Blue Jays: Making sense of Anthony Alford’s Opening Day

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 25: Anthony Alford /

At first Anthony Alford thought he was starting the season with the Blue Jays in the big leagues, and the decision wasn’t reversed until after he got to Toronto. What happened?

The Blue Jays opened their 2019 season with an extra-innings loss to the Detroit Tigers, unfortunately spoiling a pretty fantastic performance from Marcus Stroman, and some quality bullpen work from Joe Biagini and Ken Giles.

Several new Blue Jays were in the dugout and in the lineup for game one of a new season, but one name was curiously absent, especially because of the reports we heard the night before. I’m not talking about Kendrys Morales either, who was traded to Oakland on the eve of the season’s first game. It was Anthony Alford, who at one time believed he was starting the year with the Blue Jays enough to openly discuss it on his social media channels.

Somewhere along the way something changed, or at least the Blue Jays made a decision that didn’t include Alford for the season’s first game at least. The Blue Jays are telling us that they wanted to keep their options open in case things work out when they had him come north on Wednesday night, but that doesn’t really add up for me here.

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Let’s look at the possibilities of what could have happened on the eve of the season’s first game. The Blue Jays knew they had a trade that was almost complete with Oakland, so they understandably had Rowdy Tellez jump on a plane and get to Toronto, ready to take over in the first base/DH depth role that would be vacated by the traded veteran. That part makes sense when we’re talking about making sure that they were covered, as the trade certainly could have fallen through even after Tellez was summoned to Toronto.

However, when it comes to putting Alford on the plane, I have to wonder if there wasn’t something else going on. From the tweets and posts on Alford’s Twitter and Instagram pages, he definitely believed that he was going to be a part of the roster. Obviously he either jumped the gun a bit, or the Blue Jays told him he was going to be on the team and then had to take back the great news. Either outcome isn’t great, but there are only a few reasons I can wrap my head around for why this might have happened.

  1. The Blue Jays were talking with Oakland about an expanded deal that might have included another outfielder. Kevin Pillar has come up several times as a possible trade candidate throughout the offseason, and even recently. Maybe the A’s and Jays were discussing including him too? It doesn’t seem likely, but it’s possible that the playoff hopeful Oakland front office views Pillar as an upgrade on what they have anchoring their outfield.
  2. Maybe another deal fell apart elsewhere? My assumption is that if Ross Atkins and company were looking at trading an outfielder that it would be Pillar, as he’s been linked to teams like the San Francisco Giants even as recently as last week.
  3. Maybe one of the outfielders on the 25 man roster is hurting a little bit? I don’t know that to be true at all, and there weren’t any signs during Thursday’s game, but I’m trying to figure this out here. I’m just saying, let’s say that Billy McKinney was a little banged up and the Blue Jays hadn’t decided if they wanted to put him on the Injured List or not yet. That would at least make sense that they called Alford to Toronto.
  4. It’s possible the Blue Jays plan on sending one of their relievers down after the first game or two, and then promoting Alford to the big league roster. However, that seems a little bit unlikely at the moment, especially because they’re already carrying four outfielders. It also feels like Alford would have been told if that was the plan, and it doesn’t look like that happened here. Perhaps I’m wrong.
  5. Maybe they really did want to consider both options until the last minute, but that seems a little harsh to treat a couple of excited youngsters that way. I sincerely hope that this wasn’t what happened, as that’s not a great look for a front office that was already facing criticism for their impending “holding back” of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. before he strained his oblique and delayed his debut.

To me, these are the only reasonable explanations for why Atkins would have had Alford jump on a plane and had him believe that he was opening the season on the big league roster. Maybe he wasn’t actually told that, but you can’t blame the young man for getting excited about having a plane ticket booked for him to Toronto the day before the season’s first game.

Next. 1B/OF Jordan Patterson acquired from the Reds. dark

I have a feeling that there will be more light shed on what happened here sometime in the next few days, but it’s also possible that we’ll never know exactly what shook down. It’s a shame that Alford had the rug pulled out from under him at the last minute, but hopefully he’ll get his MLB chance sooner than later and it’ll be a memory soon forgotten for the talented outfielder.