The Blue Jays designated Ezequiel Carrera for assignment on Monday, which leads some people to believe Teoscar Hernandez will now make the team. I’m guessing we’re still at the “not yet” stage, even with the recent move.
The Blue Jays have continued to tweak their roster in advance of Opening Day, with the latest moves coming in the first two days of this week: Signing Seung-hwan Oh, and designating Ezequiel Carrera for assignment.
While the two moves could have been unrelated, in this case the Blue Jays had to make room for Oh on their 40 man roster, which is why Carrera’s designation happened at this stage of the preseason. While Carrera has been a bit of a fan favourite and a trusted role player for manager John Gibbons, the move makes sense given the other acquisitions this winter.
Those new players include Curtis Granderson, who is slated to platoon in left field with Steve Pearce, and Randal Grichuk, who is expected to be the regular starter in right field. Adding those three names to Kevin Pillar in centre, and you’ve got a full outfield. When you consider that both Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz could cover a corner position in a pinch as well, Carrera became all that more redundant.
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Removing Carrera from the outfield picture also affects the 25 man roster for Opening Day, especially if everyone is healthy in advance of March 29th. I’ve written about how the battle for the final spot would likely come down to Carrera and Diaz, with the Blue Jays having to make a similar situation to last year’s between Ryan Goins and Melvin Upton for the final spot. I had a feeling the extra infielder would win out again, and now that Carrera is gone it’s all but inevitable.
However, the main source of excitement I saw from Blue Jays fans about the move was that many felt it would mean that Teoscar Hernandez will now make the team to start the regular season. While that’s entirely possible, I would fully expect him to start the year in Buffalo, just as things were before the recent roster tweaks.
It’s not because I don’t think he’s ready for the next step, but instead there are two factors that should take him to Buffalo to start the year.
First and foremost, this is a player that needs regular playing time, and short of an injury to one of the four main veteran outfielders there is no path for that for Hernandez as things currently stand. As mentioned above, Pillar will hold down centre field, Grichuk will be in right, and Granderson and Pearce will handle LF. You could argue that the Blue Jays should look to move another outfielder if you like, but that’s not likely to happen before Opening Day.
Right now you might be thinking, “Sure, but Troy Tulowitzki may not be healthy to start the year. Who gets his roster spot?”. And that’s a valid question to be sure, but I don’t think that affects Hernandez either. One of Diaz or Solarte would move into a starter’s role, which would open a spot on the bench. However, that doesn’t fix the lack of playing for Hernandez at the highest level, nor does it solidify the middle infield, which may need the depth if someone like Tulo or Devon Travis needed some time at the beginning of the campaign.
Secondly, the Blue Jays will have a need for the extra infielder even if everyone is healthy, just as they did last year. Right now I would expect the bench to be look like this, assuming everyone is ready to go to start the year, and that they work with a four man bench, instead of three:
- Luke Maile / back-up catcher
- Steve Pearce / Granderson (whoever isn’t starting that day)
Diaz has some minor league options remaining so sending him to Buffalo is a possibility as well, especially if the Blue Jays want to prioritize playing time for the 27 year old former Cardinal. That said, his fit as a bench/part-time player makes a lot more sense than it does for Hernandez, given the MLB experience he’s already accrued, and simply because of the need to protect Tulowitzki and Travis with proper depth.
I do think that Teoscar Hernandez will factor into the Blue Jays’ equation this season, one way or another. Whether it takes an injury, underperformance from a veteran, or a mid-season trade, don’t expect it to take that long for Hernandez to find his way to Toronto. Just don’t expect it to be on Opening Day, with or without Ezequiel Carrera on the roster.