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While the world is shut down, the Blue Jays are making some moves to tidy up their roster for whenever things get going again. They’ve added infielder Joe Panik to the 40-man roster while optioning a couple of pitchers to the minor leagues.
Panik was having a terrific spring, getting time in at shortstop as well as his natural position of second base while hitting a stellar .381/.462/.762 with a triple and two home runs. He also walked more than he struck out (four walks, three strikeouts in 26 plate appearances).
Are the Blue Jays going to expect this kind of production from Panik when baseball gets back underway? Of course not. He’s got a career .718 OPS over six seasons, mostly with the San Francisco Giants and he’s a long way from his All-Star turn in 2015. But Panik also has a lot of experience as an every day player at just 29 while also winning a World Series with the Giants.
The Blue Jays placed Yennsy Diaz on the 60-day IL to make room on the 40-man roster for Panik. My hunch is that Panik had an opt-out clause in his contract for the end of March or beginning of April and it’s probably not too clear as to whether those opt-outs would be legally binding based on the date because of the murkiness with how this season is(n’t) going. Either way, it was pretty much expected for Panik to make the club, especially as things got going in spring training and this move is probably just a formality trending towards a 26-man roster spot when things finally do start to happen.
The Blue Jays also announced, via their own Twitter, that two pitchers who were expected to start the 2020 season in the minor leagues were optioned out. Anthony Kay and Sean Reid-Foley were both optioned by the Jays today. While Kay has a 7.36 ERA in 7 1/3 innings in the spring, he’s struck out nine and just needs to find his command (walking seven). In the game I saw on the final day before the shut down, he was touching 96 mph on the radar gun and using a devastating curveball to get outs.
Reid-Foley got into six games, throwing six innings without giving up an earned run, striking out four and walking just one batter this spring. With the depth the Jays have in the rotation and the fact that the brass have mentioned that they were stretching Reid-Foley out to start, it’s fairly clear that he was always going to start the season in Buffalo.
There is a huge question mark hanging over the heads of minor league players. While major leaguers are likely better off than their minor league counterparts and will be able to withstand not getting paid, minor leaguers only get a per-diem and won’t be paid until after the season starts. Some teams, like the Cubs, are talking about ways to support their minor leaguers, possibly providing meals to their players despite shutting down their minor league complex.
While things are very much up in the air, it’s always good to get some baseball news to write about! I hope there will be plenty more soon!
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