Blue Jays: Why they designated Nori Aoki for assignment

TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 27: Norichika Aoki
TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 27: Norichika Aoki /

The Blue Jays made a somewhat unexpected move on Monday, designating Nori Aoki for assignment.

The Blue Jays will have some decisions to make in the next few days, and they got a jump start on making moves by designating Nori Aoki for assignment on Monday. Despite the fact that Aoki has played quite well for the Blue Jays, the move makes some sense when you break down the rationale.

First of all, we’re just four days away from the rosters being eligible for expansion, and the Blue Jays are expected to bring up at least one or two outfielders to join the roster. Names like Teoscar Hernandez, Anthony Alford, and Dwight Smith Jr. are expected to get a look, but we won’t know for sure until the announcement comes on the weekend.

With the Blue Jays having fallen out of the Wild Card race in the last couple weeks, chances are the opportunities were going to be limited for Aoki in September, and the move will allow him to try to find another team that has a greater need for him. In addition to playing time, Aoki will also have a chance to seek out a contender as well and potentially join a playoff race, which would be more fun that languishing on the bench in Toronto.

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Aoki joined the team via the Francisco Liriano trade, which is also how the Blue Jays acquired Hernandez. Aoki is still a decent player, but the Astros had a lot of young and talented outfield depth, and his services just weren’t necessary on their roster. He could still be useful for the Blue Jays this year for sure, but with them being out of the race it makes more sense to take a look at some youngsters with an eye on the future.

And speaking of those youngsters, there are several that will need to be added to the roster, both for September and during the offseason. As pointed out by Shi Davidi of Sportsnet on Monday, the list of minor leaguers that need to join the 40 man roster includes: Rowdy TellezCarlos Ramirez, Conner Greene, Francisco Rios, Jordan Romano, Max Pentecost, Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire. If anyone from that list isn’t added during the offseason, the Blue Jays risk losing them via the Rule 5 draft, just as they acquired Joe Biagini from the Giants a couple years ago.

After cutting Aoki loose, the Blue Jays are currently carrying 38 players on their 40 man roster, and Brett Anderson will be added if he starts Tuesday’s game, as is expected to be the case. They will lose a few more from the roster at the conclusion of the season, including Jose Bautista, Marco Estrada, and potentially several others. It’s also possible that the front office uses some of the minor leaguers as trade bait, and/or is forced to expose them to the draft, but the early move creates some added flexibility.

Davidi also correctly points out that the Blue Jays will have other moves to consider this offseason, as they’ll need to add the injured players like Troy Tulowitzki, Devon Travis, and more back to their 40 man roster as well. While the bulk of their team should be back for next year, it also reveals just how many players have gone through the big league roster, and how you can’t keep everyone.

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So while it may have felt a little strange to cut Aoki loose on Monday, it certainly makes sense for a number of reasons. There is an element of class in that they’ll allow Aoki to pursue a “better” opportunity for himself, and will also give them a head start on their offseason decisions, giving the front office extra opportunities to evaluate the youngsters.