In 2020, the biggest rule change going into effect will be the addition of a 26th player on the MLB active roster. So how will the Blue Jays use this extra roster spot. As pitchers have become more and more specialized and with the Jays using an “Opener” in 2019, will they use this extra spot to stash another pitcher? Or will the job go to a position player, and if so, where will he play?
While I’ve yet to see anything official about this, there is speculation that pitchers will be capped at 13 in this new roster. Another new twist is that players need to be designated as a pitcher, a position player or a 2-way player (with very specific rules governing how much he has played at either spot in the last year). With a pitcher cap at 13, this won’t change anything the Blue Jays do from a roster perspective because the Jays were generally carrying 13 pitchers throughout much of the past few years.
Another rule coming in this year is that pitchers coming into a game will need to pitch to at least three hitters or pitch until the end of an inning, creating a much higher floor for LOOGYs (Lefthanded One Out GuY) who will not be able to get their tough lefthanded hitter out and then come out of the game. This rule is designed to cut down on pitching changes that come within the inning.
So where will the Blue Jays use their extra roster spot? If they’re carrying 13 pitchers, little will change, so it means that the Blue Jays will have the ability to have an extra bat on their bench throughout the season. It probably won’t be a catcher as the Jays are currently set up with two young guys who will split time (barring a transaction). The non-tender of Luke Maile pretty much set that up.
Do the Blue Jays carry another infielder? Right now, with Vlad, Bo, Cavan and Rowdy set to open with the team, they’ll also have Travis Shaw and Brandon Drury on major league deals with Richard Urena and Breyvic Valera also on the roster. Both Urena and Valera are out of options and so the club will probably tempted to carry both, although I have a feeling that one will get DFA at the end of spring training. If the Blue Jays make another late move to bring in a veteran infielder with big league experience during spring training on a minor league contract, they could add an infielder that way, a la Eric Sogard in 2019. Rowdy Tellez still has options and the arrival of Shaw could push Rowdy to the minors if the Jays decide to use Cavan Biggio or Brandon Drury at first base occasionally.
So how about the outfield? I think this is where the Jays are most likely to take advantage of the extra roster spot. The Jays have plenty of outfielders in the running for jobs with only Randal Grichuk on a sizable deal. Lourdes Gurriel is technically able to be optioned once more but will probably stick. Teoscar Hernandez still has an option and will probably be on the big league team but was optioned last year so anything is possible if he’s not hitting. There’s still Derek Fisher and Billy McKinney to consider: Fisher is out of options but McKinney still has one. And then there’s Anthony Alford. Alford is out of options and, with a good spring, could play his way onto the roster.
So with 13 spots for position players, we have two catchers (Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire), six or seven infielders and four or five outfielders. I have a feeling that the Blue Jays would rotate players through the DH spot, giving Rowdy, Teoscar or other players time at DH.
I would probably lean towards carrying an extra infielder, mainly because it looks like the Blue Jays don’t have a lot of upside in the outfield with several players who tend to have good power but low on-base percentages with a lot of strikeouts (Hernandez, Fisher, McKinney all fit this profile).
But there is still a lot of offseason left and my gut feeling is that there are going to be moves to be made to help bolster an offense that is probably a little thin beyond the top five or six players.
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