Here we are in mid-January, and there is a very real possibility that the Toronto Blue Jays have completed their offseason. Unlike some teams who are still trying to fill holes through signings and trades, the Jays appear to be all set for Opening Day.
With last week’s signing of Henry Blanco, coupled with arbitration avoiding deals with Colby Rasmus, Josh Thole, Emilio Bonifacio, and J.A. Happ, Alex Anthopoulos appears to have nothing left to do. Aside from a shocking trade that nobody sees coming to upgrade first base, Toronto appears to be ready to rock.
The only decision left to make appears to be who, out of the collection of players acquired by AA, will be on the Opening Day 25-man roster?
Well, let’s take a look.
One would imagine that the Jays will go with a more traditional mix of 13 position players and 12 pitdhers. Though they experimented with an 8-man bullpen last season at times, that was more out of necessity (due to injury) than out of desire.
Of the 13 players that would be on the Opening Day roster, the following look to be locks:
C – J.P. Arencibia
1B – Adam Lind
2B – Maicer Izturis
SS – Jose Reyes
3B – Brett Lawrie
LF – Melky Cabrera
CF – Colby Rasmus
RF – Jose Bautista
DH – Edwin Encarnacion
Bench – Rajai Davis
Bench – Emilio Bonifacio
That leaves two open spots. One will definitely go to a backup catcher, so either Thole or Blanco. Who will take the other bench spot?
There are plenty of candidates available. On the current 40-man roster, there are outfielders (Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra) and infielders (Ryan Goins and David Cooper). There are also players not on the 40-man, including veterans Mike McCoy, Ryan Langerhans, and Adam Loewen.
Goins has yet to play above AA, and I would expect Toronto to want youngsters Gose and Sierra to play instead of sit, so my money is on none of those three starting in the big leagues. With Adam Lind already pencilled in at 1B, and with Encarnacion a capable backup, there doesn’t appear to be room for Cooper. That leaves one of the non-40-man players. Anthopoulos and Gibbons both value versatility, so for that reason I would expect frequent flyer Mike McCoy to at least start the year as the 13th man on the bench.
As far as pitching goes, the starting rotation is set: R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, and Ricky Romero. Determining the order will be a key conversation point in the spring, but the five pitchers are locked in.
Going by what Anthopoulos has already stated, the following relievers also appear to be locks on the team:
RHP – Casey Janssen
RHP – Sergio Santos
RHP – Esmil Rogers
RHP – Steve Delabar
LHP – Darren Oliver
Again, that leaves two open spots, with plenty of candidates. There are righties – Brad Lincoln, Jeremy Jeffress, Sam Dyson, Chad Jenkins, and maybe Dustin McGowan. And there are lefties – Brett Cecil, Evan Crawford, J.A. Happ, and Aaron Loup. There are also some non-roster invitees, including former Jay Dave Bush, Justin Germano, Claudio Vargas, and Ramon Ortiz.
In my mind, the four names that stand out as ideal are Lincoln, Cecil, Happ, and Loup. However, there are mitigating circumstances and questions that must be asked. For instance, does Gibbons want three lefty relievers, or two? Anthpoulos has mentioned the possibility of any potential starters being stretched out in AAA Buffalo to start the year – does this include Lincoln, Jenkins, Happ, and Cecil? How is a player like Jeffress, who is out of options, handled? Do the guys currently not on the 40-man roster actually have a decent shot to make the team?
At the end of the day, it’s anybody’s guess. But since you’ve made it this far in this post, you are likely waiting for my guess. So here goes: Lincoln, Happ, and Cecil start in the minors as starters or long relievers, and the final two bullpen spots go to Jeffress and Loup.
Unless, of course, Anthopoulos does what he does best – pulls a deal out of thin air that renders this whole exercise moot.
He’s starting to run out of time though: only 70 days until Opening Day.