The Blue Jays should have a pretty busy outfield competition this spring, but for Anthony Alford, the biggest obstacle could come be a roster crunch.
The Blue Jays finally added Rafael Dolis to the roster over the weekend, which meant they had to make a decision about who to remove from their 40-man roster. Not surprisingly, Breyvic Valera was designated for assignment to make room for the newest Blue Jay reliever, and there could be a need to make more room before Opening Day depending on what else Ross Atkins and the front office decide to do.
Like many other teams at this time of year, the Blue Jays could have a lot of moving parts as they try to figure out how to fill out their 26-man active roster, as well as their 40-man group. And now that Valera has been removed in favour of Dolis, the decisions are about to get more difficult.
One of the areas that could be looked at would be the deep outfield group, one that currently includes seven outfielders on the 40-man roster, and at least a couple more infielders who are capable as well. The Blue Jays are expected to start a group that includes Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Randal Grichuk, and Teoscar Hernandez, and from there the battle for the fourth, and maybe fifth outfield spot on the team could be interesting. Among the group of candidates will be Derek Fisher, Billy McKinney, Jonathan Davis, and Anthony Alford.
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The latter name has been around the Blue Jays’ system since he was selected in the third round of the 2012 draft, and at times has been one of the more highly regarded prospects in the organization. However, he’s had a lot lot of tough luck with injuries, and has yet to reach his full potential. Now that he’s out of minor league options, the Blue Jays are faced with having to keep him on their Opening Day roster in order to protect him, otherwise they’ll need to try and pass him through waivers, where he would almost certainly be claimed.
On one hand it would make a lot of sense for the Blue Jays to send McKinney and Davis back to Buffalo, especially since they both have minor league options, and it would allow them to keep Fisher and Alford. However, if the Blue Jays sign another reliever to add to the bullpen, they’ll need to make room on the 40-man roster. The same thing could happen if they elect to keep one or both of Ruben Tejada or Joe Panik to break camp well. And as much as they’d like to keep their options open in the outfield, they might need the space in order to add to the pitching staff.
It’s an odd scenario for Alford in that it’s possible he’ll only have so much control over his own destiny during Grapefruit League play. Other than designating McKinney or Davis for assignment, which seems unlikely, the Blue Jays would probably have to turn to their pitching staff for the next DFA candidate. It’s possible they value Alford more than Jordan Romano, Julian Merryweather, or others, but it also wouldn’t be a shock if they elected to prioritize their pitching resources instead.
Personally, I’d like to see Alford get a shot to earn playing time in centre field this year, and now that he’s made it this far with the Blue Jays through the winter, it would be disappointing to see him lose his roster spot before camp opens. That seems unlikely at the moment, so for now expect that he’ll get a chance to impress in March, and the Blue Jays will also decide if they want to add a player on a MiLB contract to the team. Unfortunately, waiting out that potential roster juggle may end up being Alford’s biggest obstacle to make the team.