Major League Baseball is considering adding one regular season roster spot, Ken Rosenthal reported on Thursday.
According to the report, a 26-man roster is under serious consideration in the ongoing collective-bargaining negotiations. In exchange, September roster expansions would shrink from the full 40-man roster down to likely 28.
Such a change would clearly have an impact on the Blue Jays’ off-season roster construction and how manager John Gibbons manages his games. Here are a handful of areas it could impact most:
For fans of baseball games that finish in under three hours, a 26th roster spot isn’t the best news. Many teams would use this spot for an additional bullpen arm, often a situational specialist, and pitching changes would likely increase league-wide.
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In the context of Toronto, this would be good news for left-handers Aaron Loup and Chad Girodo. Neither will be a No. 1 lefty option in the bullpen this season, but if an eighth spot becomes available, Gibbons could use them purely in their niche and keep them away from right-handed bats.
This change could also save a player like Ryan Tepera from the constant back-and-forth between Toronto and triple-A Buffalo. Of course, the same will happen with reliever No. 8, but even among right-handers, Bo Schultz, Danny Barnes, and Chris Smith would see more opportunities.
Toronto could also choose to maximize their positional roster by keeping five outfielders throughout the season. Holding on to Dalton Pompey as a primary pinch-runner with rare at-bats isn’t necessarily ideal, but with a lineup featuring Kendrys Morales, the Blue Jays will need some late-inning legs on the bases.
This would also allow the Blue Jays to sub in outfielders as late-inning defensive upgrades more often, if necessary.
This role should be going to first-baseman Justin Smoak, but the switch-hitter is currently slotted in for regular at-bats unless another addition is made at the position.
If a team were to roll with five bench spots, however, there is a spot for a boom-or-bust slugger that’s called upon when a big swing is needed. The same can be said for hitters with extreme platoon splits, as those players are still difficult to roster under the 25-man format.
One more to consider
If all of this were to come to fruition, one beneficiary to watch very closely would be right-hander Joe Biagini. The breakout bullpen asset of 2016 is expected to be stretched out as a starter in spring training — at least for a look — but he could make that transition more smoothly if the bullpen had one extra spot.
A full-time transition back to starting would likely push Biagini to triple-A Buffalo to open the season as Toronto’s MLB rotation is fully intact. The Blue Jays’ bullpen is currently very thin behind Roberto Osuna and Jason Grilli, though, so keeping Biagini on board while still stretching him out as a long reliever has appeal.
As the season develops, Biagini could also push his transition by making spot starts, a strategy that Gibbons and the Blue Jays have used in each of the past two seasons with success.