Jays From the Couch takes a look at the Toronto Blue Jays’ final roster spot moves, moves that might make them a championship team
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The regular season is about to start. Excitement around the Blue Jays has never been higher than it is now. Following a 91-71 season that saw the them miss the playoffs by one game, Jays GM Ross Atkins was busy in the off season. Signing free agent pitchers Kevin Gausman, Yusei Kikuchi, Yimi Garcia and trading for gold glove infielder Matt Chapman should go a long way toward getting the team back to playoff baseball.
We all know the players who were a lock for a spot on the big league club. Let’s take a look at some players who were on the bubble and who did and didn’t make the cut.
Greg Bird out, Gosuke Katoh in
This came as quite a surprise to a number of Jays fans. After a strong spring with the bat, many thought that Bird would fly north with the Jays to Toronto. However they were unwilling to guarantee him a spot on the 40 man roster so he exercised his opt out and a day later, re-signed with his original organization the New York Yankees.
Bird has a track record in MLB, though not all of it positive (injuries probably had a lot to do with the less than stellar results he had from 2017-2019). The thought that he might be able to stay healthy and come anywhere close to the .872 OPS he had in 2015 might have been enticing.
Instead the Jays went with Gosuke Katoh. The 27 year old is an 8 year minor league player who had an .862 OPS with the Padres AAA team in 2021. When he takes the field for the Jays in a regular season game it will be his major league debut.
Maybe it was his positional flexibility that swayed the Jays in his favour. While Bird is essentially a 1B/DH, Katoh can play 1B, 2B, 3B, RF or LF. Here is hoping that this feel good story has a happy ending and he finds succeed as a role player for the Jays.
The Jays and White Sox swapped catchers in a bit of a surprising move. Both players hit left handed, both are nothing spectacular at the plate (Collins has a career wRC+ of 77 to McGuire’s 81)
Two big differences stand out. McGuire is a well above average defender. He had a DEF rating of 11.3 in 2021 which was 15th among 107 catchers with at least 10 innings behind the plate. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about Collins whose DEF rating of -10.5 ranked him……107th out of 107 (yikes!)
What the Jays gain with Collins is roster flexibility. He has an option year whereas McGuire is out of options. Either is the third string catcher behind Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk, while the organization waits for top prospect Gabriel Moreno to be MLB ready. Trading McGuire for Collins allows the Jays to option Collins to AAA without being forced to place him on waivers and risk losing him.
Time will tell if this was a good move for the Jays. Here is hoping that if Collins doesn’t help the team, at least he doesn’t hurt their chances at winning.
With expanded rosters of 28 players rather than 26 for the first month of the season, the Jays are going with 13 position players and a 10 man bullpen.
What I thought could have been a battle for a roster spot between southpaw hurlers Ryan Borucki and Tayler Saucedo was rendered academic when a hamstring injury landed Borucki on the IL to start the season. Saucedo pitched well enough in spring training to earn a spot but for a while it looked like he might have been a victim of having options.
Rounding out the bullpen along with Saucedo are David Phelps, Julian Merryweather and Trent Thornton. Phelps is on his third stint as a Blue Jay and has been a very effective relief pitcher when healthy. Merryweather has a world of talent, his challenge has been to stay healthy long enough to contribute. Thornton has had an up and down MLB career to date but he had a good spring and he gives the Jays a second long man option out of the pen along with Ross Stripling.
Joining Borucki on the IL is Nate Pearson who is out indefinitely with mono. It’s heartbreaking to once again see Pearson sidelined with yet another illness or injury. All the best to him for a speedy recovery.
The Jays signed Andrew Vasquez to a major league free agent contract in the off season however he has one remaining option left. When he under performed in the spring, the decision to option him was relatively easy.
Still to come
Though it might not have been the trade that many Jays fans hoped they would make with the Guardians, Toronto sent pitcher Anthony Castro to Cleveland in exchange for outfielder Bradley Zimmer. Zimmer is a left handed hitting CF who is strong defensively (+ 7 outs above average in 2021). He is out of options and while the Jays could try to sneak him through waivers, my guess is that they will add him to the roster and go with five outfielders.
Once he arrives in Toronto and is ready to be activated, that means someone will lose their roster spot. Possible candidates include Collins, Katoh, Merryweather, Saudeco and Thornton. I’m thinking it will be a position player and I’m hoping they keep Katoh. How heartbreaking would it be to option Katoh, being so close to his MLB debut after so many years. Collins on the other hand has shown very little to make one hope that he can help a team win.
Sometimes these seemingly minor, “fine tuning moves” can put the icing on the cake of a special season for a team. It will be exciting to see how it all plays out.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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