While every team wants to field their best possible lineup on Opening Day, once in awhile there is a silver lining with minor injuries. For the Blue Jays, if Devon Travis isn’t available for the first game, it may have a small benefit for the roster.
Devon Travis still hasn’t made an appearance in a Spring game this year, despite “chomping at the bit” as Sportsnet wrote on Thursday. He’s still not completely healed from the injury to his right knee, sustained late last season, which is what’s keeping him out of game action thus far.
The bruise was significant enough to keep him out of several playoff games at the end of the ALCS, which was a significant loss for the Jays in a hard fought series with Cleveland.
While I would never wish injury on anyone, especially someone as talented and likeable as Devon Travis, there could be a small benefit if he’s not quite ready on Opening Day. Of course, that will be his and trainer’s goal this Spring, but I’m personally okay with it if he misses the first week or two of the season.
If Travis can’t suit up for Game #1, that means someone else will have to man second base, likely Steve Pearce or Darwin Barney. What it also means, is the Jays will have an open roster spot, which gives the front office some arguably needed flexibility. If that choice were up to me, that spot would go to Ryan Goins.
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I would argue that there’s a lot of value in protecting Goins’ place in the organization. He’s out of minor league options, which means if he doesn’t make the big league roster, he’d have to pass through waivers in order to return to Buffalo. While he struggled with the bat last season, there’s no arguing with the value he brings on the defensive side of the ball. He’s among the best in baseball with the mitt.
The problem for the Blue Jays is they simply may not have room for him on the 25 man roster. Assuming nothing drastic changes, it’s hard to imagine the Jays carrying more than one infielder on the bench. With the presence of the Smoak/Pearce tandem at first, Melvin Upton, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, there’s only room for one, which is almost certainly going to be Darwin Barney’s role, as he outplayed expectations in 2016 and played very well.
If Travis can’t make it to the field in time for Game 1, it allows the Blue Jays to carry Goins into the season. Yes, it’s true he would get sent down when Travis returns, and would be exposed to waivers when he was, but later is better when trying to slip a player through that process.
Many GM’s are scouring the waiver wire at this time of year, looking for last minute improvements, or covering for Spring injuries. A player with Goins’ versatility and upside on defence, would likely get a chance elsewhere, in a utility role if nothing else. He can play anywhere on the infield, tried his hand in the outfield corners last year, and even pitched a scoreless inning.
He struggled with the bat, but his 2015 slash line of .250/.318/.354 would be more than acceptable for someone with his defensive capabilities. It’s also possible that there is a hitting coach out there watching his tapes and thinking, “I can fix him!”.
The point is, we’re likely to lose the likeable, long-time Blue Jays if he’s exposed to waivers, and not doing so on Opening day may give them a better chance of sneaking him through later. He may not be a star player, or even a former regular starter, but he still possesses valuable tools that come in handy from time to time. Shortstop depth doesn’t grow on trees.
So while I hope Devon Travis is healthy for all 162 games this year, I hope he doesn’t rush back before his knee is completely healthy. If he needs time off due to coming back to soon, the Blue Jays may not have Goins waiting in Buffalo, ready to step in when needed, as they have before.