On Sunday the Blue Jays shipped their most productive position player out of town, sending Eric Sogard to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for two players to be named later.
The situatation was a bizarre one where Sogard knew he was heading to the team he was facing that day, meaning he was simultaneously on both teams and neither.
“It was definitely an interesting scenario,” he said. “I was kind of sitting there thinking what team I should be cheering for.”
Less than half and hour before, Sogard had been ready to lead off for the Blue Jays.
"I was preparing for the game today about 15 minutes before and Charlie grabbed me and said things are escalating between a couple of teams so he's going to hold me out to be safe. So we waited it out from there."
Sogard was in the midst of a career season in Toronto at the age of 33 after signing a minor-league contract in the offseason. The infielder hit 10 home runs with the Blue Jays, blowing away his previous career high of three. Sogard did not have to sacrifice contact ability for his surprising power surge, remaining one of the better bat-to-ball guys in the game:
Along with patience, contact hitting abilities, and his newfound sprinkling of power, Sogard also provides the Rays with some positional versatility - a quality they’ve always prized. While second base is his best position, he’s also appeared at shortstop, third base, left field, and right field for the Blue Jays this year. Sogard generally grades out as approximately an average fielder wherever he plays, except at shortstop where his lack of standout athleticism comes to the fore.
While the 33-year-old’s season has been exceptional, the Blue Jays the return as it stands is unclear - although it’s unlikely to be a king’s ransom given his age, skepticism over his breakout, and the fact he’s a rental. On the other hand, when it comes to intangibles and “veteran presence” you can’t do much better.
“This guy stepped into spring training with that veteran presence,” Aaron Sanchez said. “He’s been on winning teams, he brought that here. Everybody knew we were going to be young and he kind of set us all aside and said ‘Hey regardless of what it is, go out there and play a hard nine, there’s always 27 outs in a game.’”
“He was great, we’re going to miss an outstanding kid and great clubhouse guy,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “Hopefully the team he goes to makes it to the playoffs and it’ll be great for him. I wish him nothing but the best and he was great for us, for the younger guys and older guys. I have so many good things to say I could sit here all day talking about him.”
Whether he’s the next Jonny Gomes-esque clubhouse god or not, if Sogard provides anything like his Blue Jays numbers with the Rays, Tampa Bay will have gotten themselves a crucial piece for the stretch run.
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