The Toronto Blue Jays were a very active team this past offseason. They made offers to players like Noah Syndergaard, Justin Verlander, and Brad Miller, while also kicking the tires on a bevy of other free agents like Corey Seager and Eduardo Rodriguez. At the end of the day, the Blue Jays walked away with Kevin Gausman, Yusei Kikuchi, and Yimi Garcia, while also trading for third baseman Matt Chapman, Raimel Tapia, and Bradley Zimmer prior to Opening Day.
These moves, plus the young core on this roster, had the Jays shooting up the power rankings, making them one of the World Series favorites heading into the season. Fast forward to mid-July, and the Blue Jays currently find themselves in a bit of a jam looking at the AL East picture.
Regarded as one of the toughest divisions in baseball, the club currently finds itself fourth in the AL East and hanging onto the last Wild Card spot, currently tied with the Seattle Mariners, with both the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays ranking ahead while the New York Yankees run away with the division.
Numerous players are doing well, while some are struggling so far this year, but nobody has excelled this more than catcher Alejandro Kirk.
Alejandro Kirk Was Once a Trade Chip
After a brief introduction at the tail end of 2020, Kirk was set to begin the 2021 campaign splitting time behind the plate with Danny Jansen. A hip flexor injury in early May sidelined Kirk for roughly two and a half months, putting a damper on his rookie campaign. He would finish the year with a .242/.328/.436 slash line with eight home runs and 24 RBI, suiting up in just 60 games on the season.
Although the Jays fans didn’t see a lot of Kirk on the field last year, his name was no stranger to the headlines this past offseason once the lockout was over.
One target the front office was interested in was Cleveland Guardians’ third baseman Jose Ramirez, one of the best players in the game over the past few seasons. With the Guardians appearing at a stalemate on the extension front with their star, the Jays continued to show a vested interest in the Dominican star, dating all the way back to last year’s trade deadline.
While the Jays apparently walked away from a deal at the time, the trade rumors continued to fly and the Guardians reportedly even sent a scout to watch Kirk in Spring Training. The prospect of trading Kirk made sense at the time, as the club had Jansen to take on regular catching duties and Reese McGuire was there in a backup role. Not to mention the fact that top prospect Gabriel Moreno was waiting in the wings for his MLB debut, set to take place sometime in 2022.
When the dust settled before Opening Day, Ramirez signed an extension with Cleveland, McGuire was traded to Chicago, and the club had three catchers for the first game of the season in Jansen, Kirk, and Zack Collins.
How Everything Changed in 2022
Danny Jansen had a hot start to the year but went on the IL early with an oblique injury, opening the door for Kirk to get some extended playing time. The Mexican catcher didn’t fully take advantage of the opportunity through April, struggling to a .245 batting average and a .584 OPS through 19 games. May is where Kirk turned a corner, as the righty posted a .984 OPS by going 25-for-72 in the batter’s box with 10 extra-base hits and 11 RBI.
That play did not stop in May, as Kirk continued to put the ball in play and emerged as not only one of the top players on the roster but one of the top catchers in the American League.
So far this season, “Captain Kirk” owns a 2.7 fWAR, which is the highest on the Blue Jays and the highest amongst AL catchers. His .309 AVG, .395 OBP and .876 OPS all rank as the highest amongst qualified MLB catchers and he has also made strides in his defense, amassing a 3.9 FRM and a seven bDRS with a 29% caught stealing percentage. This was one area that was a work in progress entering the 2022 campaign and Kirk is passing with flying colors so far.
This excellent play has resulted in Kirk earning a spot on the AL All-Star roster in a starting capacity, blowing away second-place catcher Jose Trevino on the voting leaderboards. This honor was well deserved for the 5’8″ stocky catcher and his play is one reason the Jays’ record is at 45-42 and isn’t worse than what it is.
On a team dominated by stars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and George Springer, it is Alejandro Kirk who has stepped up and separated himself from the rest of the group, cementing himself as one of the best players on this squad heading into the All-Star break.
Considering the club was open to trading the catcher this past offseason, it is safe to say that fans are happy he is still with the club right now and would probably riot in the streets if he got traded over the next few weeks.
Alejandro Kirk has been one of the brightest spots on the Blue Jays roster this season and deserves every honor that comes his way.