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Eric Sogard: From minor league signing to valuable trade chip

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Eric Sogard signed with the Blue Jays for next to nothing. Now, he’s worth a lot.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Blue Jays weren’t expecting much when they signed Eric Sogard to a minor league contract on December 21, 2018. He was in camp as a non-roster invitee, but past that, he seemed like nothing more than convenient infield depth.

When the Blue Jays signed Sogard, Tom wrote: “Not all Christmas presents are big ones. Some are socking stuffers. I had a friend that always asked for white socks because she knew she was going to get them, so why not get ahead of the game.”

After all, he had just hit .134 in 55 games and 113 plate appearances with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2018. Factoring in walks, his OBP was .241. For a player with 584 major league games under his belt, he wasn’t stellar in the minors, either, with a slash line of .240/.306/.292.

He was released, re-signed and re-released. Enter, the Blue Jays, and fast forward to today.

After an unremarkable spring training and a season started in triple-A, the Blue Jays called Sogard up on April 15. In his first game, he had three hits. Over the next 10 games, he collected 17 hits and five walks. By that point, he was hitting .415 with an OBP of .478 over 47 plate appearances.

After cooling down, Sogard is still putting up valuable numbers. With a slash line of .287/.353/.473 in 167 at-bats, he’s been worth exactly one WAR for Toronto.

But for the Blue Jays, one WAR isn’t all that valuable at this point in time. With a record of 26-47 — the farthest they’ve been below .500 since the end of the 2004 season, and one of the worst records in franchise history, should it continue — focus is on the trade deadline at the end of July.

The Blue Jays seem bent on trading pieces like Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez this year, both of whom are under control through the 2020 season. That much makes it clear what the front office hopes the bulk of Toronto’s competitive window will be: 2022 and beyond.

Sogard isn’t under control then. While the Blue Jays could extend him, he’s a 33-year-old infielder that likely won’t have a position to play in September, assuming Bo Bichette is up in the majors. Instead, the infield will be swamped by Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio (and Freddy Galvis, if he sticks around, but that’s another conversation.)

Aside from the entertainment he provides each night in Toronto’s lineup, there’s no reason to keep him on the team. And after spending little to get him on the Blue Jays, the front office can get a lasting return on their investment before the trade deadline.

The return won’t be amazing — after all, he is a 33-year-old with a spotty recent track record and little team control left — but it’s better than what the Blue Jays could have hoped for just three months ago.