It sounds like the Blue Jays intend to hang on to Joe Panik on the 26-man roster, and it may require the front office to make an early decision.
One of the most impressive players for the Blue Jays in camp so far has been 29-year-old Joe Panik, who is looking to earn himself the utility job in Toronto this year. So far so good, and according to pretty much all of the reports we’ve heard from the Blue Jays, and especially their skipper Charlie Montoyo, it looks like he’s easily the leading candidate.
The complicating factor with keeping Panik is that he’s signed a MiLB contract, and he’s not currently on the 40-man roster. That can be changed of course, but it also means that the Blue Jays will have to remove someone, as their roster is currently full. And if the club was hoping to delay that decision until right before the regular season gets underway, they may not have the luxury.
According to Ben Nicholson Smith’s article on Sportsnet yesterday, Panik’s MiLB deal is believed to have an “spring opt-out”. It’s not known whether there is a specific deadline on that decision, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Blue Jays gave him their word they’d cut him loose if they didn’t plan to keep him, allowing the veteran to seek employment with another team before Opening Day.
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Right now the Blue Jays have a few decisions to make when it comes to their Opening Day roster, and they could also trickle down to have the same effect on the 40-man as well. For example, if they decide to trade or designate Anthony Alford for assignment, that would give the roster spot they need for Panik in both cases. The same could be said if they chose to start Brandon Drury in Triple-A to begin the year, or even DFA him instead.
It’s not a bad thing for the Blue Jays to start rounding out their roster a little early, the only risk factor involved is if there are injuries in the final week or two of Grapefruit League action. That’s why teams build up depth, and while they could theoretically decide to cut Drury loose tomorrow, if something happened to one of their infielders on the weekend it could completely change the situation.
For now, it sound like the Blue Jays are planning on hanging on Panik, and they’ll have a few options to make it work. And if Nicholson-Smith is correct that there’s a potentially early deadline on the decision, we may see the Blue Jays make a move sooner than later.