The Toronto Blue Jays have seven players currently on the 60-day injured list and a few more on the 10-day IL, with spots on the active roster going to be highly contested when players start to become healthy over the next few weeks.
Cavan Biggio is currently rehabbing in AAA and could return as soon as this weekend. George Springer is most likely a week or two away from joining the Blue Jays roster after he goes on his rehab assignment. Pitchers Tom Hatch, Patrick Murphy, Travis Bergen, and Ryan Borucki are also on the injured list and/or currently rehabbing, with their returns being scattered based on injury.
With that being said, not every player mentioned above will immediately make the Blue Jays upon their return, but some decisions will have to be made in regards to who the club will keep and who will go down or stay in AAA. Hypothetically speaking, if the Blue Jays were to take out a player like for like position-wise, one infielder and one outfielder will be sent down to the minor leagues when Biggio and Springer return.
One obvious option to AAA is outfielder Jonathan Davis, as having five outfielders on the roster is a bit overkill and the other three are playing well right now.
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With multiple players returning from the injured list in the near future, there will be a competition for spots on the Blue Jays roster. With Cavan Biggio slated to return shortly, Santiago Espinal and Rowdy Tellez are most likely on the chopping block.
The infield is where the roster question gets a bit hazy.
The three most likely infielders on the chopping block are Joe Panik, Santiago Espinal, and Rowdy Tellez. Panik doesn’t have any options considering his veteran status and is also on a one-year deal, meaning he will most likely be staying with the team for the foreseeable future. He is also performing the best out of the trio with his .286/.305/.418 slash line with two home runs and 11 RBI, so it makes sense to keep him up on the active roster
That leaves Espinal and Tellez to battle it out for the last spot, and with Biggio set to return most likely within the next few days, the decision is likely coming sooner rather than later.
Head to Head
Espinal: 77 PA; .247/.286/.329/.614; 0 home runs; 6 RBI; 4 walks; 14 strikeouts
Tellez: 131 PA; .213/.273/.336/..609; 3 home runs; 6 RBI; 8 walks; 27 strikeouts
Comparison-wise, Tellez has more plate appearances and does have a better slugging percentage than Espinal, with the Dominican product just edging him in average and OBP. After last night’s game, Espinal is now just in front of Tellez in terms of OPS. The lefty slugger also has three home runs on the season but the same amount of RBI has Espinal. Defensively, Espinal is the more versatile player in that he can play multiple infield positions while Tellez splits his time between first base and designated hitter.
Pros and Cons
The main reason you would keep Tellez on the roster is because of his plus power from the left side, which has been on limited display this season. He’s played 18 games as the DH and 15 at first base but his slash line is just a bit of rally killer down in the batting order. He is struggling this season and even had a brief stint down in AAA earlier this year, but if Tellez can put the barrel to the ball like fans saw glimpses back in 2020, he can make an already potent lineup that much stronger.
For Espinal, his defensive ability is more of his selling point, as he has been performing well at the hot corner in the brief amount of time he’s spent there because of his athletic ability and an above-average arm. His slash line is starting to get better after a solid outing last night and if he was finding ways to get on base more this decision gets a lot easier. Since Biggio has been sidelined and even when Panik was briefly sidelined, he couldn’t find a way to secure/win more playing time.
Both players have minor league options available so that argument becomes a moot point in that either one could be sent down without being designated for assignment.
Tellez or Espinal
Overall, I think Tellez will win this battle over Espinal when all is said and done.
Going up against a left-handed bat (something the Blue Jays lack) and the raw power of his competitor, Espinal unfortunately also has to deal with the fact that Panik and Biggio can play across the diamond and kind of makes him obsolete. If he was hitting 50-70 points higher than the slugger then the argument gets more complicated, and although he is playing well in limited action over his last few games, he will most likely be a victim of the numbers game.
Tellez and Guerrero Jr. can form a tandem at first base but when Springer is healthy, the California native will most likely be riding the bench more than being slotted in as the DH like he usually has been.
When Springer returns, the current trio of Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, and Randal Grichuk will most likely be platooned around so that each gets at-bats, meaning one of them will most likely get more chances in the DH spot over Tellez. That could change if a right-hander is on the mound and Charlie Montoyo wants to play the off-hand match-ups, but if Hernandez, Grichuk, and Gurriel are hitting well then you would have to think they will keep getting at-bats, ignoring the lefty-righty matchups for putting the hotter bat in the lineup.
There is no current update as to when Biggio will be exactly be returning from his rehab assignment, and if he does return as early as this weekend, it will most likely be Santiago Espinal heading back to AAA instead of Rowdy Tellez. While this could obviously change, the Blue Jays will no doubt be in a roster crunch when injured players start to return, both on the active and 40-man roster.