According to an article from Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, there’s a good chance that Joe Panik will make the Blue Jays’ Opening Day roster.
There should be several interesting roster battles for the Blue Jays during Spring Training this year, with some of them being anticipated, and possibly others coming as a bit of a surprise.
We already know there will be a battle for the fifth starter’s job in the rotation, for at least a few roles in the bullpen, and somehow the Blue Jays will have to sort out their outfield picture. However, a recent comment from Sportnet’s Shi Davidi caught my eye, and brought even more attention to another potential battle in camp this year.
In the article that Davidi published on Sunday, he talked about how the Blue Jays may or may not have many left-handed hitters in the lineup on a day to day basis, depending on how Charlie Montoyo uses his roster. However, it was the passing comment about another potential left-handed bat in Joe Panik that was the most interesting part to me.
"“…. but non-roster infielder Joe Panik is also a southpaw and he’s expected to make the team.”"
Don’t get me wrong, I fully expected the Blue Jays to have a fairly open competition for their infield job(s), but it’s a complicated situation with how full their 40-man roster is already. With the addition of the 26th roster spot in MLB this season, I anticipate that most teams will use an eight-man bullpen, and a four piece bench. For that Blue Jays that would mean a catcher (Reese McGuire/Danny Jansen, depending on who is starting that day), an infielder (Brandon Drury?), an outfielder (Derek Fisher?), and one other spot, which I assumed would come down to a battle of Rowdy Tellez and Anthony Alford, the latter of whom is out of minor league options.
According to Davidi’s comment, Panik may have an inside track to a job with the Blue Jays, which would obviously have some trickle down effects for the rest of the roster. Because Panik signed a MiLB contract, he’ll need to be added to the 40-man roster in order to break camp with the team. That means someone will have to go, and a player like Alford could be a potential candidate.
However, adding Panik along with Drury doesn’t really solve the problem the Blue Jays could be looking at this year. While both are capable back-up infielders, neither has much experience at shortstop, and that could be an issue if Bo Bichette were to hit the Injured List at any point this year. Drury has more positional flexibility as he’s comfortably played at third, second, and first base, and also in the corner outfield, but the Blue Jays may prefer Panik’s upside.
While Drury is signed to a one-year, 2.05 million dollar deal, he does still have a minor league option available for the upcoming season. That means the Blue Jays could choose to stash him in Triple-A without losing control of his contract, but I doubt they want to pay him to do that, and he could also choose to elect Free Agency. More likely, if Panik is out, Drury may be a late-spring trade possibility, or even a candidate to be DFA’d. Either of those scenarios would create the space on the 40-man to add Panik as well.
Perhaps Davidi was making a passing comment about what he expects to happen in camp this year, but I’ll readily admit that he is more connected to the Blue Jays and in the know than me, or the vast majority of journalists and writers. The comment caught me off guard because, frankly, I didn’t expect that Panik would make the team, mostly because of his MiLB contract and the roster tweaks that would be required. That said, it’ll be a situation to watch, maybe even more so after Davidi’s comment on Sunday.