With the GM Meetings taking place in Orlando, Florida this week, the baseball hot stove season is finally in full swing. We’re hearing the trade rumours, outlandish contract requests, and traditional posturing that all start to show up as the time for offseason moves nears.
From the Blue Jays perspective, their needs are pretty clearly defined. They could use a fifth starter, a better backup infielder/utility player, at least one good, regular outfielder, and are rumoured to be going after an extra late game reliever. Because of that, we are already hearing names being thrown around. What makes the Toronto situation unusual, however, is that the Blue Jays are in a spot where no matter who they choose to add, they will also need to subtract from their current roster.
For starters, thanks to a good waiver wire pickup of Taylor Guerrieri from the Rays, the Blue Jays have used up 36 spots on their 40-man roster limit. While that doesn’t become an issue for the major leaguers just yet, this is very much a pressing matter when it comes to prospects. As Tammy Rainey very nicely outlined back in September, the Blue Jays are currently in a situation with multiple players who should be added to the 40-man to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. Conner Greene, Reese McGuire, Dan Jansen, Max Pentecost, Tom Pannone, and Rowdy Tellez are at the top of that list, with others like Jordan Romano, Andrew Case, and Angel Perdomo slotting in behind them as those who the Blue Jays probably would like to protect, but may not have the room. All of this must be decided by November 20th.
That was at least a somewhat foreseeable situation and one that many teams have to deal with. What’s surprising about Toronto, however, is that this problem exists on the big league roster as well.
Typically, teams that only win 76 games don’t run into a situation where they have too many viable major leaguers on reasonable contract situations, but that’s exactly where the Blue Jays find themselves. These aren’t necessarily good players, but they are useful ones.
As mentioned right up at the top, the Blue Jays are in desperate need of at least one good outfielder – thanks to the departure (and decline) of Jose Bautista. Kevin Pillar is entrenched in the middle (though perhaps he shouldn’t be) and Teoscar Hernández is the likely front runner for another spot, but the third spot is definitely open for someone from outside the organization. Oddly, the presence of Hernández, despite the ability to option him to Buffalo, is what is creating this roster logjam to begin with. If he indeed locks up that second spot, the Blue Jays will then have both Steve Pearce and Ezequiel Carrera vying for a single backup outfielder job.
Carrera is up for arbitration, but he’s coming off a good year and likely to be at such a reasonable salary that he’s a pretty easy tender candidate. At the same time, Pearce is under a guaranteed contract, so that decision is already made for the Jays. That would be easy enough to manage though, were it not for the “problem” created by the emergence of Justin Smoak at first base. With Kendrys Morales locked in at the DH spot, there’s just no easy way to get Pearce into the lineup. I’m sure Toronto would love to dump the Morales contract, but that seems pretty unlikely. So with Carrera lurking and a potential NEW outfielder, it’s a very crowded group.
Pearce would potentially be a nice extra bat off the bench, seeing ABs against tough lefties here and there, but there’s also the issue of the Jays middle infield. On that front, there are constant rumblings that the Blue Jays are seriously gunning for someone like Eduardo Nunez to fill their backup infielder position. It’s not hard to see why: Nunez has hit well the last couple of years, he plays a lot of positions, and with the questionable health of Devon Travis, the Jays desperately need a new infielder. The problem: Eduardo Nunez is a terrible shortstop and the Blue Jays need someone to handle that position for when Troy Tulowitzki inevitably gets injured.
Even if it’s not Nunez, the odds are pretty slim of getting someone through free agency who can handle short, hit, and is willing to play the utility role. This means the team will likely need someone else on the roster who can play short. Whether that’s Ryan Goins, Darwin Barney, or some other random infielder, that’s another spot taken up. They could get someone who can play second base and the outfield, but that wouldn’t alleviate the need for another shortstop. That means there’s not a spot on the bench for Pearce and a fourth outfielder.
Finally, you have the bullpen. The Blue Jays have Roberto Osuna, Ryan Tepera, Dominic Leone, Danny Barnes, Aaron Loup, Carlos Ramirez, Tom Koehler, Joe Biagini, and Matt Dermody in the mix, and the rumour is that they want to add one more good reliever to the group.
All of that means one of Carrera or Pearce has to go, if not both, with at least one of those relievers going onto the block. Add in the prospects mentioned above as well as those already on the 40-man (Dwight Smith, Anthony Alford, Ryan Borucki) and you actually have a group of players that could be pretty enticing to other clubs.
That adds up to create a scenario where we could see this offseason being Shapiro and Atkins’ most active one yet. The Jays have pieces that could fit with teams in all situations and they simply have to move some of them. This opens up the sort of ridiculous, fantastical offseason dreaming that only trade rumours can bring about.
So start the speculation. After the season we just witnessed, we deserve a little hot stove fun.
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