Exploring the Blue Jays options with two openings on 40-man roster
The Toronto Blue Jays’ 40-man roster currently has two vacancies, leaving the organization with options
Major League 40-man rosters typically make headlines for one of two reasons. Either it’s the week leading up to roster cut-down day, or an in-season acquisition pushes a current player off the 40-man as they’re designated for assignment. Otherwise, the 40-man is a second thought behind the 25-man active roster.
The Blue Jays still maintain two openings on their 40-man, however, and this leaves them with some options.
Open 40-man spots during the course of a season aren’t unheard of, though once an organization reaches the full 40, it typically stays filled for the remainder of the year. Looking around the American League East, Boston, New York, Tampa Bay, and Baltimore all list full 40-man rosters.
40-man roster strategy:
It’s important to recognize the talent that Toronto possesses not just at the major league level, but throughout their upper-minors. In years past, the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster often featured five or more players that the team could afford to lose without any noteworthy impact to the organization, but that’s changed.
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As it stands, pitchers Blake McFarland and Brady Dragmire, both of whom were protected ahead of the Rule 5 Draft, likely represent the 37th and 38th names on the 40-man.
Toronto does not fill these two vacancies just for the sake of filling them because, if another option is to come along the following week, it could force them to expose a rostered player they otherwise may not have. Instead, one could choose to see the openings as a comfortable advantage at this point
The likeliest candidate from the outside would be a waiver-wire bullpen arm, of which there are many throughout the course of a season. As teams begin to pull the parachute on struggling players one month in and churn the bottom of their rosters, names will become available, and with two spots to work with, Toronto can begin a talent-hunting churn of their own.
Positional waiver claims remain possible, as well, especially as injuries inevitably pile up throughout the coming month. Perhaps a veteran free agent becomes available through a release or, like Canadian first baseman Justin Morneau, a mid-season recovery to health and availability.
Internal candidates by position:
Catcher: Neither A.J. Jimenez or Tony Sanchez are on the 40-man roster, and that’s critical. Should Russell Martin go down with injury or the club choose to replace Josh Thole (more on that here), a spot on the 40-man roster would be required. Expect that to be Jimenez, if needed. On Wednesday, triple-A Buffalo Bisons manager Gary Allenson indicated that he would be earning the majority of the playing time over Sanchez going forward.
First base: Neither Jesus Montero or Casey Kotchman are on the 40-man roster, leaving both as candidates to be added at some point throughout the season. Even if Justin Smoak and Edwin Encarnacion remain healthy, the bench-bat element of Chris Colabello was valuable.
Infield: Andy Burns, who I spoke with earlier in the week, would require a spot on the Blue Jays’ 40-man as well. He’s a likely candidate for a promotion, too, given his ability to stay above water at the plate across all minor league levels and his incredible defensive versatility.
Next: Putting Thole in perspective with other MLB backups
Outfield: Dalton Pompey and Darrell Ceciliani both hold spots on the 40-man, but both are battling injuries. Should someone like Domonic Brown or Junior Lake be needed, again, a spot would be necessary. Don’t forget about Michael Bourn, either. In fact, one of the two openings could be waiting just for him.
Pitching: Should Toronto search for a spot starter beyond Drew Hutchison, the next names in line from the triple-A level (likely Roberto Hernandez, Wade LeBlanc, or Arnold Leon) all require a spot on the 40-man. The Blue Jays do have some 40-man flexibility in the bullpen, however, with Franklin Morales, Aaron Loup, Ben Rowen, Pat Venditte, Chad Girodo, Ryan Tepera, and Bo Schultz all owning a spot.