The Blue Jays were facing a tough decision with fringe players like Anthony Alford, however, potential expanded rosters could be a big break for a talented player who needs at least one more long look.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic shutting down baseball, not to mention impacting nearly every country and industry in the world, we baseball fans were worried about typical stuff like who might make the team out of spring training. Life was sure a lot simpler then.
As the Blue Jays entered spring training in 2020, many of us understood that camp was going to be a very important for a few players in particular, and perhaps none more so than Anthony Alford. The talented outfielder is out of minor league options, which meant that the Blue Jays had to carry him on the 26-man roster to start the season, or risk losing him on the waiver wire if he didn’t make the team and had to be designated for assignment. As we got deeper into camp it was clear that the Blue Jays wanted to hold on to him, but he was going to be one of a handful of players who could be removed from the 40-man roster in order to make room for someone else.
That may all change for 2020 if some of the reported proposed rule changes get put into place for this season, assuming it can resume later this summer. That’s because one of the rules being discussed is expanded rosters, which will help teams cram as many games as they can into a condensed schedule. The main focus of having a larger roster would be to increase the size of each team’s pitching staff, but there would also be room for an extra position player or two, and that’s where Alford’s opportunity may come in.
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Granted, he very well may have made the team out of spring training, but there’s a good chance it would have come down to him or Derek Fisher, since the latter is also out of options. That said, Fisher just arrived in July of last year while Alford has been around for a few years, so my own expectation was the Blue Jays would hang on to Fisher if they were forced to choose. Now they likely won’t have to.
That could turn out to be significant for the Blue Jays if Alford is able to make good on the promise he’s shown the organization for years. A former two-sport athlete, he’s always flashed an impressive set of tools, but a variety of injuries have really hurt his progression, and his consistency while he has been on the field. At times there have been others blocking his opportunities in the Blue Jays’ outfield, but realistically that hasn’t been the case over the last couple of seasons. He just couldn’t get healthy enough to perform consistently and take the job.
He’s still going to have to earn playing time in 2020, assuming we have a season at all, but the important thing is there will likely be an opportunity. The Blue Jays are presumably going to roll out an outfield of Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Randal Grichuk, and Teoscar Hernandez, mixing Fisher in as well, but teams likely playing more frequently could help Alford get on the field a fair bit. There’s also a good chance he could start as a platoon outfielder against southpaws, and being on the roster puts him an injury or an underperformance away from regular playing time.
Under normal circumstances, the Blue Jays may have had to trade him away for pennies on the dollar, or worse, designate him for assignment in order to make room to add a bullpen arm to the 40-man roster. While a lot of things still have to go right for Alford to finally reach his potential in Toronto, the strange circumstances of this year may provide him the most important part, which is an opportunity. We’ll see if that ultimately comes to fruition later this summer, and hopefully we’ll finally see the best of this young man.