Blue Jays: The 26th man will work in Brandon Drury’s favour in 2020

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 25: Brandon Drury #3 of the Toronto Blue Jays grounds out in the fourth inning during a MLB game against the Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre on September 25, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 25: Brandon Drury #3 of the Toronto Blue Jays grounds out in the fourth inning during a MLB game against the Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre on September 25, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /
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With MLB moving to a 26 man roster in 2020, Brandon Drury will likely get another opportunity with the Blue Jays next season, which may not have been the case otherwise.

Like many Blue Jay fans, I’ve already spent quite a bit of time thinking about what the roster and the lineup will look like in 2020. Realistically, I’ve been thinking about that since April, and I know a lot of you are in the same boat.

It’s likely that a lot of questions will go unanswered for a while, but I realized that one variable I had been thinking about may not be an issue at all. I had been wondering for a while now whether or not Brandon Drury could fit with the Blue Jays in 2020, especially if they intend to keep outfielders that are out of minor league options like Derek Fisher and Anthony Alford.

Then I remembered that MLB is moving to a 26 man roster in 2020, among a few other tweaks to the rule book.

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I’m not really sure how I forgot about it for a while, but I did, and that all but answered whether or not Drury could still fit with the Blue Jays in 2020, at least for me. The problem that I saw coming down with the pipe was that a four-man bench has to consist of a catcher (say, Reese McGuire), a utility infielder (Richard Urena perhaps?), and then two other spots. In this case I wondered if the Blue Jays might elect to hang on to two outfielders on their bench and continue to try and sort out the glut of options who have yet to secure a starting gig. Between Fisher, Alford, Teoscar Hernandez, and Billy McKinney, I’m not ruling out the possibility that the front office just leaves the outfield picture be for now, even if I’d personally like to see an upgrade there.

Having that 26th man allows the Blue Jays a lot more flexibility, especially for the times when they need to move to an eight-man bullpen. The scenario that had me wondering how they would keep Drury was when they brought up an eighth bullpen arm and had to sacrifice a bench spot. Fisher and Alford are out of minor league options, so sending them down means exposing them to waivers. They could option Urena and have Drury as the back-up shortstop, where he can be at least adequate in short spurts. Because the rules will also put a cap on a 13-man pitching staff, the Blue Jays will always be able to roll with a four-man bench, which makes juggling the roster a little easier.

All that said, Drury is going to have to perform a little better next season in order for the Blue Jays to keep him around, even in a utility role. He ended up slashing .218/.262/.380 in 418 at-bats, adding 15 home runs, 21 doubles, and 41 RBI in 120 games, good for -0.2 bWAR. Because he’s capable of playing all four infield positions (not a great shortstop, but he did make some appearances there in 2019) and the corner outfield, he adds value to the bench, especially in platoon situations.

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The 27-year-old will be eligible for arbitration this winter, which will be his second trip through the process. He’s likely to get a small raise from the 1.3 million he made this year, but his numbers won’t warrant too much of an increase. Like many of the Blue Jays’ outfielder options, that will likely extend Drury’s audition in the rebuild of this team into next season, and there’s a good chance he’ll have the rule tweak to thank for that opportunity.

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