Photo Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Roster Crunch Time: On Goins, de Aza, Catchers, and More!

Opening Day is a week away and teams across baseball are starting to make some of their final roster decisions. Normally this wouldn’t be terribly relevant to a team like the Blue Jays, but with their bullpen still very much in flux, and Steve Pearce unable to play both left field and first base simultaneously, there are perhaps some interesting names floating around out there — and some Blue Jays who look like they’re caught in a roster crunch of their own.

Let’s have a look-see…

Ryan Goins and Mat Latos

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  • As noted earlier, Mat Latos has been told by the Jays that he won’t make their Opening Day roster, barring unforeseen circumstances, and that they’d like him to accept an assignment to Triple-A Buffalo. Earlier in the Spring, Latos said that he’d be willing to go there and to try to pitch his way back into the big leagues — a very nice, low-risk, possibly-decent-enough-reward proposition for the Jays — but now he’s faced with having to actually make that choice. He can opt out of his deal with the Jays and try to find big league work elsewhere, so perhaps understandably, he’s taking his time. (Thing is, as nice it would be if he stuck around, I’m pretty sure the Jays will be fine without him.)
  • Mike Wilner writes at Sportsnet about poor ol’ Go-Go, who may be nearing the end of the road for his Blue Jays career. Goins is out of options, and according to Wilner the last spot on the position player side of the Jays’ roster is coming down to either him or Melvin Upton. Jeez, it’s like having to choose between Arbys or starvation, eh? I might have a hard time seeing the Jays walk away from the free money that is Upton if it weren’t for the fact that Upton is bad. They don’t have a lot else going for them in left field right now, and keeping Goins to give him at-bats out there would make no sense, so it seems like Ryan’s the one who’ll have to hit the waiver wire. Wilner is confident that he won’t clear, but doesn’t every team kinda have a Ryan Goins already? Maybe it’s not so bad.
  • One way that Goins could get a life line is if Devon Travis isn’t able to answer the bell for Opening Day. It seemed last week like he’s recovered enough that he’s going to be there, but John Gibbons gave a noncommittal answer today when asked about Devo going north with the club — “It’s starting to look that way, but nothing definite yet” — and we’re now being told that he’ll skip this weekend’s games in Montreal, in order to avoid the shitty turf at the Big O. (SAME FOR DONALDSON AND TULO PLEASE).

Alejandro de Aza (and others?)

  • “Could Alejandro de Aza be a cure for the Blue Jays’ left field problems?” is a question that we’d not be asking if not for the fact that the situation out there seems like a disaster waiting to happen. Oh, they’ll catch the ball fine, but hitting is another story. But does de Aza help in that regard? He’s a lefty who was awful last year with the Mets (72 wRC+ and his worst ever strikeout rate), but was about a league-average hitter in the years previous, and was a passable glove in centre, meaning he might get a little boost defensively as a left fielder full time. His BABIP in 2016 was his worst as a big leaguer by far — he posted a .259 mark, which was the first time he’s been below .300 (his career number is .324) — so maybe there’s still more in the bat than he showed, and his overall numbers are dragged down by the fact that he struggles against left-handed pitching. In other words: on paper he looks like a better complement to Melvin Upton than Ezequiel Carrera. Or, at least, he does on paper with publicly available numbers written on it. The Blue Jays may have paper of their own that likes ol’ Zeke a lot more than we do. “He’s a darling of the analytical world,” said Mark Shapiro when he appeared on the radio late last week. And yes, he was referring to Zeke. The analytical world he’s referring to, I have no idea. (Hey, but if Zeke really does has reverse splits, maybe make him your platoon guy against left-handers and ditch Upton for de Aza. Huh? Huh? Eh? Eh? Huh?)
  • Now here’s something crazy that I really don’t think the Jays would do, but: another player who has just reentered the market is Ryan Raburn. He’s a right-handed hitter, and a sub-par defender (though left field has been one of his better positions), but versatile, and had two really good seasons in Cleveland under the presumably watchful eyes of Shapiro and Atkins in 2013 and 2015. He had a 149 wRC+ in 277 PA in 2013, and a 154 mark over 201 PA in 2015. Problem is, he was absolute dogshit in 2014 and 2016. Still, he was a league average hitter against lefties in 2016, and mashed the shit out of them in those years when he was good. Plus, he’d signed a minor league deal with the Reds before the start of the spring, so maybe if he’s willing to go to Buffalo, the Jays could have themselves a fit. And… well… is a de Aza/Raburn platoon worse than a Carrera/Upton one? Maybe. Jesus, maybe it even makes more sense. Ugh.

Are We… Uh… Looking At Catchers Still?

  • Back on Friday, Robert Murray of Fan Rag reported that veteran catcher Derek Norris had signed a deal with the Rays, which will pay him $1 million with $800K in performance bonuses also possible. He also reports that Norris had a bigger offer from the Jays, which he turned down. That seems… odd. I know Jarrod Saltalamacchia hasn’t hit terribly well this spring [Note: No I don’t! I have no idea what Salty’s spring stats look like], but the club has seemed quite happy with how their veteran backup is going to fit. So what gives? Well, two thoughts: one, Norris has options left and is arbitration eligible next year, which means that maybe the Jays were noncommittal about big league playing time and considering stashing him in Buffalo — sort of a better version of Juan Graterol; but two, there’s also the fact that, while neither Salty nor Norris can hit (or, at least, neither did in 2016), Norris can at least play halfway decent defence — a claim Saltalamacchia can’t make. Hmmmm…
  • That being the case, one wonders if the Jays might have any use for the newly-available duo out of Phillies camp: Bryan Holaday and Ryan Hanigan. Neither of them can hit! But they might provide better defence. And with ol’ Salty on a minor league deal, maybe it’s not totally crazy to think that he could suddenly find himself in a late-camp fight for his job. It’s probably crazy though. Now, if the Jays could stash someone better than Graterol in Buffalo and have another bit of safety net in case Martin, god forbid, gets hurt, that’s not a bad idea.

Hey, James Loney!

  • Left-handed hitting first baseman James Loney is a free agent after having an ugly spring with the Rangers. Like, worse than Justin Smoak’s even! And yet… um… yeah, no. He’s worse. Than Justin Smoak. Legit. I mean, think about that. Didn’t used to be though!