It’s Opening Day! For eight teams, at least, and the Blue Jays aren’t one of them. But tomorrow there’s a real, meaningful Blue Jays baseball game on. Hell yeah! Earlier today, the Jays released their 25-man roster right at the noon deadline, and it featured a couple of, well, interesting notes.
Here is your Toronto Blue Jays opening day roster pic.twitter.com/jBB63OG9OI
— Arden Zwelling (@ArdenZwelling) April 2, 2017
Melvin Upton Released, Goins Survives:
Yesterday, Buster Olney reported that Melvin Upton Jr. would not be on the Blue Jays Opening Day roster, and that the team was looking to trade him. They clearly weren’t able to find a trade partner willing to take on the 32-year-old former All-Star, and ultimately opted to release him and simply eat the $1 million owed to him. This is certainly curious, as the Jays suggested all spring that they were looking to use a platoon of Zeke Carrera and Upton in left field. Sure, his spring was bad, and he was poor down the stretch, but Upton was a one win player last year in time with San Diego and Toronto, and there was at least some hope that he could excel in a depth role with virtually zero pressure in a more hitter friendly ballpark.
Taking Upton’s roster spot is the weirdly-beloved Ryan Goins, who would’ve had to go through waivers if he was cut from the roster. This is confused because, well, Goins is bad, bad enough that even though his glove is very good (for highlight reel plays, at least), he was worth -1.0 wins above replacement last year according to FanGraphs. His career 60 wRC+ is nowhere near good enough to be playing at the Major League level, and the Jays already have a better version of the same player in Darwin Barney, and a disaster situation backup in Triple-A with Jonathan Diaz.
This means the only true outfielders on the team are Kevin Pillar, Zeke Carrera, Jose Bautista, and Steve Pearce, and two of those guys have health concerns and probably shouldn’t be playing in the field every day. Also, if you roll with Pearce in left field, you have to play Justin Smoak at first base, unless you want to use Kendrys Morales in that spot. That also leaves you with Carrera as the only other guy on the roster who can play centre field if Pillar needs a day off, and as we know, Zeke, bless his soul, isn’t good in centre field.
I don’t know. None of it really makes sense. Upton isn’t great, sure, but he’s a much, much better fit on this roster than Goins is. And he’s a better player. No matter how bad you want to tell yourself Upton is, he was worth two full wins more than Goins last season. It isn’t even close between the two of them.
There must be something the front office knows that we don’t, because this doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense for multiple reasons. When you consider Goins making the team despite being bad and redundant, and Justin Smoak being handed an extension despite being bad and then cracking the team after a putrid spring without an issue, you have to wonder how much this organization loves good, gritty, hard workin’ lunchpail guys who play well defensively. Good for Goins for managing to make himself so valued within the organization that the team would go out of their way to assemble its roster in a weird way just to keep him around.
According to Gideon Turk, who spoke with a reliable source within the organization, the team gauged trade interest for both Upton and Goins, and there was zero interest for the former, and some for the latter. I imagine the Jays are worried about Devon Travis’ health, and based on his injuries the past couple of years, are going to be quick to pull the trigger on him hitting the disabled list if something isn’t right. Then I guess you would want Goins around for that situation? I guess? But still, even with Travis on the DL, how much worse is Diaz? Or Gregorio Petit? I think we’ll be seeing Chris Coghlan sooner rather than later, so I wonder if that’ll spell the end of Goins, or if he’ll find his way through another roster shuffle. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.
Osuna, Sparkman, Schultz placed on the 10-day DL, Bolsinger gets DFA’d, Tepera and Leone stick:
This one kind of came out of nowhere, but Roberto Osuna will open the season on the 10-day disabled list due to a cervical spasm. It doesn’t seem to be too serious, but Osuna was noticeably throwing with less velocity during his three spring appearances after the World Baseball Classic than usual. So this is more of a better safe than sorry thing with a 22-year-old who’s logged a lot of innings in the past couple years. Filling his role as closer for the first week will be Jason Grilli, obviously. The move was backdated to April 1, meaning Osuna will be available to return to the roster on April 9, which is the last day of the six-game, season opening road trip.
Along with Osuna, Bo Schultz and Rule 5 pickup Glenn Sparkmann were placed on the 10-day DL. Schultz had Tommy John surgery, and will soon be placed on the 60-day DL to open up a spot on the 40-man roster for somebody else, while Sparkman suffered a thumb injury early in camp, and will likely be eased back over time. Mike Bolsinger, who was acquired in a swap for Jesse Chavez last July, seemed to have the inside track for the team’s long-reliever job, but (Mike, if you’re reading this, stop googling yourself) had a rough spring, allowing nine runs in 13 innings of work.
Kind of lost in all of the Upton/Goins negativity is Ryan Tepera and Dominic Leone, who both made the team after having excellent spring showings. Leone was selected off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks back in November, and wasn’t expected to come anywhere near cracking this roster. He pitched 11 2/3 innings over spring, allowing three runs on eight hits and three walks while collection 12 strikeouts. Tepera was also excellent, pitching 10 innings, collecting nine strikeouts, and allowing just two earned runs on six hits and three walks. Both have options and will likely be the two to be sent down to Triple-A once Osuna and Glenn Sparkman are ready to return, but good on them for winning an uphill battle.