Blue Jays: Sorting out the 40 man roster to include NRI’s

OAKLAND, AZ - JUNE 03: Relief pitcher John Axford
OAKLAND, AZ - JUNE 03: Relief pitcher John Axford /

 For the first time in a quite a few springs, the Toronto Blue Jays don’t have any position players on MiLB deals with invites to Spring Training, or more commonly referred to as non-roster invitees (NRI’s). They do, however, have quite a few intriguing NRI’s battling it out for bullpen spots, as our own, Chris Henderson has discussed in his recent article. But to get one or two of these guys on the roster, some shuffling of the 40 man will need to get done.

I would find it very hard to believe that none of the bullpen arms in camp crack the Opening Day bullpen. We’ve seen strong springs thus far from John Axford, who’s been hitting 97-98 MPH on his fastball, and displaying much better control than what had plagued him with the Oakland Athletics just a season ago. As things currently stand, Axford would be the most likely to crack the bullpen.

There are other intriguing arms in camp as NRI’s and those include Al Alburquerque, Craig Breslow, and the newly signed Tyler Clippard. Jake Petricka was also signed to a minor league deal to be an NRI, but is not in big league camp as he continues to rehab his nerve transposition in October. All four of the arms in as NRI’s are intriguing and have experienced sustained levels of success at the majors.

As many of you probably know, if the Blue Jays are to bring one of these arms north to crack the Opening Day roster, they will need to be added to the 40 man roster. The 40 man roster is currently full after the DFA’ing of Ezequiel Carrera following the signing of Seung-hwan Oh, who still can’t pitch in an spring game due to visa issues. Regardless, should one of these intriguing bullpen arms impress enough to make the team, some 40 man shuffling will need to occur.

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  • Scenario 1 – One NRI brought North for Opening Day

The 1st scenario to open up a spot on the 40 man roster would be to DFA someone off the current 40 man. There is a ton of talent on the 40 man roster as currently constructed, but there are a few who may be able to be kept within the organization.

Names who one could consider on the fringe of the 40 man roster would be Matt Dermody and Taylor Guerrieri. Beyond that, you’re looking at guys who would certainly draw interest from other teams in Tim Mayza, and Carlos Ramirez. They wouldn’t be DFA candidates.

Should a guy like John Axford impress enough to be kept around I would bet on Matt Dermody being jettisoned off of the 40 man. Dermody does have potential to be a reliable arm in the Blue Jays bullpen at some point in 2018, but he’d be the likeliest to get through unclaimed. Taylor Guerrieri is definitely safer than Dermody, but would likely be next in line. But that is where we can get creative to open up a second spot.

  • Scenario 2 – Two NRI brought North for Opening Day

If two NRI’s are brought north, the situation may become a bit trickier depending on a few factors. Taylor Guerrieri could be DFA’d alongside Matt Dermody to clear up two roster spots. Guerrieri is likely the third option in Buffalo behind Joe Biagini (if he starts in AAA) and Ryan Borucki to be called up to start, which is enough value to be careful about losing him.

The one situation that I think will happen is that Troy Tulowitzki would be placed on the 60 day disabled list to start the season. Tulo can’t even run yet and it’s midway through the spring. I would be surprised if we see him in Toronto before June, meaning they could be extra cautious and place Tulowitzki on the 60 day DL. That scenario frees up a spot on the 40 man roster. That combined with a DFA would allow for two bullpen arms to be added should two veterans impress them enough.

Of course, there are many different ways this will all play out. Perhaps Tulowitzki will open on the 60 day, which would mean they wouldn’t even need to remove Dermody to bring Axford to Toronto. The likeliest arm after Axford to be able to crack the 40 man as of now would likely be Craig Breslow as a lefty.

Tyler Clippard would be my top choice following John Axford, and Clippard will actually throw tomorrow. However, with the late start to his spring he may be willing to accept an assignment to serve as depth in Buffalo. Should Clippard or Breslow impress enough during the time remaining, the likeliest scenario for the the 40 man roster shuffling is what I’ve presented above. It will be very interesting to see how this all plays out.

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