The Blue Jays have added pitcher Thomas Hatch and infielder Santiago Espinal to their 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 draft while sending Tim Mayza outright to Buffalo and designated Justin Shafer for assignment.
It’s not a huge surprise that the Blue Jays weren’t going to protect a large number of players with their 40-man roster this year, with the Rule-5 draft looming at the end of the winter meetings in December. Most of the Jays’ top prospects are already in the majors and they added guys like T.J. Zeuch and Anthony Kay when they gave them September call ups.
By adding Hatch, the Jays gave themselves another potential starter on the 40-man roster. Hatch was acquired from the Cubs for David Phelps at the deadline and, while he struggled a bit, repeating the Double-A level for the Cubs’ organization, he was excellent with the Blue Jays, walking just two batters in 35 1/3 innings with New Hampshire and striking out 34 with a 2.80 ERA in the Eastern League.
In Espinal, they’re adding the player they got for trading Steve Pearce to the Red Sox. While he’s not known for an outstanding bat (he hit .278/.343/.381 in 409 plate appearances with New Hampshire), Espinal brings good defense at a number of positions including shortstop, second base, third base and he even played a bit in the outfield, getting 12 games in center field in Double-A. He did play 28 games in Triple-A Buffalo, posting a .793 OPS there with a .317/.360/.433 slash line, but he also benefited from a .392 BABIP (over his .310 BABIP in New Hampshire). If you’re looking for more power, his ISO only rose by 11 points despite the fact that home runs were up by a huge margin in Triple-A as they switched to the major league ball and Espinal’s strikeout rate went from an excellent 12.2% in Double-A to a mediocre 20.5% in Triple-A. While I’m not saying that Espinal won’t be useful to a major league team, I think we shouldn’t get too excited about his potential offense.
To make room for these two players on the Jays’ roster, Tim Mayza was sent outright to Triple-A. It was unlikely that Mayza was going to pitch this year, undergoing Tommy John surgery towards the end of the season, and it was unlikely that anyone was going to claim him on waivers, making that a fairly safe move. With a good recovery, there are many reasons to believe we’ll see Mayza again in 2021.
The other move was a little more curious as the Blue Jays designated righthanded reliever Justin Shafer for assignment. Shafer has taken over the role of guys like Ryan Tepera and Danny Barnes as relievers who have been pretty good when in Toronto but have ridden the QEW an inordinate amount over the past couple of years.
He produced 0.4 WAR (according to Baseball Reference, but -0.1 WAR according to Fangraphs) last year and had a 3.86 ERA and 1.66 WHIP over 39 2/3 innings, striking out 39 and walking 25, showing trouble commanding his pitches at the major leauge level. His six home runs in those innings were a fairly high number as well.
Looking over the 40-man roster, there were a couple of guys whom I could see going instead of Shafer. Hector Perez is one who hasn’t figured out his command and control at the Double-A level over two years since he was acquired and I’m a little afraid of what might happen against better hitters and a livelier ball as he moves up. I also thought that Jonathan Davis or Breyvic Valera might get a DFA. I love JD as a player but with so many other outfielders on the 40-man roster who all pretty much do the same thing, Davis’s potential for playing time in the major leagues is pretty low. I don’t know much about Valera but he seems to be another light-hitting infielder so that substituting one (Espinal) for another (Valera) made a lot of sense to me.
There were thoughts that Josh Palacios would have been added (I wasn’t among those who thought that way) and a possibility that outfielder Forrest Wall could also be added. Among pitchers, lefty Kirby Snead and righties Dany Jimenez, Zach Jackson, Jackson McClelland and Bryan Baker also had their names tossed around but none were added.
The Blue Jays are also in a position where they can’t select anyone in the Rule 5 draft (you need to have a free 40-man roster spot to do so). This season is going to be interesting in the Rule 5 draft since there is an extra major league roster spot to be used and it may be easier to hide a Rule 5 draftee for the full season in 2020.
What do you think? Who should the Jays have added? Who should they have removed?
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