Much has been written over the last couple of years about the depletion of upper level talent in the Blue Jays organization as former GM Alex Anthopoulos made two different stabs at leveraging a mid-level team into the playoffs. Someday I might write an article taking a look at just what value the Blue Jays have actually lost in those deals, but today is not that day. That debate aside, the younger talent untraded in those efforts eventually reaches the point in their career when they need to be protected on the 40 man roster or the team risks losing them to the Rule 5 Draft at the winter meetings (or to minor league free agency later.
That latter point is seldom mentioned but occasionally you’ll see a player slide through the Rule 5 because he’s to far away, or injured at the time, but then comes through with a rebound season that re-establishes their prospect status. If such a player is not included on the 40 man they become a “Six Year” minor league free agent the following off-season.
So let’s take a through look at the Blue Jays current roster situation including the present 40 man roster and the situation of the players on it, as well as those players eligible for the Rule 5 draft if not protected, and those who are set to be free agents. Then we’ll try to project how the roster movement will shake out.
The first chart is the present full 40 man roster. Players marked with an “*” are pending free agents who automatically come off the roster if not resigned before the end of the World Series. Players in italics are those who are at least in the discussion when we speculate about who might be removed from the roster via designation for assignment, trade, or being non-tendered. Following that is a short list of players currently on the 60 day DL who’ll need to be added to the roster or cut.
60 Day DL:
As you can see, the roster drops immediately to 34 when major league free agents are removed, and goes again to 37 when the first three names on the DL list are re-added. The other three will be allowed to go off the roster and into minor league free agency. So at this point our working figure is 37. The next chart contains 20 names of players in the system that the team would at least consider their options for retaining. Obviously it wont be all 20. The last column on the right are players eligible to be six year free agents, the other three columns are ranked in order of highest priority (in my subjective view):
|Danny Jansen||Rowdy Tellez||Chris Smith||Tom Robson|
|Max Pentecost||Jordan Romano||Andrew Case||Angel Perdomo|
|Connor Greene||Roemon Fields||Dusty Issacs||John Stilson|
|Thomas Pannone||Francisco Rios||Chad Girodo||Mike Bolsinger|
|Reese McGuire||Jason Leblibijian||DJ Davis||Murphy Smith|
From this group I’d argue that The first column, and the first two in the second column are of great interest to the team. Further, if they could find a way to squeeze Rios, Robson, and Perdomo on they would as they, along with Fields, seem like prime targets. Davis? Yeah, I knew you’d wonder about him – basically he’s just a familiar name to make the columns come out even, but it’s not inconceivable that some team could see him as speed and reasonable defense off the bench – like Fields – and be encouraged by his second half hitting. So the team needs a minimum of four cuts, and as many as seven from the existing roster. Just for the sake of structure, let’s go ahead and assume that the three open spots I noted above go to Jansen, Pentecost and Greene.
Let’s look at the candidates in (again, my subjective opinion) order of most likely to hit the door:
1. Raffy Lopez
He hit well in Buffalo, but he’s probably a guy they’d be happy to bring back on a minor league deal to bolster the Bisons, but the holes in his defensive game in his time with the Jays will stick in everyone’s mind. Let’s give this spot to McGuire instead.
2. Luis Santos
Useful guy, but basically an organization filler type, not a prospect. He’s out and Pannone gets his spot.
3. Leonel Campos
He threw pretty okay, right? Yes, but he’s out of options next year and he’s something like tenth or worse on the depth chart. Slide Rowdy in here.
4. Rob Refsnyder
This is the first guy you even wonder about a little bit. They must have seen a little something when they claimed him, but he’s just not a very good hitter. Guys like this are everywhere in AAA. I’m guessing he’s out and I’ll put Romano in this spot. This one illustrates why I was plugging guys into the spots I’m opening up, in this case the team will basically be evaluating the relative value of the guy they are cutting, and the guy they will be able to protect of they do. It’s not like they will precisely come down to Refsnyder versus Romano per se, but the value comparison will take place at some point between the guy we MIGHT cut and the guy we’d be able to save if we did, whomever the two are.
5. Luke Maile
Now the choices get a bit harder. He has outstanding defense, and can’t hit even a little bit. But the Jays have a guy in McGuire who’s as good or better as a defender and, while having failed to meet expectations with the bat, still hits better than this guy. Take him off the roster and he becomes a minor league free agent, but the catching depth is good enough to not worry what comes next. Who gets the spot? Might be Fields (it’s difficult to know what the organization thinks of his future) or it might be any of several guys with potential as major league relievers: Rios, who’s been mostly a starter but might play up; Perdomo likewise (and who’s a 6’6″ lefty which is sure to turn some heads); Robson who’s been hampered by injury and might still have starter potential; and some other guy that they might view more highly than I would realize from this distance. Stilson? Case? Issacs? Chris Smith?
Other Players Who May Leave the 40-Man
Dwight Smith, Jr and Harold Ramirez are both probably fourth outfielder types at best and are absolutely a tier or two below guys like Alford and Teoscar Hernandez. They won’t just arbitrarily ditch them, and certainly not to hoard young potential relievers. They may, however, be thrown into a trade without much hesitation, or they may be lost due to the signing of a few crucial free agents. If that’s the case, I’d guess Ramirez is the first to go.
Aaron Loup is another possible candidate. I don’t think this team is anywhere close to the sort of financial pressure that would force them to consider non-tendering Loup for budget reasons, but if there’s one guy on the team that might win more in arbitration than they think he’s worth, it’s Loup. Still, if they came to that point there’s probably a trade to be made before they’d have to cut him from the 40-man. In my view, unless they were to be offered something they obviously valued higher, I’d keep him on and be glad I had even more bullpen depth.
So, while you will no doubt read a lot in the coming six weeks or so about a roster crunch, I don’t think that it will be difficult at all for the Jays to cover all the players they will want to protect.
That said, it is true that the team will need spots for any free agent they sign (or player acquired in an unbalanced trade in their favor, if said player is eligible to be drafted) and in the past teams have left a spot or two open when finalizing their rosters. But that only matters if you plan to add a player before the Rule 5 Draft and I have no way to anticipate how that plays out. My hunch is that Estrada and the team are highly committed to each other, but in that they can afford to have an understanding about delaying the signing until the Winter Meetings have passed.
The point of all this is to say that if someone is signed in November, one of these predictions above will change. If not, then after the draft teams routinely try to figure out which guy they can remove and slide through waivers while everyone’s roster is full. This is where slipping a guy like Harold Ramirez off the roster could happen. So for the purpose of this exercise I’ve assumed that they can fill all 40 slots in preparation for the draft. Because they can.
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