Assuming everyone starts the season healthy, the Blue Jays’ offence is starting to shape up, it looks like it could come down to a decision between Ezequiel Carrera or Aledmys Diaz for the last roster spot.
For those of us who remember the final days of spring training 2017, you’ll recall that the Blue Jays had to make a decision between Ryan Goins and Melvin Upton for the last spot on the 25 man roster. The Blue Jays ultimately decided to keep Goins and set Upton loose, which proved to be a wise decision in a year that Goins ultimately had to play 143 games to cover for injuries to Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis.
The roster has changed a fair bit this offseason, but a similar situation could be developing where the Blue Jays will have to decide between either an extra infielder, or outfielder. Allow me to explain my thinking.
If the season were to start today, I’m assuming the lineup would look something like this:
1- Devon Travis (2B)
2- Josh Donaldson (3B)
3- Justin Smoak (1B)
4- Kendrys Morales (DH)
5- Randal Grichuk (RF)
7- Troy Tulowitzki (SS)
8- Russell Martin (C)
9- Kevin Pillar (CF)
Bench- Luke Maile (or back-up catcher upgrade)
Bench- Yangveris Solarte
Bench- Pearce (or Granderson)
As things currently stand, I would imagine that the final spot will come down to either Ezequiel Carrera or Aledmys Diaz, and it’s hard to say which way the Blue Jays will lean this time around. They do have the added benefit of Diaz having minor league options, which wasn’t the case with Goins last year. The could lead to the Blue Jays keeping Carrera and protecting as many assets as they can, and there’s a decent argument to be made for taking that approach.
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On the other hand, the Blue Jays are hoping to get healthier and more productive seasons from both Travis and Tulowitzki, and giving them regular rest will go a long way to helping that cause. Solarte is talented enough that John Gibbons will need to get him into the lineup on a regular basis anyway, but would the team be better off having both players available?
To throw another variable into the situation, both Solarte and Diaz have at least some experience in the outfield, and it’s expected the Blue Jays would like to see one or both develop into a “super-utility” type if possible. It’s hard to say how hard they’ll work that angle, but if either or both could handle the outfield corners then Carrera’s spot on the roster becomes further redundant.
While “Zeke” has been a favourite of John Gibbons and many fans, it’s going to be a lot harder to find playing time for him this year, again, assuming the rest of the group is healthy. Grichuk and Pillar figure to handle right and centre field on a regular basis, and both Granderson and Pearce will need semi-regular reps in left. Last year Carrera was able to come on as a defensive replacement or base runner for Pearce and/or Jose Bautista, but the need isn’t as great for 2018.
Further working against Carrera is the fact that the Blue Jays have several big league ready options that’ll likely start the season in Buffalo including Teoscar Hernandez, Dalton Pompey, Anthony Alford, Dwight Smith Jr, and more. If any of the regulars went down with an injury then the depth is there in the minor leagues, especially compared to what the Blue Jays had to work with last year.
For all of these reasons I’m going to predict the Blue Jays ultimately keep Aledmys Diaz on the roster over Carrera, even if he has minor league options available. Perhaps they add another player on the cheap before Opening Day too (there are literally dozens of free agents still looking for a job after all), or trade an outfielder, and maybe it’s neither of them. Either way though, I don’t know that keeping a 5th outfielder who won’t get to play much, makes all that much sense as things are currently constructed.