With J.A. Happ getting activated yesterday and Francisco Liriano close behind him, the Blue Jays are almost back at full strength. They’ve been grinding through a good chunk of the season shorthanded, piecing together rosters full of players you’d have never expected to see on the team.
So that begs the question, when everyone is back and the Jays are finally (knock on wood) able to put out their ideal 25-man roster, who stays and who goes?
On the disabled list right now…
Francisco Liriano: Liriano has been on the 10-day disabled list since May 10 with left shoulder inflammation. John Gibbons said yesterday Liriano will be activated and is in line to pitch Friday’s game against the Yankees.
Dalton Pompey: Injured during the World Baseball Classic, Dalton Pompey is finally beginning his rehab stint with Single-A Dunedin. He won’t be added to the Blue Jays when he’s ready to come back, and will instead head to Triple-A Buffalo.
Steve Pearce: According to Gibbons, Steve Pearce isn’t close to returning, and will be sidelined for another few weeks at least.
Aaron Sanchez: He’s on his third different disabled list stint of the season for the same issue, and I imagine the Jays are going to take it slowly this time. His first DL stint was 15 days, the second was 13 days, and he’s only made five starts on the season. According to Arash Madani, he isn’t throwing or anything right now, so this could be a while.
Anthony Alford: Hurt himself against Milwaukee and will certainly be going back down to Double-A when he’s ready and won’t be back on the Blue Jays barring another catastrophe.
Darrell Ceciliani: Like Alford, Ceciliani will return to the minors after he’s activated. He’s on the 40-man roster, and could theoretically be moved to the 60-day DL if it’s advantageous to the Jays and their 40-man roster needs.
Glenn Sparkman: The Rune 5 pickup hurt himself in spring training doing fielding drills. He’s on the 60-day DL and I imagine the Jays are in no rush to remove him because they’ll either have to put him on the 25-man or give him back to Kansas City.
Bo Schultz: Had Tommy John surgery and is out for the season.
On the bubble…
Mike Bolsinger: Bolsinger has done a solid job filling in as an injury replacement, posting a 5.61 ERA through six starts. He cleared waivers after spring training, but doing so during the season is another animal. As we saw a few weeks ago, the Mariners are so injured that they grabbed Casey Lawrence from the Blue Jays. It’s hard to imagine Bolsinger making his way through again.
Ryan Tepera: He’s been excellent, but has options.
Danny Barnes: Same with Tepera. Barnes has been a go-to-guy for the Jays in the past few weeks, but could be options to Triple-A without having to clear waivers.
Aaron Loup: He also has options, but has been the Jays’ only effective lefty in the ‘pen this season.
Jason Grilli: I’ve seen this tossed around a few times, but really have a difficult time imagining it happening. Grilli had a very poor start to his season but has been much better of late. His eighth inning spot has been snagged by Joe Smith, and both Tepera and Barnes have passed him in the depth chart. But still, I think the Blue Jays will give a lot of leash to the lovable veteran because he won’t make it through waivers.
J.P. Howell: Like Grilli, J.P. Howell has fallen down the depth chart quickly. He was placed on the DL early on with some arm shittiness, and has only pitched six-and-two-thirds innings so far this season. He doesn’t have options and would have to clear waivers, and with lefty pitching at such a premium, I doubt Howell makes it through.
Chris Coghlan: He was recalled back in April when Josh Donaldson landed on the DL. He hasn’t done much with the bat, posting a .610 OPS through 77 plate appearances. He doesn’t have options.
Ryan Goins: We went through this conundrum after spring training. The Jays ultimately opted to keep Goins over Melvin Upton, making it very clear how much they valued him. Goins is, well, Goins. He’s versatile, can’t hit if playing consistently, and has a great glove. He doesn’t have options.
Sooooo… what’s going to happen?
The first decision will need to be made very soon, as Liriano comes off the DL right away to start against New York on Friday. It seemed yesterday that Bolsinger was the obvious one to go, but when you think a little more about it, he’s a difficult arm to just toss away like that. He can be a pure long man out of the ‘pen and can start in a pinch and isn’t that bad. Besides, the Jays released Mat Latos, and if they lose Bolsinger to waivers, the pitching depth becomes very thin.
Joe Biagini has been going well as a starter so far, but that might not last forever. Happ’s arm could flare up again, and Liriano hasn’t been good at all this season. At this point, the Jays basically have to decide whether Howell or Bolsinger is more valuable to the team, unless they’re fine with optioning one of Barnes or Tepera. They could option Barnes or Tepera and give Howell a chance to prove himself, but with a tough schedule coming up, taking a risk with the ‘pen isn’t a prudent idea.
Then there’s Pompey, who will need a 40-man spot when he’s activated from the DL. He’s currently in Dunedin on a rehab assignment, and likely isn’t far from returning. Like I said, he’ll go to Triple-A, because the Jays aren’t going to be DFA’ing Zeke Carrera, Goins, or Coghlan in order to give scant playing time to a prospect. Somebody like Caesar Valdez will likely find themselves off the 40-man or Ceciliani could be moved to the 60-day to make room for Pompey when necessary.
Pearce isn’t going to be back for while, but if everything stays as is, you have to imagine Coghlan is the one to go. I mean, anything can happen between now and then, and for all we know, there’s another injury and it’s moot anyway, but Coghlan is likely the position player first to go in a roster crunch. Then when Sanchez comes back, and the Jays have a full starting rotation, the decision comes down to Biagini and Liriano. One to start, one to the ‘pen. What could happen here is Biagini remaining in the rotation, Liriano to the ‘pen, and Howell let go. Or, Liriano starts, Biagini goes back, and Bolsinger is let go.
The ideal 25-man…
SP: Stroman, Estrada, Sanchez, Happ, Liriano/Biagini
RP: Osuna, Smith, Grilli, Tepera, Barnes, Loup, Biagini/Liriano
OF: Pillar, Bautista, Carrera, Pearce
IF: Smoak, Travis, Tulowitzki, Donaldson, Morales, Goins, Barney
C: Martin, Maile
That’s a roster, (if) when fully healthy, with Coghlan, Bolsinger, and Howell all placed on waivers. That’s a difficult pill to swallow, because they’re guys you don’t want to just lose for nothing. But it’s hard to rationalize optioning somebody who’s been effective like Loup, Barnes, or Tepera in order to keep somebody around because they don’t have options. The Jays need to put out the best 25-man roster they can, even if it results in them losing somebody.
Anyways, those are just my thoughts. Who do you think the Jays should prioritize? How can they navigate around their roster struggles? Also, shoutout to Blue Bird Banter and their very handy roster sheet.