With Opening Day just under a week away, the Toronto Blue Jays will start to make some tough decisions when it comes to figuring out who makes the 26 man roster.
With pitcher Patrick Murphy on the 60-day injured list, the Blue Jays currently have a full 40 man roster (a player on the 60-day IL can be substituted for another player, meaning the Jays technically have 41 players). Kirby Yates just underwent Tommy John surgery and will be put on the 60-day IL as well (technically has not yet per the Jays transactions page), meaning there will be one more roster spot available before Opening Day rolls around.
Yates’ spot could be used for a non-roster invite pitcher or more likely for Joe Panik, who the Blue Jays announced will be making the active roster to begin the season. Other non-roster invitees who would need to be added to the 40 man roster if they were to make the team are pitchers Francisco Liriano, Anthony Castro, Tommy Milone, Kirby Snead, A.J. Cole, and Tim Mayza (both Liriano and Milone have opt-outs that are upcoming shortly).
While all the players mentioned above will most likely not make the team for April 1, one could present an argument for each one to be in New York city next week, meaning somebody on the 40 man roster would have to be designated for assignment, released, or traded for that too occur.
The Potential Candidates
With the emergence of catching prospect Alejandro Kirk, former first-round pick Reese McGuire may have lost his back-up catching job and a spot on the 40-man roster this upcoming year (as of writing, there are reports that Kirk has made the roster from Mexican media sources).
Acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates in a package deal for Drew Hutchinson (ironically Liriano also came to Toronto in the deal), McGuire made his MLB debut back in 2018 and for his career sports a .243/.281/.444 line with eight home runs and 16 RBI in 63 games. Known primarily for his defence behind the plate, the backstop had some off-field issues last season when he was caught “exposing himself” in a mall parking lot and was subsequently arrested.
This year, McGuire finds himself in a tough spot when it comes to securing a spot on the roster and he’s also out of minor league options, meaning if Kirk was to make the Blue Jays for Opening Day, McGuire would most likely be designated for assignment and be forced off the 40-man.
A move the Jays would rather not make as he would be exposed to waivers and possibly taken by another team, it’s a transition that has to be made if the organization really wants Kirk to start this year in the big leagues (a debate for another day). While the value would be low, the Blue Jays could try and find a trade partner for McGuire before designating him if they don’t think they can sneak him through the waiver wire.
Acquired off the waiver wire from the New York Yankees back in 2019, Venezuelan native Breyvic Valera has five games with the Blue Jays, slashing .267/.267/.533 with one home run and three RBI through 15 plate appearances. The switch-hitter was unable to play last year as he had difficulty leaving Venezuela and was put on the restricted list for the season.
With Panik already making the roster, it seems pretty bleak that Valera would also make the team this year as they also have Santiago Espinal waiting in the wings as well. For the spring, the infielder has amassed a .100/.129/.100 line with just two RBI’s in 31 plate appearances heading into Friday’s game against the Phillies.
Valera is also out of minor league options, meaning he will also be exposed to waivers if he too gets designated for assignment. Given the team has Espinal, Kevin Smith, and a smorgasbord of infield talent a few years away from knocking on the MLB door, having Valera as a depth option would be ideal, but not much of a heartbreaker if another team takes a flyer on him.
In his second time around with the Blue Jays in 2021, not many can say they had a rough off-season compared to what pitcher Joel Payamps went through this Winter.
Payamps would be designated for assignment multiple times, starting with the Arizona Diamondbacks after the World Series ended, and then bouncing between the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays, eventually settling in with the Jays (as of right now). For the spring, Payamps has pitched in four games and has a 0.00 ERA in 4.1 innings of work, racking up four strikeouts and two walks.
Compared to the previous two, Payamps does have a minor league option (per Fangraphs) but could see himself off the roster if the Blue Jays do feel like taking multiple NRI’s with them to New York City. The right-hander has been DFA’d by the Blue Jays this off-season already, so the potential is there for the organization to do it once again if the need arises.
Honestly, he may not be designated for assignment by Opening Day but could be a DFA candidate if an internal prospect like Simeon Woods-Richardson or Alek Manoah pitches well and the Blue jays are looking for depth later on in the summer (especially since Payamps only has one MiLB option left).
If he doesn’t make the roster (which it looks like he won’t), he will lose that option when he starts the season at the alternate site/AAA and then possibly be DFA’d if the 40 man roster gets tight for space later on in the season.