Blue Jays' Opening Day roster gains clarity as Santiago Espinal is traded to the Reds

A right-handed starting pitcher is coming back to the Blue Jays. He will provide some much-needed depth to a system that's needed more starters.

Mar 12, 2024; Dunedin, Florida, USA;  Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Isiah Kiner-Falefa (7)
Mar 12, 2024; Dunedin, Florida, USA; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Isiah Kiner-Falefa (7) / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

For the Toronto Blue Jays, the talk of the offseason has been the club's insane infield logjam. There are around 10 players that are realistically competing for playing time at the four infield positions.

On Wednesday night, the Blue Jays took to social media (X link) to announce a trade with the Cincinnati Reds. Santiago Espinal, a 2022 All-Star and four-year veteran on the Jays, has been sent packing to Cincinnati in exchange for right-handed pitcher Chris McElvain.

Espinal, 29, has been the obvious odd-man-out in this picture for quite some time now. He performed poorly last season (outside of a red-hot stretch to end the year) and was quickly passed up on the organizational depth chart. The emergences of Davis Schneider and Ernie Clement made him all the more expendable.

Espinal will see his Blue Jays career come to a close with a .273 batting average and 96 OPS+ across 346 games played. He posted 4.3 oWAR and 2.1 bWAR as well, mostly carried by his strong 2021 and 2022 campaigns.

This move certainly opens the door for Clement to make the Opening Day roster. The 27-year-old is out of minor league options but has been tearing the cover off the ball in spring training so far. Cutting him in favor of virtually anybody else would have been a ridiculous move. The contact-oriented, versatile infielder is now essentially a lock to crack the roster out of camp.

McElvain, an 8th-round pick of the Reds back in 2022, is a starting pitcher who has posted respectable numbers to kick off his pro career. The 23-year-old made it up to High-A last year and had a combined 3.75 ERA across 23 outings (19 starts). He doesn't strike many batters out but he does an efficient job of keeping runners off the bases and keeps the ball in the ballpark. He will now join a Blue Jays system that is starved for starting pitching depth.

Shifting focus to the Reds, the writing was on the wall that an additional infielder was needed. At one point during this past offseason, they had an infield logjam similar to the one the Blue Jays had. Suddenly, third baseman Noelvi Marte has been hit with an 80-game PED suspension and second baseman Matt McLain has gone down with an injury. For Espinal, there's a pathway to playing time that simply wasn't going to come as a member of the Blue Jays.

Lastly, the removal of Espinal from the Blue Jays' roster means that the 40-man roster now sits at 39. If a player, like Daniel Vogelbach, Joey Votto or Brian Serven, warranted a spot, there's now one available. Serven is the obvious choice as of right now, as he's going to break camp as the backup catcher in Danny Jansen's absence.