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos probably would have passed on signing Izturis to a three-year deal if he knew he would be able to land several top-notch players in a trade with the Marlins. However, he is certainly not going to complain about having too many good infielders.
“We told [Izturis] we’re not going to promise you anything, we’re not going to guarantee you anything,” Anthopoulos said. “What we will promise is the chance to compete.”
At this point, whoever does not win the job will still get plenty of playing time backing up at several different positions in case of injury, or if someone needs a day off. Not to mention, the competition is not only going to improve both players for the year, but it will get the rest of the team in the competitive mind set before the regular season kicks off.