Lack of minor league options makes Blue Jays Opening Day roster crunch tougher to maneuver

Who will be on the Opening Day chopping block considering both Mitch White and Ernie Clement are out of MiLB options.

Kansas City Royals v Toronto Blue Jays
Kansas City Royals v Toronto Blue Jays / Vaughn Ridley/GettyImages

The Toronto Blue Jays have a lot of decisions to make as they move closer to Opening Day. Players such as Ernie Clement and Mitch White create interesting depth opportunities for Toronto, but are both out of minor-league options should Toronto decide to demote them. With recent signings of Yariel Rodriguez, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Justin Turner, fans are wondering if the Jays will retain these two players or seek depth someplace else.

Ernie Clement

Clement perhaps makes the strongest case for landing a spot on the Opening Day roster. He had an incredible 2023 season with the Buffalo Bisons down in Triple-A, hitting .348/.410/.544 with 11 home runs in 320 plate appearances. Clement backed up this slash line with an impressive 5.0 K%, striking out less than contact-wizard Luis Arraez (who had a 5.5K% in 2023). Although with a small sample size in 2023, Clement was still extremely solid at in the bigs. He slashed .380/.385/.500, good for a 144 wRC+. Clement offers very strong infield versatility, logging innings all around the infield, even accumulating 4 DRS in 100 innings at SS last year. While Clement has yet to show potential in a starting role, he'd be a great bench option for the Jays.

Mitch White

On the major league level, White has been fairly disappointing for the Blue Jays. Acquired at the 2022 trade deadline, White immediately struggled, posting a 7.74 ERA with a 1.74 WHIP to finish the season. White would ultimately be demoted to Buffalo in August the following year after another disappointing start to the season. While he initially struggled in Buffalo, things became hopeful for the long-inning reliever after a series of impressive starts with the Bisons in late September. In his final five starts in Buffalo, he pitched to a 1.38 ERA over 26.1 innings with 35 strikeouts. White made a series of mechanical tweaks that would not only raise his fastball velocity, but increase his K%. His velocity upticked to 97 MPH after sitting at 94-95. If White is able to continue the progress he made last year, he would be a great middle or long-inning depth piece.

Clement and White are both players the Jays aren't entirely ready to let go, for good reason. When considering Clement, his skillset is very similar to that of Santiago Espinal's. Like Espinal, Clement is a high-contact, low-K%, versatile infielder. Espinal is coming off of a very poor 2023 season, posting career lows offensively and defensively. With Clement having an all-around stronger year than Espinal in 2023, the Blue Jays should consider the possibility of promoting Clement and starting Espinal in Buffalo.

As for White, while he showed late promise, the Jays should entertain the possibility of a trade. The Blue Jays already have a strong bullpen with names such as Jordan Romano, Tim Mayza and Erik Swanson. The recent signing of Rodriguez effectively locks the long-inning relief position in the bullpen for the next five years (should he stay in the 'pen rather than be a starter). With White finishing the year on a high note, he may fetch the Jays a decent prospect should another team take a flyer on him.