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Blue Jays long-man job: Who would you rather?

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The Toronto Blue Jays long relief job remains up in the air, but barring an addition, it should be the team’s most competitive position come Spring Training

The Major League bullpen was once a destination for failed starters with the odd back-end fireballer. Today’s heightened value on the position and increased level of specialization has changed that, but in the long relief role, hope remains for the Todd Redmonds of the world.

Toronto’s back end should remain relatively stable with Roberto Osuna, Brett Cecil and potentially Aaron Sanchez returning to their 2015 roles, while middle relief roles (a la Liam Hendriks) will see some familiar faces pushing for jobs (a la Bo Schultz). It’s the long relief spot, however, that could develop into an old-school tryout.

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That’s a good thing if you’re Toronto. If you can’t have shoo-in talent, have options. So in what I’m expecting to be one of the more quietly interesting battles this March, we first must look to the starting rotation picture.

Sanchez’s starter-or-reliever decision could swing the fate of the number five job, but for the time being, let’s look only at Drew Hutchison and Jesse Chavez. If Chavez earns that fifth job it would be ideal to leave Hutchison stretched out in AAA Buffalo, while if Hutchison wins the job, Chavez could easily slot into the long man’s role. Much like Marco Estrada so briefly did in 2015.

After that battle, several of the competitors come with their own “reason” to stick. Take Chad Jenkins, who’s finally out of options after years of bus trips between Toronto and Buffalo. I’m confident in his ability to chew innings, at the very least, if offered some level of consistency.

Past Jenkins you’re looking at recent minor league signings such as Roberto Hernandez or Brad Pennythough I’m not sure how involved they’ll be. These two veteran’s are unique because they hold an opt-out clause in their contracts, so if they’re left under the impression that they won’t be cracking the Major League roster by the end of Spring Training, will they jump ship for a poorer team with a more attractive opportunity level? Neither jump off the page talent-wise at this point, but much like the out-of-options Jenkins, the fear of losing them could work in their favor.

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Another outside contender will be Joe Biagini, Toronto’s Rule 5 pick from the San Francisco Giants. The ideal scenario with Biagini may be a small transaction with the Giants to keep him with the Blue Jays AAA club, but if that can’t be accomplished, he’ll also be given every opportunity to grab a job.

We also can’t count out names like Scott Copeland or even Scott Diamond. Groan away, you’re allowed to, but raise your hand if you saw Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna cracking last year’s ‘pen out of camp (different arms, I know, but speaking in terms of likelihood). In order for the Copelands and Diamonds of the world to enter the picture, though, Toronto will need to continue building depth at the AA and AAA levels to allow for some flexibility with their starters.

We’d love to hear your voice on this one. “May the best man win” is clearly the answer here, but which competitor will you be hoping for in the long man competition? Feel free to toss out your own candidates, as well.

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