With the major acquisitions of the offseason seemingly complete, the Blue Jays must now figure out where everything fits for the upcoming 2013 season. With the rotation locked in and the bullpen’s pieces likely already in place, the Jays must decide upon another player to round out its bench which currently consists of Rajai Davis, Emilio Bonifacio and Josh Thole.
40-Man Depth (Starters)
40-Man Depth (Relievers)
Here is an updated 25/40-Man Roster for the Toronto Blue Jays: Google Drive
At times, the 2012 Blue Jays resorted to the use of the 8-man pen, but presumably those days are over with the improvements made to the rotation. Still, there are a number of interesting options in Esmil Rogers and Jeremy Jeffress who are both out of options and would need to clear waivers in order to be assigned to AAA Buffalo. If AA truly believes that one of the two will be an effective MLB reliever, then he may decide with the flexibility that the Jays have in their lineup to carry them as the 8th man in the pen. Though one of them may already be line for a job in the bullpen if Darren Oliver retires, the team might be more inclined to replace him with another LHP, specifically Aaron Loup.
Considering his removal from the 40-man roster and the vast improvements made to the team, Mike McCoy no longer seems like a remotely reasonable option and fellow AAAA super-sub Yan Gomes is no longer with the organization. Considering the flexibility in the team having Maicer Izturis who is capable of playing 2B, 3B and SS and Emilio Bonifacio capable of playing all the outfield positions plus 2B, there is a lot of flexibility in the lineup that should allow John Gibbons to adjust easily to injuries.Having Bonifacio/Izturis available allows Gibbons to give anyone on the infield the day off including Izturis who could give way to Bonifacio.
Similarly, Rajai Davis and Bonifacio could give anyone in the outfield the day off, though they’d likely be more hesitant to use either in CF. The next options in line for the OF are Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra who would likely benefit more from full-time at bats in Buffalo than sitting on the Jays’ bench. However, if an opportunity opened up because of injury or under performance, then Gose would certainly be given strong consideration to take over in CF for the Jays full time.
Adam Lind could definitely use a platoon partner to remove him from the lineup vs. LHP, but the team has already that it could use Rajai Davis in that role who hit them for a .285/.345/.437 line in 2012. When you consider his speed on the basepaths, Davis is more than adequate in a platoon role. If he falters in 2013, it would not be too difficult for AA to find another right-handed platoon partner.
With the rotation now solidified barring injury, only the bullpen remains in flux based mostly on the indecision of Darren “Black Magic” Oliver. This article presupposes that he will choose to return for one more season and he’s just being dramatic. Casey Janssen, Sergio Santos, Darren Oliver and Steve Delabar seem like locks for mid-to-late inning relief work, though the latter may not have put together a sufficient track record to warrant ‘lock status’ yet. Sergio Santos must also return from his shoulder issues the same pitcher that possessed the best out pitch in baseball in 2011.
Beyond the core, there is a number of intriguing options. Brett Cecil is out-of-options and seems an almost certainty to be with the team as a reliever. He had an uptick in velocity and performance after returning to the Jays as a reliever and he may find himself filling the role that Aaron Loup did in 2012 as a lefty specialist who got more work against right-handed batters as he proved himself capable. Brad Lincoln has an option remaining but seems well-positioned for a role as a middle reliever with the possibility of moving later in the game as roster changes dictate.
With the acquisition of R.A. Dickey, the Blue Jays also drastically improved their bullpen by pushing J.A. Happ into the swingman role. Considering he was a more than serviceable starter as recently as last year, Happ may win the title of Best Swingman in the Biz in 2013. It seems very unlikely that the Jays would choose to keep Happ stretched out in AAA rather than utilize him in the swingman position but perhaps with the quality of the rotation, they don’t believe he’d get enough work to keep him fresh and efficient.
It’s possible, but certainly unlikely, that the Jays would choose to option Happ and keep one of their acquisitions in Esmil Rogers (who cost the Jays Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes in trade) or Jeremy Jeffress (who was acquired for cash considerations). They could also re-sign one of Jason Frasor or Brandon Lyon if they prefer to have more experienced arms relieving the vastly improved rotation. This is after all a frontrunning team and not a Wild Card pretender anymore.
Another candidate for the bullpen is sidewinder Aaron Loup who pitched quite effectively in 2012 for the Blue Jays after his surprise call-up. Because of his available options, Loup is most likely to find himself in the minors at least to start 2013. If Oliver were to retire, the Jays would likely give more consideration to bringing Loup back in order to retain a late-inning left-handed reliever.
Personally, I think the Jays will find that a strong bullpen will not be such a glaring need as it has been in years past because of the upgrades made to the rotation. I can’t foresee the need for an 8-man pen anytime soon barring some short-term exceptional need. As for position players, Anthony Gose is the closest to making a contribution at the MLB-level but could have his development hurt by irregular playing time. If the Jays were to carry a position player already in the system as their 25th man, then I would lean towards Moises Sierra who lacks the ceiling to make irregular playing time too much of a concern. He possesses a strong arm from the outfield, is quick (but, at times,stupid) on the bases, and has some of the best raw power in the system. Perhaps MLB-coaching could unlock that potential which has not been fully converted to game play.
Who do you have penciled in as your 25th Blue Jay?