He's an average utility infielder with no minor league options on the wrong side of 30 who hits lefties well but gets dominated by right-handed pitchers. That statement describes Steve Tolleson...or does it describe Danny Valencia? It actually describes both pretty accurately. That's why eventually the Blue Jays will have to decide which player to carry on their active roster and which to DFA before next season gets underway at the beginning of April. In 2014 the team's lack of roster flexibility reared its ugly head too often and carrying two nearly identical players in 2015 would be a step towards doing the same thing again. Assuming the Blue Jays carry one extra outfielder and one back-up catcher there will be room for two bench infielders. Those spots certainly shouldn't be filled by Tolleson and Valencia.
Most fans know that the two players fall into a similar category, but when you look at the numbers the comparison becomes even more clear:
The first splits belong to Tolleson while the latter line belongs to Valencia. Both players are actually southpaw mashers and deserve to see a fair amount of at-bats against opposite-handed pitchers. The problem is that obviously neither player should face right-handed pitching very often, although it did become a disturbing trend for Valencia after he was acquired last season. In fairness the former Royal holds his weight against same-handed pitchers a lot better than Tolleson making him slightly more flexible, but that certainly isn't saying a lot.
The defensive positions the two play are slightly different with Tolleson mainly seeing time at second and third base, while Valencia usually mans third and first. An interesting possibility that could become reality is Valencia being used at second base as well (as he was in limited innings in Kansas City) making Tolleson all but redundant and increasing the value of Valencia even more. Both players play a mediocre third base, while neither of them is exactly Ryan Goins at second base further limiting their ability to start anywhere on the diamond consistently.
While the second base job could come down to any number of alternatives, the utility job really boils down to Maicer Izturis and the two subjects of this piece. Assuming none of these players are moved before March, this spot on the 25-man roster will be won in Spring Training with the chance that Tolleson and Valencia both make likely being very close to zero. If Ryan Goins loses the second base job, then he and one of Tolleson or Valencia could combine to form a sort of utility platoon that could actually be quite effective if used correctly and if Goins is able to manage to hit righties a little bit.
The contracts are slightly different as Valencia will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this year and is projected to make $1.7 million, while Tolleson is still below the key three years of service time. This $1 million difference in salary shouldn't change the conclusion that Valencia is the better option for this role with his superior ability at the plate and average defence in the field. As we saw over the course of the 2014 season, Tolleson is certainly a dependable bench option and it would be a great outcome if he was snuck through waivers to bide his time in Buffalo until a need for him arises assuming he accepts the outright assignment. The only true bad outcome would be if a lack of other options led to both players to making the roster and filling almost identical roles.