Blue Jays: Moves coming to make 40 man roster work

DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 27: John Axford
DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 27: John Axford /

With non-roster invites like John Axford, Tyler Clippard, and maybe more expected to make the team, there is some 40 man roster juggling to be done.

We’re now just one week away from regular season action getting underway, nearing the end of a long winter without baseball. For the Toronto Blue Jays, it’ll be an opportunity to re-set things from their disappointing 2017 campaign, and try to get back to the team that made back to back playoff appearances in 2015 and 2016.

A few years makes a difference of course, and for the Blue Jays it means there has been some roster turnover since their last postseason games. It’s well documented that guys like Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are long gone, but there are obviously several others playing in different jerseys around the league.

That roster turnover may well continue this week, as the Blue Jays will have to narrow down their final 25, and 40 man rosters in advance of Opening Day. It’s assumed that the bulk of the decisions have been made, but there are still a few competitions happening into the final week, and some decisions have the potential for a trickle down effect.

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The most obvious example will be what happens in the bullpen, with the Blue Jays still deciding between a few players they’ve had under control in recent seasons, as well as some non-roster invites that have impressed in camp. The two that stick out the most are John Axford and Tyler Clippard, who are both expected to make the Opening Day roster at this point. The problem, is that neither of them has a spot on the 40 man roster, so another move will have to be made to fit them on.

The same situation exists for Danny Espinosa, who was signed last week to help shore up the middle infield depth situation, but will also need a spot on the 40 man roster if he’s going to stick around in Toronto.

The first casualty of the 40 man came this week when Matt Dermody was designated for assignment in order to make room for recent acquisition, Sam Gaviglio from the Royals. Gaviglio could very well end up getting designated himself, as there aren’t a lot of players the Blue Jays will be able to put in a similar situation, so his tenure has the potential to be short lived.

Let’s pretend for a minute that the Blue Jays do in fact start the season with Axford, Clippard, and Espinosa on the team, which means they’ll need three roster spots. Here are the candidates I would predict to be on the bubble:

  • Gaviglio- While the Blue Jays would probably like to keep him around as rotation depth now that Thomas Pannone has been suspended, they’ll likely have to pass him through waivers in order to do so.
  • Gift Ngoepe– The versatile infielder would be nice to keep around, but it’s likely an either/or situation between him and Espinosa. They could try to designate him for assignment and hope he clears, which would be my guess on how this goes down.
  • Dwight Smith Jr- I do think Smith has enough talent to eventually earn a big league job, but it’s hard to imagine that happening in Toronto. Beyond those expected to start the season in the big leagues, he’d have to leapfrog Anthony Alford and Teoscar Hernandez in order to get a shot, and there are others who could pass him soon too if they haven’t already.
  • Dalton Pompey– I’m not advocating for this at all, as I’d still like to see what he can do as a healthy man. However, he’s fallen far enough down the outfield depth chart that it’s a real possibility he’s designated to make room for a reliever. It would be a sad ending to his tenure in Toronto, but he could be on the bubble in the coming days.
  • Rowdy Tellez– They’ve spent the energy protecting him to this point, so I’m not sure I see the Blue Jays giving up on him just yet. That said, the value of a slugging first baseman type has plummeted in recent years, and Tellez had a terrible 2017 season.
  • Aaron Loup– This one is unlikely, but if the Blue Jays really like what they see from Tim Mayza, or if they go shopping for another lefty that’s designated this week, Loup makes as much sense as anyone else. I can’t see it happening, but I’d list him here in the list of most likely to be designated.

If you think I’m a little nuts with the names I’ve listed above, have a look at the Blue Jays 40 man roster and tell me who you think they’d be more likely to designate. There are others who could receive consideration, but these are the main ones I could see on the bubble. There is also the possibility that someone like Carlos Ramirez and/or Troy Tulowitzki could get moved to the 60 day disabled list, which would create room in another way.

Of course, a lot can change in the final week, with teams still looking to make some small trades in order to protect as many assets as possible, and I wouldn’t rule out the Blue Jays from being involved in those conversations either.

Next: Do the Jays need a long man for the bullpen?