As the Blue Jays trim their playoff roster to 25 names, there will be some uncomfortable decisions to make. Decisions that the fan base may disagree with, but ones made out of pure necessity. While Munenori Kawasaki clearly hasn’t played his way onto the playoff roster, a handful of variables are lining up to force the Blue Jays hand.
We all know what Kawasaki is. A light-hitting middle infielder and fantastic clubhouse influence, but someone who is much better served as a moveable piece of organizational depth than a member of the 25-man roster. Which is fine, there’s a need for players like that and a relative value.
I struggle with discussions surrounding Kawasaki as a baseball player because too often, people subconsciously fail to take that seriously. Time and again he’s dubbed as the Blue Jays “cheerleader” or “team mascot”, monikers I don’t feel he’d given if Kawasaki was a North American, English-speaking baseball player. From the handling of him in interviews by certain TV networks named after the league they cover to the insufferable car commercials on Toronto radio, he’s become a punch line. I fear I know why, but let’s talk baseball.
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Having Kawasaki on the playoff roster isn’t ideal, but as David Singh of Sportsnet highlights in his piece from this morning, the Blue Jays may not have any other option. In the situation that Troy Tulowitzki is unable to return for postseason, which remains very possible, then Kawasaki would earn a roster spot by default as the only eligible middle-infielder behind Cliff Pennington and Ryan Goins.
Darwin Barney will not be eligible for the 25-man, and with Devon Travis off for exploratory shoulder surgery, Muni is the last dancer without a partner as the Blue Jays scan the room. Even if Tulowitzki can return in time for the playoffs, Toronto may still choose to protect themselves.
Given the in-game tinkering that John Gibbons may choose to do come playoff time, pinch-hitting Chris Colabello or Justin Smoak for someone like Pennington or Goins (vs. a lefty) might become common. Rostering Kawasaki would provide enough depth to leave the Jays covered past that situation, and with a healthy Tulo, this could come down to a battle between Ezequiel Carrera, Dalton Pompey and Kawasaki for two spots. Do the Blue Jays want five outfielders or four middle-infielders?
This isn’t a conversation I’m thrilled to be having either, trust me. It’s a legitimate one, though, and the roster limitations that Toronto faces could potentially push this move from optional to automatic.