The MLB off-season is in an unstable place. Without a new CBA agreed upon, teams are being forced to make very certain decisions in a very uncertain market, or wait it out and risk losing out on their top targets.
A new agreement – if one is soon reached – will move many things. A luxury tax will be established and the fate of compensatory draft picks will be known, but a smaller detail could have a more immediate impact on the Toronto Blue Jays’ off-season.
“Rosters are expected to be increased from 25 to 26, in exchange for dramatically limiting call-ups in September,” reported Bob Nightengale on Tuesday.
This means different things for different teams. For a top-five payroll it likely means more spending to round out a roster, and for a bottom-10 payroll it could mean another high-upside value play. In the context of the Blue Jays – a team with money to spend but not an unlimited amount – it could allow them to address their outfield in a big (and small) way.
A 25-man roster presents little flexibility for a team with a full-time DH. Kendrys Morales, despite the optimism expressed by general manager Ross Atkins to the contrast, should be kept off the field unless absolutely necessary. With he and Justin Smoak at the 1B/DH position, plus the possibility of another bat cycling through that rotation (perhaps a platoon with Smoak), there isn’t much room to platoon or specialize elsewhere.
At 26, however, that changes.
In that scenario, the Blue Jays have the option to aim big in one corner – perhaps with Dexter Fowler, who was linked to Toronto by Jon Heyman yesterday – and patch together two lesser pieces in a platoon at the other corner.
It’s not impossible for Jay Bruce to fit into the “other” corner, either. Assuming the Mets were to eat some of his salary, Bruce and Melvin Upton Jr. could pair together. Having Bruce’s glove in the field isn’t ideal, but it’s not inconceivable.
That extra roster spot afford the Blue Jays just enough added flexibility to stomach a roster makeup like this that wouldn’t be as easy otherwise. They could then still hold someone like Ezequiel Carrera or Dalton Pompey as a fifth outfielder (and designated Morales pinch-runner), but that’s a less consequential decision for further down the road.