Blue Jays: Who is going to be the 25th man on the Opening Day roster?
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Last but not least, I wanted to include Vladimir Guerrero Jr because it’s not like the Blue Jays have announced that he’ll star the year in Buffalo or anything. It’s just that most of us assume that will be the case.
For those of you who haven’t already read about this a bazillion times, Guerrero is the no-doubt top prospect in baseball right now, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to break camp with the Blue Jays this year. Because of the way things work with a MiLB player’s big league service time, if Vlad Jr. starts the year in Buffalo and plays there for 3-4 weeks the Blue Jays will be able to guarantee that they’ll control his contract for another year. It’s not exactly fair for a player who deserves to be promoted based on their performance, but you can’t blame any team for this type of strategy, even if they won’t outright admit that’s what they’re doing. In Guerrero’s case, he realistically should have been called up last year.
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All that being said, I included him here because it’s possible the Blue Jays decide that they want to break from conventional thinking and give the kid the job on Opening Day. I don’t expect that’ll be the case, but maybe they could take such a decision into early extension talks for the young phenom (don’t scoff, it’ll happen sooner than later if he keeps on like this). Maybe Guerrero performs at such a ridiculous level during Grapefruit League play that there’s no choice but to stick him in the middle of the lineup at the get go.
I could go on, but I won’t bother because I’m willing to bet that there isn’t really a rationale that could convince Atkins to give up that extra year of contract control. It might not make Vlad Jr. or his agent to happy when the end of March rolls around, but after seeing the same thing happen to other prospects like Eloy Jimenez of the White Sox, Fernando Tatis Jr. of the Padres, and even Kris Bryant a few years ago with the Cubs, they can’t get too upset with the Blue Jays for using the rules to their advantage.
If I wanted to turn this article into a novel I could have also written about guys like Eric Sogard, Anthony Alford, Jonathan Davis, or Dwight Smith Jr., but I’m not banking on any of them being a serious threat for the 25th spot on the roster unless there are injuries this spring. I’ve definitely been wrong before though, but I see it coming down to a decision between Pompey, Tellez, and Urena, with Pompey getting the first shot.
That could all change tomorrow with a new free agent signing or a trade, but that’s my guess as things stand on the first day of February.