A lot could change, but it’s not hard to see how the Blue Jays could be forced to choose between keeping Rowdy Tellez or Anthony Alford for the Opening Day roster.
I’m probably thinking way too far ahead right now, but I can’t help that sorta thing when it’s the off-season, especially because the Blue Jays have done most of their shopping already. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still hopeful that they’ll add to the bullpen and even upgrade their centre field picture, but I’m assuming that the heaviest lifting has been done already with the free agent additions of Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark, and the trade for Chase Anderson.
When it comes to that centre field and outfield picture in general, it could be a complicated decision for the Blue Jays’ front office. Right now they have seven outfielders on the 40-man roster including Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Randal Grichuk, Teoscar Hernandez, Derek Fisher, Anthony Alford, Billy McKinney, and Jonathan Davis. Because the last two have minor league options, my assumption is they’ll both begin the year in Triple-A if everyone is healthy.
As for how to solve the centre field problem, they could return Hernandez to the position where he made 79 starts last year, but the club would likely be better off with a better defender up the middle. Grichuk made 62 starts there last season as well, but it seems like they prefer him in right field, Gurriel Jr. should be a lock to start every day in left. That leaves Fisher and Alford who are out of minor league options, and will need to impress/hope the team can find a spot for them when Opening Day rolls around.
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Out of the two, it’s been widely speculated that the Blue Jays will want to see more from Fisher before they cut him loose, especially because they traded three players to get him last July, and they’ve only had 40 games to evaluate him. That said, he didn’t exactly start on the right foot in Toronto, so he’ll need to play his way into the lineup. As for Alford, it’s hard to see the Blue Jays carrying five outfielders, even with the 26th man being added in 2020, but there is a way they could make it work.
That would come at the expense of Rowdy Tellez, or at least his Opening Day roster spot. After Justin Smoak left as a free agent and signed with Milwaukee, Tellez looked like he could be in line to inherit the first baseman’s job. Now that the Jays have brought in Travis Shaw, and likely promised him full-time at-bats, Tellez could be pushed to more of a DH role and backing up Shaw at first base if he’s playing elsewhere, or getting a routine day off. Just last week I wrote about how it longer seems that he’s being handed a spot in next season’s lineup, and it might go even further than that.
However, because Tellez has minor league options remaining, the Blue Jays could ultimately decide to start his season in Buffalo in order to retain Fisher and Alford and extend their audition into the regular season, or potentially make a trade once other teams have their rosters settled. If they went that direction, the lineup could look something like this:
In this scenario, the Blue Jays would still have experienced options to back up Shaw at first base, including Drury, Biggio, and even Gurriel Jr., so losing Tellez from the Opening Day group is certainly manageable. There have also been reports that they plan to work Teoscar Hernandez out at the cold corner as well, so who knows, maybe he could make a few appearances there as well.
The point is, if the Blue Jays are in a position where they don’t want to lose Alford through the waiver process (he would have to clear it in order to return to Buffalo), they’ll have to find a way to keep him. They could use the 26th roster spot that will be new to MLB baseball in 2020, but I’d be shocked if Charlie Montoyo didn’t use that extra spot to add to the bullpen and carry an eighth reliever, as they often did last year anyway.
I realize that Alford has only had 55 MLB at-bats and hasn’t exactly proven that the Blue Jays should make retaining him a priority, but if it’s as simple as sending Tellez back to Triple-A to start the season, I think it’s something they should seriously consider. Realistically, there aren’t any upgrades left on the free agent market, and short of making a trade to bring in a centre fielder, they’re probably looking at in-house options. Is it crazy to think that their best lineup could feature Alford in centre and Hernandez at DH? I don’t think so.
All that said, Alford and possibly even Fisher could be on the bubble as the Blue Jays continue to tinker with their rebuild. Their 40-man roster is currently full, as they had to designate Richard Urena last week when Shaw’s contract became official, and letting go of an outfielder who is out of options could be on the table. However, if they get to Spring Training without making any adjustments to their current group, then I absolutely think Alford should get one last chance to make an impact and join the future of this team.