With 1B/DH/OF, Chris Colabello set to return from suspension next month, the Blue Jays will have some important decisions to make in the near future.
It seems like an awfully long time ago that Chris Colabello was in the lineup for the Blue Jays, as he’s been serving his suspension for 80 games under baseball’s PED prevention rules. The punishment was announced on Apr. 22nd and Colabello is eligible to return on July 23rd, shortly after the All-Star break.
The Blue Jays were 8-9 on the season and Colabello himself was mired in an early season slump. When the announcement was made, it suddenly made more sense why the 32-year-old couldn’t even keep his batting average above .100. Colabello was hitting .069, with only 2 hits in 32 plate appearances. What seemed like a nightmare start to the season for native of Massachusetts, quickly became much, much worse.
While it won’t be an easy return, Colabello is eligible to come back in just over a month, which no doubt will have the Blue Jays brass considering all of their options. The suspension certainly complicates things significantly, but there are many other factors to consider when it comes to how, or if, he’s re-inserted into the lineup.
Because it’s still over five weeks until he can return, the situation could obviously change significantly between now and then. The Jays are currently employing a 3-man bench and an 8-man bullpen, which will likely change sooner than later.
At the beginning of the season, Colabello was slated to be the starter for the majority of the time at first base, sharing the position with Justin Smoak. Colabello grabbed the job throughout the playoffs last season, and likely had the opportunity to take on a similar role for 2016..
Fast forward to present day, Smoak has been one of the most consistent performers for the Jays this season, on both sides of the ball. He certainly doesn’t deserve to lose his position in the lineup, and the DH position is occupied by some guy named Edwin Encarnacion. He isn’t going anywhere either, so Colabello would be pushed to the bench and occasional starts against lefties, where he could be valuable.
However, the Jays have Josh Thole, Darwin Barney (assuming Troy Tulowitzki is healthy then), Ezequiel Carrera and Ryan Goins on the bench. Again, the injury bug could play a significant role in where he lands on the team, but the Jays may be reluctant to send anyone down in favour of Colabello. If they are going to send someone down, with Goins as the most likely, it would be in order to solidify the bench for the late season/playoff run.
Which brings us to our next issue….
Colabello is ineligible to play in the playoffs
With the 80-game suspension levied on Colabello, also comes the bonus punishment that he is unable to participate in the 2016 playoffs, should the Blue Jays qualify for the postseason. He can play throughout the season until the playoffs begin, but he cannot be a part of any playoff roster, for any round.
Would the Blue Jays send down somebody like Goins for someone they can’t have on their roster for the post season anyway? Yes, they have to get there, but there’s something about solidifying a roster before the pennant race heats up that seems crucial. The Blue Jays rode great vibes, team chemistry and inspired play late last season and one has to wonder if Colabello enhances any of those things on the roster at this stage of the season.
40 Man Roster
Colabello was removed from the 40 man roster when his suspension was announced, and the Blue Jays currently have a full 40 man.
Again, a lot can change before July 23rd, but if he were to return from suspension today, the Blue Jays would have to remove someone from their current 40 man roster in order for Colabello to be eligible to return.
There are a few names the Jays may consider moving, but they also have to weigh how important it is to protect their assets against whether they believe Colabello would be picked up by another team, given all of the circumstances surrounding his return.
He seems like the type of late-inning bat they could use off the bench, but the Jays will be forced to decide if they feel that contribution is worth potentially losing another asset. That’s also without considering his early season struggles, and whether he would actually be an improvement on what they have in their system.
Lastly, how do the Blue Jays feel about bringing someone back to the clubhouse, who could potentially bring a lot of baggage with him. Based on his reputation, it’s hard to imagine Colabello being anything but a consummate professional. However, he’s going to be faced with a lot of criticism from fans, media, opponents, and more.
The Blue Jays have a very tight knit group in their clubhouse, and while there was a lot of support for Colabello at the time his suspension was announced, there could be mixed feelings depending on the circumstances of his return. If say, Ryan Goins was the one to lose his roster spot in favour of Colabello, that may not sit well with everyone who has spent two thirds of a season around the hard working infielder.
The Blue Jays were the ones to give Melky Cabrera another chance after he was suspended as a member of the San Francisco Giants for PED use. That was the old regime though, and it’ll be interesting to see how this is handled by Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins.
It’ll be an important precedent for the new leadership of the Jays, but with many factors to consider, it won’t be an easy decision for the Blue Jays brass. While everyone loved Colabello last season and his contributions were extremely important, baseball is a business. The most important thing now is, “what have you done for me lately?”, which in the case of Colabello, is not a whole lot.
The decision is more than a month away, but sooner or later we’ll see Chris Colabello back on a baseball field. Where and when, remain to be seen.