Blue Jays: Trading an outfielder may be inevitable

TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 10: Ezequiel Carrera
TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 10: Ezequiel Carrera /

Now that the Blue Jays have added Curtis Granderson and Randal Grichuk to the outfield picture, they may have to move one outfielder to make things work.

The Blue Jays’ outfield looked dangerously thin as recently as a little more than a week ago, but a lot has changed since then. The Blue Jays signed Curtis Granderson to a one year deal worth five million on January 15th, and then traded for Randal Grichuk just a few days ago, shoring up the position a great deal compared to what was in house previously.

And speaking of what was in house, the Blue Jays now have a bit of a crowded outfield picture that will likely require some additional moves before Opening Day rolls around. In addition to Granderson and Grichuk, the Blue Jays are also expected to employ Kevin Pillar, Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera, and also have youngsters like Teoscar Hernandez and several more who were expected to challenge for a spot on the 25 man roster. In addition to Hernandez, who impressed in September, the Blue Jays also have names like Anthony Alford, Dalton Pompey, Dwight Smith Jr., and more who may be ready to play at the highest level.

Of course, you can’t carry everybody so the Blue Jays will likely be forced into making a few more decision regarding their outfield depth chart. The first one that’s likely a foregone conclusion now is that Teoscar Hernandez could start the season with Triple A Buffalo, serving as a solid depth piece for the bigger picture. However, even with moving him out the Blue Jays could still be trying to find a way to carry five outfielders between Pillar, Pearce, Granderson, Grichuk, and Carrera.

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I wrote last week about how Ezequiel Carrera may not end up with a roster spot, and that was before Grichuk was acquired. While all three players have different skill sets, Carrera could be deemed redundant, especially if they plan to use Granderson in a platoon in left field with Pearce. At best, “Zeke” is probably the fifth outfielder, and it may be hard to justify carrying him on a team that’s so focused on infield depth to safeguard against injuries for Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis.

As most of us know, guarding against that scenario has also brought Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz to town, who coincidentally both have some limited experience in the outfield. In the event that Tulowitzki and Travis can find a way to stay healthy, don’t be surprised to see the Blue Jays push the two new infielders into playing some corner outfield, and furthering their value as a utility piece to the roster.

If we’re talking about a fully healthy Blue Jays roster (without factoring any other potential additions into the equation, then the bench likely looks someone like this:

  • Back-up catcher: ?
  • Infielder: Solarte
  • Outfielder: Pearce/Granderson
  • Where the decision has to be made*

Last year, the Blue Jays elected to roll with Ryan Goins in their last bench spot, rather than keeping Melvin Upton. It was a little more complicated, as Darwin Barney was the top utility player choice, and Goins was out of minor league options. Still, the situation isn’t all that different, as the Blue Jays ultimately have to decide if they want to carry four infielders, or if having a fifth outfielder makes their bench the strongest it can be.

With all due respect to Carrera, I have a hard time seeing how he fits into the picture with the presence of Granderson and Grichuk, in addition to Pillar and Pearce. When you throw in Solarte and/or Diaz maybe getting a look in the corner outfield too, it seems like the decision is a bit of a no-brainer. That said, a lot can happen before Opening Day.

Carrera was awarded 1.9 million before the two sides were forced to go to arbitration, and if the Blue Jays decide to move him off the roster there’s a couple million more they have to work with. It’s also possible they could look to trade someone like Kevin Pillar, as BP Toronto suggested after the Grichuk move as well. There could be a lot of moving pieces.

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One thing seems to be a near certainty though, at least to me: I don’t see how the Blue Jays can end up carrying five outfielders, and fielding their best 25 man roster. I guess we’ll see if Ross Atkins, Mark Shapiro, and John Gibbons agree, and what they ultimately deem to be best for the franchise going forward.