Blue Jays Depth Heading in to Winter Meetings
The Toronto Blue Jays are heading into the Winter Meetings having done a lot of heavy lifting already. Perhaps the best way to describe their current efforts would be “Addition by Subtraction”. By subtracting J.A. Happ and his relative inconsistency, they’ve added Michael Saunders, who they claim will be the everyday left fielder. And, until we hear just how much money, if any, the Blue Jays sent the Mariners, we can also say they’ve subtracted payroll in that deal.
In picking up Josh Donaldson, the Blue Jays have subtracted Brett Lawrie and his injuries for a more consistent, thunderous presence in the lineup. As well, they subtracted some of that young pitching depth they were so thrilled about. That is not even to mention subtracting ‘what could be’ in Franklin Barreto. As well, by subtracting Adam Lind, they managed to gain some of that pitching depth in the form of Marco Estrada. All in all, it would appear the Blue Jays have improved on paper, especially when you consider the addition of Russell Martin.
But where has that left them? I thought it would be good to look at the depth chart to see where they stand now.
Blue Jays Depth Chart Dec.6/14
The key to having a winning club that is capable of making a serious run at the playoffs doesn’t just lie in having an impressive starting 9. No, a team needs depth. This is where I see more improvement is needed.
Outfield- Right now, there are 4 outfielders. Jose Bautista in RF, Dalton Pompey in CF, Saunders in LF with Kevin Pillar riding the pine.
It seems odd that the strategy to clearing up the outfield logjam is to get rid of everyone but 4. That means, you can’t decide what is the best 4, you have to go with what there is. Of course, it would appear the Blue Jays have made that decision already and that is how they got here. Given the injury history of Saunders and the relative unknown-ness of Pompey, can the club really be comfortable with Kevin Pillar as its only other option?
Infield- If you look at the positions in the infield, there are a lot of names repeated in multiple positions. That means there is a lot of versatility to go around. But, it also means there are few options. The chart above has Ryan Goins as the starting second baseman with Maicer Izturis as the next option. I think I’d have that switched around. But, having Goins in this lineup may not be so unbearable.
Jul 24, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
I really like having Steve Tolleson as a bench player. His bat is not an everyday one, but can still chip in when he is called upon. His defense is as well. Danny Valencia brings really nice depth at 3rd and 1st. Which brings me to Edwin Encarncaion and Justin Smoak.
I’m thinking that RIGHT NOW, Encarnacion is the starting 1B, with Smoak backing him up, maybe even starting in AAA given that Valencia can play 1st. That will all hinge on what the Blue Jays decide to do with Dioner Navarro. I like him as a DH. They do too. So, Smoak would be taking up a roster spot; one they can fill in other ways thanks to the versatility mentioned above. We know that Alex Anthopoulos will work to trade Navarro, so Smoak will likely be starting at first with Edwin getting at bats at DH.
Catcher– This is a bit of a mess…sort of. Obviously, Russell Martin is the number one guy. That leaves Navarro and Josh Thole to fight over squatting duties. Now, moving Navarro would solve that issue. And, as long as R.A. Dickey is in their starting rotation, the Blue Jays will keep Josh Thole around. However, if something should happen that Navarro is gone and Thole disappears, the next option is the slowly progressing A.J. Jimenez. This actually doesn’t sound that bad when I read it out loud.
More from Toronto Blue Jays News
- Matt Chapman has been exactly what the Blue Jays needed
- Blue Jays: The goalposts are moving in the right direction
- Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays advance to the Championship Series
- Blue Jays: Comparisons for Alek Manoah’s Second Season
- Blue Jays: Adam Cimber, the unlikely decision King
Starting Rotation- If the season were to start today, we’d be looking at Dickey, Marcus Stroman, Mark Buehrle, Drew Hutchison and Aaron Sanchez. Moving Happ, Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin put a dent in the depth of the rotation, but when you look at it, it isn’t so bad. The Blue Jays were facing a dilemma with Aaron Sanchez. We know they view him as a starter, but their rotation did not have room. It does now. He’ll be given his shot. But, what about injuries? Well, Dickey and Buehrle will give 200 innings. No worries there. It is possible that #HutchShow and #StroShow get hurt, but they showed no signs of concern last season, especially since Hutchison was playing his first full season since Tommy John surgery.
But, as we know from past years, you HAVE TO have depth in the rotation. Daniel Norris is next on the depth chart. Realistically, he, like Sanchez, could be given a look to start. Although Sanchez has the leg up, Norris has impressed as well. It is safe to say that he’ll get a shot at some point this season. Although a rotation that does not include Brandon Morrow may not provide as many opportunities as it did in the past. When Marco Estrada came over for Adam Lind, the thought was that he could be used as a starter, but he wouldn’t be called upon, as some feared, until after AAA All Star, Liam Hendriks. So, you’d have to have a lot go wrong to rely on Estrada. So, this may still be a pretty deep well of starters from which the Blue Jays can draw.
Bullpen- There are a lot of names down there. But, names are not enough. The bullpen is clearly a focus heading in to the Winter Meetings. With the other pieces (except 2B) having been officially addressed, AA has a clear focus. But, he also has some options already. Todd Redmond and Marco Estrada represent the ‘long man’ or spot start guys. In worst case scenarios, they’ll be called upon for that. If the season were to start today, Brett Cecil would probably fill the closer’s role with Aaron Loup ready to step in if needed. Either one of these lefties would do a passable job, but it would be nice to have a proven, lock down guy brought in. And, it would have to be brought in. Because what is there currently holds too many question marks.
Chad Jenkins, Steve Delabar, Kyle Drabek and Rob Rasmussen round out the ‘pen. Delabar feel far and hard last season. Will the Blue Jays be willing to gamble on him? Probably not comfortably. The fact that Kyle Drabek is even listed seems odd to me. Rasmussen is a relative unknown in that the Blue Jays have not seen him in the pen for an extended period of time. 10 games is not enough. Chad Jenkins has shown there is nothing more for him below the ML level. And, after going 1-1, 2.56 in 21 games, he’s a safe bet to return to the ‘pen.
Aug 15, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
This list does not instill confidence at all. It certainly is not poised to improve upon the bad 2014 season. But, maybe by subtracting the likes of Sergio Santos, Brandon Morrow, Esmil Rogers, Jeremy Jeffress and Casey Janssen, the team has already added improvement. I’m not saying that I think this bullpen is set and ready to compete. I’m merely suggesting that some of the poor performers are not returning next season. Regardless, there are far too many questions marks and uneasy feelings at this point. That is why the bullpen is the area to target at the moment.
Now, AA can address that by dealing Navarro, which he has already acknowledged would be the proper thing to do. What kind of reliever can you get for a $5M catcher who is coming off a good offensive season? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. There are still plenty of free agent arms out there, too. There is work to be done and luckily, lots of options exist to get it done. This time of year usually offers lots of bullpen arms for reasonable prices; just how AA likes it.
Alex Anthopoulos is in a fairly good position heading in to the Winter Meetings. With 4 roster spots on the 40-man available, he has a clear singular focus- the bullpen. He can spend his time addressing this area of need. Every other part of the roster is set. He has versatility and mobility in his depth. His current roster may not be that of a solid, deep playoff team. But, the tinkering required can be done along the way when he gets to see how everything is playing out. AA has left himself in a position to make moves mid season if he chooses. He does not have to rush anything right now. Except the bullpen.
*Image of Depth Chart taken from bluejays.com and is current as of Dec.6/14