Blue Jays: What’s still missing from the roster?

TORONTO, ON - MAY 29: Troy Tulowitzki
TORONTO, ON - MAY 29: Troy Tulowitzki /

After a busy offseason for Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro, what’s still missing from the 25 man roster to make this team a playoff contender?

It’s been a busy offseason for the Blue Jays, and according to Ross Atkins’ comments yesterday they might not be done shopping yet either. In a winter that’s brought the likes of Yangervis Solarte, Aledmys Diaz, Randal Grichuk, Jaime Garcia, Curtis Granderson and more, Atkins mentioned that they’re still looking to upgrade the bullpen, which should be music to the ears of Blue Jays fans.

The bullpen could use another arm, and I looked at that situation yesterday to explore where things currently stand with the group. Depending on what they decide to do with Joe Biagini as a starter or reliever, the sense of urgency from the right side may not be that great. I’m willing to bet they can put together a solid group of five or six right handers from the stable of Roberto Osuna, Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes, Carlos Ramirez, John Axford, Al Alburquerque and more.

However, that brings me to the point of this piece, which is taking a look at what’s missing on the Opening Day roster. When you add the group of lefties that includes Aaron Loup, Craig Breslow, Tim Mayza, and Matt Dermody, there’s a good chance that the group can be serviceable. However, I still feel there are two roles that are missing, even if there’s enough talent collectively.

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First and foremost, I’ll again highlight the need for a lights out “loogy” as I did yesterday, with all due respect to the existing group. As things stand that role would default to Aaron Loup I suppose, and it’s not terribly comforting to think about his .280/.356/.366 line against lefties last year, especially if it’s his role to take down division rivals like Chris Davis, Didi Gregorius, Greg Bird, Andrew Benintendi, and more.

Secondly, I’m a little concerned about the lack of an innings eater in the bullpen, unless of course Biagini is moved there to start the season. If you are going with the above mentioned group then the job doesn’t really have an ideal candidate. A long man is usually one of the “easier” roles to fill, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Atkins is scouring the candidates that might get left off rival teams. There will be plenty of that going on in the coming weeks as other teams round out their rosters.

The third point would be the back-up catching position, which looks to be Luke Maile‘s job to lose at this point. Last season was very difficult for back-up catchers in Toronto, especially as Russell Martin struggled to stay healthy. The job was never really filled as the Blue Jays tried Maile, Raffy Lopez, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Miguel Montero, and Mike Ohlman, all to varying degrees of disappointment. The difference between Maile and the others is that he brings plus defence, and now that his knee is fully healthy the hope is that he can hit a little more than he did last year. He won’t need to bring much offence to earn his job, and hopefully Martin will be healthier anyway.

Lastly, I’m curious to see who hits in the lead off spot for this team on days when Devon Travis isn’t in the lineup. I think most of us can agree that he makes the most sense if everyone is healthy, but after an injury riddled start to his career that’s not something you can count on. Granderson has some experience at the top of the order, but his .212 batting average doesn’t scream “lead off guy”, even if his OBP of .336 against RHP looks alright.

Beyond that the job could fall on someone like Yangervis Solarte (.314 OBP), or maybe even Kevin Pillar (.300 OBP). I’m well aware of how uninspiring those numbers look, but those are the leading contenders unless John Gibbons decides to put Josh Donaldson or Justin Smoak at the top of the lineup, which wouldn’t be ideal either. I believe the job will eventually go to Anthony Alford, but he appears destined to start the year in Triple A Buffalo. I also believe the lineup will be improved over last season, but the lack of a leadoff hitter as a theme carries over into the third straight season, at least if/when Travis needs time off.

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While I’ll admit that I’m a big fan of what Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro accomplished this offseason, it just goes to show that the job of roster tweaking is never done. Fortunately there is plenty of time until Opening Day to look at some additional moves, and it’s a long 162 game season to determine if upgrades are needed before the trade deadline.