Will the Blue Jays keep five outfielders on the roster when Teo returns?
The Toronto Blue Jays entered the 2022 campaign with three core outfielders in Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and George Springer. The Jays also had Randal Grichuk on the roster but traded him to the Colorado Rockies midway through Spring Training for the speedy Raimel Tapia, who became the club’s fourth bench outfielder.
Fast forward to Opening Day and the front office added another outfielder to the squad in Bradley Zimmer via trade from the Cleveland Guardians, with reliever Anthony Castro heading the opposite way. While it wasn’t the Jose Ramirez deal Jays fans were hoping the club could swing with Cleveland, adding Zimmer to the roster was a move that added an athletic outfielder with solid speed who also swings from the left side.
Through the month of April, the Blue Jays could carry five outfielders at the big league level because of the expanded rosters to 28 players. Add in that Hernandez hit the IL early in the season and the Jays ran with the four outfielders and a utility player in Cavan Biggio who can spot start in the outfield as well.
However, now that the rosters have been reduced back to 26 players and Hernandez is close to returning to the Blue Jays, will the Jays choose to carry five outfielders once he is healthy?
Running With Five
Bench-wise, the Jays currently have an additional catcher, one infielder, and one outfielder to complement the regular roster and the 14 pitchers they currently have.
I would think the club would like to keep having the 14 pitchers considering how much the bullpen has been used early this season. Hyun Jin Ryu just went on a rehab assignment to get back into game shape and will push Ross Stripling back to the bullpen when he returns, with another pitcher most likely being sent down respectively. Ryan Borucki is also on the IL and will likely push another arm down to AAA once he is ready to go.
Danny Jansen will need a roster spot as well once he is healthy, which will most likely be a week or two away, and Biggio is currently on the COVID-19 IL and will most likely replace Vinny Capra on the bench once he gets the green light.
Factoring in all the players coming off the IL over the next few weeks, there are a few options in which the Jays are able to carry five outfielders on the current roster:
- Drop a bullpen arm and run with 13 pitchers
- Option Tyler Heineman or Zack Collins and run with just two catchers and figure out the Jansen drop later (potentially run with just Kirk and Jansen)
- Option Capra to bring back Hernandez and then worry about Biggio and Jansen and their returns later (drop to two catchers potentially)
Overall, there are options if the Jays decide to run with five outfielders but there will be a tough decision or two depending on which route they choose to go with and how the other injuries may impact those decisions in terms of timing.
With Teoscar Hernandez inching closer to a return, will the Toronto Blue Jays keep five outfielders on the active roster once he is healthy?
Running with one less pitcher might bode well down the line considering all clubs have to reduce their number of pitchers to 13 starting June 1st but the benefits of having more arms available certainly outweigh the negatives. Three catchers on the roster might be overkill and one will surely be sent down once Jansen returns (most likely Heineman), it just depends whether the club also wants to keep Zack Collins on the big league roster.
Not Running With Five
Once Hernandez returns, the Jays could choose to drop one of their bench outfielders in either Raimel Tapia or Bradley Zimmer, both of whom are out of minor league options and would have to be designated for assignment to make room.
Heading into tonight’s game against Cleveland, the Dominican product owned a .225 batting average and a .541 OPS compared to Zimmer’s .061 average and .266 OPS (just 2 for 33 this season). Contract-wise, Zimmer does have more controllable years (two more after this year) compared to Tapia’s one year after the 2022 campaign, which may be enough to sway decisions in the front office. Both have experience across the outfield but Zimmer does feature more in centre field compared to Tapia and his reps in the corners.
However, it is tough to consider keeping Zimmer over Tapia considering the batting funk he is currently in and the club has been using Tapia at a higher clip with Hernandez’s absence. Even considering the contract statuses, it just seems more likely that Tapia has the edge over Zimmer.
I would think that if the Jays decide to run with just four outfielders once Hernandez returns to the Blue Jays lineup, Bradley Zimmer’s time in Toronto most likely comes to a close.