I'd be lying if I didn't say that I sort of had a feeling this would happen. As Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet tweets -
So this is a bit of a bummer. Travis, who is recovering from a reported bone bruise in his right knee as a result of a lingering injury he suffered late last season, does not have a firm time-table for in-game action for Spring Training, and may begin the season on the DL. This, to say the least, is a concern (feel the fire from that hot take!?? CAN YOU FEEL IT!?!).
I briefly touched on this in Episode 3 of the SOT6 Podcast (click click, subscribe!) and offered some optimism, by echoing Nicholson-Smith's reports of Travis taking batting practice and some drills on the field. However, with an injury to one's knee, the time-table for recovery can vary. While I don't want to be the guy that jumps to conclusions, the (brief) history here isn't really that encouraging and is ringing alarm bells.
Travis made his Major League debut with the Jays in 2015 after being traded for Anthony Gose by the Detroit Tigers. Travis came with a lot of promise, as he was named the 6th best second-base prospect in baseball by MLB. He started off strong, hitting a home run in his first big league at bat, and finished the start of the season as the American League Rookie of the Month for April. However, shortly thereafter, Travis was dealing with some shoulder discomfort, and ended up being placed on the 60-Day DL in May. Although he did return to the Jays in June of that year, he quickly re-injured his shoulder and was subsequently shut down for the remainder of the season. Travis would not make another appearance with the club until late May of 2016, as he was reported to be fully recovered from his shoulder woes. Although he would remain with the club for the better portion of the 2016 season, Travis suffered this knee injury in Game 1 of the ALDS against Texas. He underwent surgery in mid-November to have some cartilage removed and.... well, here we are.
Look, for a guy that's only been in the big leagues for (just about) two seasons, I'm not sure whether we can label Travis with the whole "Injury Prone!" tag just yet. At 26 years old, maybe instead we can regard this as just growing pains? Maybe? I don't know. I want to be positive when it comes to the future of Travis, mainly because second base is such a difficult position to fill; specifically with someone that's capable of being a contributor both offensively and defensively. Putting blinders on Travis' injury history, he looks to be exactly what the doctor ordered (see what I did there?!) for the Blue Jays, as his production is pretty good. In 101 games last year, Travis had a line of .300/.323/.454, with an OPS of .785. Sure, his strikeout rate of 21.2% is a wee bit higher than we'd ideally like it to be, but as someone that can be considered to still be adjusting to the majors (I think we can?), it's not incredibly bad. But if we couple that with the injury concerns, it's hard not to be at least slightly alarmed. Again, I'm not saying that Travis is injury prone, but perhaps it's best for the Front Office to at least prepare for the notion that Travis may, in fact, be.
Speaking of the Front Office, it seems that they're taking the "wait and see" approach, which is probably the responsible thing to do. Even in the wake of Travis' surgery, Ross Atkins voiced his optimism in Devo's ability to be ready for Spring Training. Literally, he said he was "optimistic" regarding Travis' timetable for Spring Training. I guess.... sure, what else should he expect from a surgery performed in November, with Spring Training beginning approximately 4 months later. Also, "ready for Spring Training" doesn't necessarily mean that Travis would be a full go, either. So I while I understand fans' frustrations with Travis' seemingly being injured often (I don't deny this, either. It does seem like he is), we aren't lead to believe that all is well with him. The Blue Jays have been very cautious and have allowed Travis to heal, no matter the how long it has taken. Consider John Gibbons' comments reported by Nicholson-Smith,
"To be honest, I don't know when he's going to be back and ready to go. It's one of those things where if it costs him a couple of weeks, or whatever it might be, at the beginning of the season, so be it. As long as we get him back and he can still get a full year in."
Yeah, makes sense.
Even if you want to squint real hard enough and nitpick the "or whatever it might be" part of Gibby's statement, there's enough reason to doubt Travis' ability to heal up and be ready not just for Opening Day, but a good portion beyond that. Maybe the translation is "it's going to be a while." Thus, we may have to consider that it's just a bit of déjà-vu from last season, as we may not see Travis until around May. Which, when you consider that the pros of resting Travis and allowing him to be 100% healed outweigh the cons of rushing him, it's hard to be too upset. I mean, yeah it sucks hard for him as a player, but like the Donaldson setback from a few weeks ago, I'd much rather the Jays be dealing with this now, before the season has even started, than later when the Jays really need to be at their best. Like... oh I dunno... fighting for the Division or a Wild Card spot? Makes you a little more patient, doesn't it?
It's not all doom-and-gloom in terms of the roster, too. If/when Travis starts the season on the DL, it means that the Jays have an additional roster spot to fill. Again, not to revisit too much of what I said on the SOT6 Pod (DID YOU SUBSCRIBE YET!?!), but this may be a blessing in disguise. Having Travis start the season on the DL allows Ryan Goins to be part of the big-league roster. This is important as Goins is out of options and he would otherwise be placed on waivers. More than likely, he'd be claimed and picked up by another ball club, thus removing a serviceable defensive depth piece that the Blue Jays need. This is the time of the baseball season in which clubs are in full heat for depth and would love to add a guy like Goins, and for good reason. I know Goins is nothing to brag about at the plate, but it's hard to deny his defensive abilities. Given the Jays offense with Donaldson, Bautista, Tulowitzki, and Morales for their primary production, it's pretty easy to sort of hide Goins in the ninth spot of the order, as his defensive upside makes it at least tolerable. Oh, and don't forget, he's pitched, too!
Sure, when Travis comes back the Jays will have to make some sort of roster move. More than likely, Goins will be the one to draw the short straw, but it's conceivable that sneaking through waivers when rosters are more or less set in May is easier than it would be now. Or at least, I'd like to think so.
But who the hell am I, right?
More than likely, I don't know what I'm talking about and the Blue Jays are thinking ahead, as they are reportedly still in the mix to (re)sign Brett Lawrie. Which... oh Jesus.
That horse has been beaten.