With the start of spring training the Toronto Blue Jays are looking to fill many holes in their roster. The bench needs to be figured out, the fifth rotation spot and the entire bullpen. We are all too familiar with the injuries that occurred to the Blue Jays last season, but injuries have more than one problem.
I was once told that a problem is a misunderstood opportunity, (thanks to my ninth grade teacher). So lets look at this “opportunity.”
First of all, when a player gets injured you have to replace the injured player, and most often the replacement is from the minors. When a player is brought up to the major league team and then sent back down for at least 20 days, you use an option on that player’s contract. Once all the options are exhausted, that player must clear waivers before being sent down again, exposing him to other teams to take. This season the Blue Jays have eight players out of options going into Spring Training this year.
Of course seven of the eight players are pitchers (due to the many injuries experienced by the pitching staff last season.) The players that are out of options this year are: Right-handed pitchers Dustin McGowan, Esmil Rogers, Todd Redmond, Sergio Santos and Jeremy Jeffress, lefties Brett Cecil and Luis Perez, and outfielder Moises Sierra.
The Jays like all these players and does not want to lose them to other teams for nothing. The only question remains is how does this affect the roster?
I believe that the Jays will head north with a short bench and an eight man bullpen to accommodate this problem-sorry opportunity. The Jays refuse to give up on McGowan, so exposing him to waivers makes no sense. Lucas Silva wrote earlier that he thinks McGowan, Redmond and Rogers are front-runners to the fifth spot in the rotation. I believe he is right. Also discussed by Lucas, what happened to Ricky Romero last spring may happen to J.A. Happ this spring. If Happ can’t get outs early in the count and elevate his pitch count (like he has does throughout his career) he may be starting the season in Buffalo. Redmond deserves to be the fifth start from what he did last year. He will be more productive in the rotation then in the pen, so Toronto will have two long relievers in McGowan and Rogers.
Santos and Cecil should be locks while Jeffress and Perez will also have an opportunity to land a spot in the bullpen. Add in McGowan and Rogers that’s already seven players. Now you can’t forget closer Casey Janssen and all-star Steve Delabar or left-hander Aaron Loup who was used a lot by manager John Gibbons last season, we have ten players for eight spots. Personally I think the odd men out are Perez and Jeffress, but luckily I don’t have to make that decision. And I haven’t even mentioned Neil Wagner yet, who may find himself in Buffalo simply because he still does have options.
As for Sierra, I wrote a bit earlier that he will win the fourth outfield spot for the bench as it stands right now.
The final spot in the rotation and the bullpen is a mess as it stands right now. This piece just suggested that Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison or Chad Jenkins don’t even have considerations to become the fifth starter, which is not true. I’m rather glad not to be the one who has to make the final decision. After all I was the guy who said Josh Johnson will win the Cy Young Award last season, so what do I know?