Blue Jays: Now that Joe Panik is in, who gets left out?
With the Blue Jays adding Joe Panik to the 40-man roster, he’s all but guaranteed a spot on the MLB team. Who does that leave out?
Even though there won’t be any big league baseball for the foreseeable future, the Blue Jays had to make a decision with their roster the other day.
Since they had signed Joe Panik to a MiLB contract with the condition that he’d be released by March 15th if he didn’t make the team, the Blue Jays decided to go ahead and add him to the 40-man roster, all but guaranteeing him a spot on the 26-man, Opening Day roster.
The Blue Jays already had to make one decision to make room for him, and they did so by placing Yennsy Diaz on the 60-day injured list after he was diagnosed with a lat strain. They won’t have to get creative to add him to the 40-man roster this time, but if Panik is going to be wearing a Blue Jay uniform on Opening Day, it’ll come at the expense of someone else.
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We’ve already discussed it a fair bit here at Jays Journal this spring, as it was one of the important battles of the Grapefruit League season. Now that the Blue Jays have an established infield, and Charlie Montoyo has more or less indicated who his starting outfield will be, there are only a few questions left to answer, and Panik’s status helps put things together.
What we know is that the Blue Jays will have a starting infield that includes Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B), Bo Bichette (SS), Cavan Biggio (2B), Travis Shaw (1B), and Danny Jansen likely getting the majority of starts, and/or splitting time with Reese McGuire at catcher. In the outfield, Montoyo has already said that they expect to start the year with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in left, Randal Grichuk in centre, and Teoscar Hernandez in right field. That gives us a lineup that looks someone like this:
1- Bichette (SS)
2- Biggio (2B)
3- Gurriel Jr. (LF)
4- Vlad Jr. (3B)
5- Shaw (1B)
6- Hernandez (RF)
7- Grichuk (CF)
9- Jansen (C)
The Blue Jays haven’t really named a designated hitter, nor do I think we should expect any one particular player to get the majority of at-bats there. Montoyo has already talked about using the DH spot to give players a day off of their legs, and to be able to rotate more of the bench pieces into the fold.
With that in mind, there are five spots left to be filled if we include the DH and a four-man bench, and one job will automatically go to McGuire, or another back-up catcher, and we’ve already established that Panik will make the team. And while the Blue Jays had quite a battle going on for their back-up outfielder jobs before the suspension of play, Derek Fisher‘s name never really came up as a candidate that could be designated for assignment, and I think it’s safe to consider him on the team as well.
That leaves two spots, and realistically the battle could come down to three players. With Panik/McGuire/Fisher, the Jays essentially have their bases covered for defensive back-ups, so it should be about the most useful extra pieces. And each of the three candidates, Rowdy Tellez, Anthony Alford, and Brandon Drury, bring something a little different to the table.
Tellez could be a useful DH and part-time first baseman if he can hit more consistently, as he showed what he can do at times while on a hot streak last season. Alford has shown glimpses of his speed and raw athletic ability, and with him being out of minor league options it’s hard to let him go for nothing. As for Drury, it feels like there is unlocked potential in his bat, even if he couldn’t find it last season, and he provides a lot defensive versatility.
Personally, I think the Blue Jays should roll with Tellez and Alford, and either send Drury back to Triple-A until the need for his skill set arises, or possibly look for a trade partner. With Panik in the fold, Drury is fairly redundant, other than providing a right-handed bat off the bench for the infield. Now that the Blue Jays made some decisions with their pitching staff, “sending” Anthony Kay and Sean Reid-Foley back to minor league camp, we’ll see if they make their choice on this situation as well.