The Toronto Blue Jays have a trio of decisions looming with Aaron Loup, Darwin Barney, and Ezequiel Carrera. December 2nd is the deadline for teams to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible, and while Marcus Stroman’s projected $3.5 million salary is a no-brainer, the other three are not complete locks.
Major League Baseball’s CBA negotiations play a role in this, too. If the incoming CBA includes rosters expanded to 26 players, as has been reported as a legitimate possibility, then the likelihood of these three being tendered contracts increases significantly.
Loup benefits from addressing one of the Blue Jays’ biggest roster needs as a left-handed reliever, so his projected salary of $1.2 million shouldn’t be difficult for the front office to digest.
Behind Loup, Chad Girodo and Matt Dermody are the only left-handed relievers with any level of MLB experience, and both of them debuted in 2016. Girodo has potential as a left-on-left specialist with a nice ground ball tendency, but the current depth around him and through the upper-minors is not suitable.
Brett Cecil’s free agent contract boosted the market for lefties, so other mid-range options like Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan could quickly be priced out of the Jays’ comfort zone. While Loup’s 2016 performance would make a league minimum contract more sensible, the need is very likely to outweigh the dollars here.
Ezequiel Carrera is also projected at $1.2 million, but does come from a position with slightly more depth than Loup. The Blue Jays are still in need of starting outfielders, of course, but with Melvin Upton and Dalton Pompey already in-house for 2017, there could be some level of overlap. Of course, the Blue Jays could always choose the glass-half-full viewpoint and see that as an advantage. Carrera has appeared in 201 games over the past two seasons and did look better in the field last year (0.7 fWAR).
Barney’s situation may be more interesting as the MLBTR projection of $1.6 million could be low. The 31-year-old produced a 1.5 fWAR in 2016 and was a key depth piece, but the Blue Jays aren’t without options. Ryan Goins remains in the organization and Devon Travis is expected to be fully recovered from his knee procedure in time for spring training. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. could make an impact around the infield by mid-season and minor-league utility-man Andy Burns holds some depth value of his own.
These numbers are small change in the bigger picture of Toronto’s payroll, but with several “small” needs on the roster, the money can easily be reallocated if the Blue Jays so choose. Further bullpen depth is still needed while backup catcher and first base could afford reinforcement.
All three could bring value to a spot on the 25-man roster next season, but a 26th spot wouldn’t hurt.