If there ever comes a time when the Blue Jays roster is completely healthy, it could be a bit of a “problem” finding playing time for everyone.
The Blue Jays may have a growing problem on their hands as the season progresses, but it’s the right kind of problem to have. Despite dropping three out of four to the New York Yankees over the weekend, the Blue Jays have started the season 13-8 and have won of the better records in the American League.
The successful start has been a pleasant surprise for the Blue Jays, especially because they’ve done a lot of their damage without their best hitter, the 2015 AL MVP, Josh Donaldson. They’ve also watched some of their regulars struggling mightily, as Randal Grichuk (.086), Devon Travis (.159), and Russell Martin (.140) all entered Sunday’s game hitting below the Mendoza line.
On the other hand, the Blue Jays have enjoyed a great deal of depth throughout their 25 and 40 man rosters. With both Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki on the disabled list, John Gibbons has had the luxury of plugging Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz into the lineup with regularity and both have performed well. They’ve also enjoyed a nice performance in the early going from Lourdes Gurriel, who looks like he’s capable of sticking as a utility player at the highest level, and maybe more.
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There’s also a glut in the outfield, with Kevin Pillar, Steve Pearce, and Curtis Granderson all playing well since the start of the year. Grichuk has struggled mightily and has spent more time on the bench, especially since the promotion of Teoscar Hernandez, who has been the team’s hottest hitter lately. Hernandez was called up when Kendrys Morales hit the disabled list last week, and has played himself into a position where the Blue Jays have to find a way to keep him in the lineup.
If you’ve been counting how many players I’ve written so far, you’ll notice I’ve mentioned 11 names, and that doesn’t include first baseman, Justin Smoak. That brings the Blue Jays to at least a dozen players that could arguably deserve regular playing time, and that’s not including other talented minor leaguers like Anthony Alford, or others with big league experience like Dwight Smith, Dalton Pompey and more.
It’s a great problem to have for the Blue Jays, and only time will tell if everyone will be healthy at once and really force some hard decisions. Let’s break down the variables by a few different categories, just to see how complicated it could get for the Blue Jays.
If there ever comes a day when both Devon Travis, Troy Tulowitzki, and Josh Donaldson are all healthy, the Blue Jays would likely start the trio the majority of the time. Travis has been playing two out of every three games this year, and that trend could continue throughout the year in an effort to keep Solarte and Diaz in the lineup, and Gibbons would likely do something similar with Tulo if he returns.
That would be enough for maybe one of the two, and at this point Solarte has been consistently hitting in the middle of the lineup, so it’s hard to picture him getting relegated to the bench. Although he can play there in a pinch, he’s not really a shortstop either, so the Blue Jays will have to find him some at bats between second and third. Diaz has dropped off a bit since his hot start, but he’ll have plenty of time to establish himself before Tulowitzki might ever get healthy, so he could complicate things further. That’s not even mentioning the rest of the talent in the system like Lourdes Gurriel, or other youngsters performing well in Double-A and Triple-A.
As I mentioned above, the struggles of Randal Grichuk combined with the hot hitting of Teoscar Hernandez are what really complicates this picture. The Jays intended to have Pillar in centre, Grichuk in right, and a platoon of Steve Pearce and Curtis Granderson in left, but that doesn’t leave anywhere for Hernandez.
The simple solution would be to replace him with Grichuk in right field, but the former St. Louis Cardinal is out of minor league options, meaning the Blue Jays would have to expose him to waivers. Despite the fact that he’s hitting just .086, he has a long enough history of success, is young enough, and is cheap enough (2.6 million this year), that I find it hard to believe he’d make it through. I know he’s struggled in epic fashion this year, but is it worth giving up on him after just 58 at bats?
Hernandez has been the best hitter of the bunch, but as the only one with minor league options remaining, the possibility exists that he could find himself in Buffalo again this year, especially if he cools off. It’s hard to imagine him keeping up the pace he’s been on lately, but with a plus glove in the outfield and decent speed on the bases to go with his power, he’s gotta stay in the lineup as long as he’s playing well.
The Blue Jays had a little more room for all their bats when Kendrys Morales was on the DL, but the Cuban switch hitter is now healthy and active. It’s been suggested on social media about a thousand times that the Blue Jays should just move on from Morales and give others at bats at DH, but with 22 million and two years remaining on his contract when the season began, that’s an expensive contract to simply drop. Add in the fact that Morales could potentially provide value to the Jays this year, and I can’t see him going anywhere, at least during the season.
That said, I could see him spending a lot more time on the bench than he’s used to once everyone is healthy. As things stand right now the Blue Jays were okay with having Granderson and Pearce share at bats at DH, and when Donaldson returns he could line up there on occasion as well, which would give Solarte a position.
I could go on, but by now I’m sure you’re getting a pretty good idea of the variables at play, if you weren’t already working it out in your head before. Of course, this entire discussion could be moot unless everyone actually does get healthy at the same time, and it wouldn’t be a terrible problem to have regardless.
Funny how things in the depth department have changed so dramatically in just one year’s time. It’s definitely a good “problem” to have.