Mar 3, 2015; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak (14) stretches for the ball for an out during the first inning of the spring training baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Florida Auto Exchange Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Spring Training always carries with it come intriguing story lines, cast upon by the overbearing light of the Florida sun and the sometimes overbearing attention of the fans and media alike. And one of the more interesting things to watch during Spring Training is the inevitable roster squeeze that comes with the evaluation process. Unfortunately, you just can’t bring every player north with you when camp breaks and sometimes, you have to cut ties with a fairly decent ballplayer.
The Toronto Blue Jays face a couple of those decisions in the coming weeks, when the rosters start pairing down and assignments are handed out. According to MLB Trade Rumors, Toronto brings into camp nine players on their 40-man roster that are currently out of minor league options and must pass through waivers if they do not make the team out of camp. Even if they pass through waivers, these players still have the right to choose free agency rather than accept a minor league assignment.
For the sake of avoiding argument, let’s assume that Brett Cecil and Josh Donaldson are safe and will make the roster cut. I think we can all agree that they are a lock and their roster spots are secure.
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Todd Redmond may also have some sort of invulnerability here as well. The soon-to-be 30-year-old right-hander may not be the sexiest of relief options in the Blue Jays bullpen, but he’s proven to be a worthwhile piece over the last two seasons. In 59 games and 152 innings of work (mostly spot starts and mop-up duty), Redmond owns a 3.79 ERA, a 3.98 FIP, and an 8.1 K/9 ratio for the Blue Jays. Unless the wheels fall off, or his arm does, the beleaguered Blue Jays bullpen will probably keep him around for at least the start of the season.
That leaves a group that includes Justin Smoak, Danny Valencia, and Steve Tolleson in the infield, and Scott Barnes, Liam Hendriks, and Kyle Drabek as potential relievers.
It is interesting that both Smoak and Valencia are in the mix here, as they are actually two peas from the same pod. If one exists on the roster, than the other is likely kept as a platoon mate, sharing duties with Edwin Encarnacion at first base/designated hitter. However, there are some moving components that could change that.
For lack of a better reason, the Blue Jays have said that Daric Barton will have a chance to beat out Justin Smoak as the left-handed component of that platoon split, which could make Smoak a cast-off. However, it is worth noting that neither one has shown much of anything with the bat thus far this spring, with Barton collecting 1 hit, a pair of walks, and a pair of runs scored in 12 at-bats. Meanwhile, Smoak has collected just a single runs scored and 4 strike-outs in his 13 at-bats this spring.
Likewise, if Dioner Navarro is not traded, he figures into the DH duties, especially if the Blue Jays decide to hold onto three catchers at the beginning of the season. That alleviates the need, and the roster spot, for either Valencia or Smoak, with Smoak likely being the most expendable due to his lack of flexibility in the field.
Next: Steve Tolleson and the bullpen, the sentimental choices