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Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

What is the Blue Jays’ endgame with Dalton Pompey?

Is there anyone on the Blue Jays 40-man roster who’s experienced a wilder up-and-down journey than Dalton Pompey? Once believed to be the centre fielder of the future in Toronto, an unfortunate series of injuries and bad luck sidelined him from the Major Leagues for a year-and-a-half.

Pompey finally made his return to the Blue Jays in May of 2018. For those keeping count, he went 580 days in between Major League games. After Pompey’s demotion to Triple-A, he had a spat with his manager in August and the Jays suspended Pompey. There’s also this; every single member of 40-man roster suited up for the Blue Jays in September 2018, save for one: Pompey.

If there was any speculation whether the 26-year-old was in the doghouse with the organization, that lack of a call-up said it all. Technically, he’s on the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster, but Pompey is seemingly hanging by a thread.

What exactly is the Blue Jays’ endgame here with Pompey? In November, the club made the curious decision to keep him on the 40-man roster, despite ending the season in a dreadful fashion. In lieu of adding players like Jordan Romano or Travis Bergen to their eligible roster, Pompey stayed put.

Not that losing players of that ilk is catastrophic to the Blue Jays organization, but why continue on this path with Pompey when it’s clear he has no future with this club? That’s what everyone is trying to figure out.

It’s not like Pompey hasn’t had opportunities. One of the reasons why Pillar has remained the team’s starting centre fielder for the last four years is he hasn’t been challenged by anyone like Pompey or even Anthony Alford.

In a year when the Blue Jays got pennies on the dollar for Josh Donaldson and ate $38 million owing to Troy Tulowitzki, the Jays demonstrated they covet precious roster spots, even if it means paying that player to go away. Again, Pompey’s still here.

In a few ways, this feels a little like the Tulowitzki situation. If money’s not the issue, given the history here, the local choice is to cut ties, in order to free up a roster spot for somebody else who factors into the future of this organization.

From all accounts, for Pompey to get suspended by his own team is pretty bad. Just ask Ken Giles; blow-ups with your manager will not only get you demoted, but they’ll also get you traded. Pompey has not found himself on the end of a move to another organization … yet.

Shi Davidi had an interesting quote in one of his latest pieces up on Sportsnet about how Pompey stayed on the 40-man roster in lieu of guys like Romano and Bergen.

Blue Jays player-development officials were dejected by the losses of two players that had worked their ways through the system, earning respect at each step along the way … especially with Dalton Pompey still holding on to a spot, despite having no future with the club.

There are only two reasons I can think of why the Blue Jays are still hanging on to their maligned outfielder. For one, he’s a distressed asset, but he still has some value. Since his service time hasn’t accrued very much over the last five years, Pompey isn’t eligible for arbitration until 2020 and he’s under team control for six more seasons. That comes with a caveat; he’s out of options next year and has to go through waivers if the Jays want to send him to the minors.

In theory, let’s say that everything goes right for Pompey in 2019. He breaks camp with the Blue Jays as one of their outfielders and stays on the 25-man roster the entire season. Pompey then has to stay on the big league roster for the next five seasons (without getting demoted and exposed to waivers) for the Jays to maximize that asset.

My second suspicion – which is more outlandish than the first – is the Blue Jays have a suitor lined up for Pompey and they’re merely waiting for an opportunity to trade him as part of a package deal.

I can’t explain why, but for some reason, I feel like if this whole Elvis Luciano project doesn’t work out, the Jays could work out a trade with the Royals and Pompey could be a piece going back to Kansas City. That’s just pure speculation on my part, but I can’t see Pompey as anything but a trade chip at this point.

Ultimately, it’s one lowly 40-man roster spot on a Jays team that doesn’t figure to contend in 2019, so it’s hard to get upset about it. On the other hand, why would Pompey continue to occupy a roster spot when prospects like Romano and Bergen forecasted into this team’s future?

Does the value of a player like Pompey outweigh the upside of an arm like Romano’s or Bergen’s? Technically, three teams felt like these guys were worth a shot, after the White Sox selected Romano in the Rule 5 draft and then flipped to the Rangers. Bergen went to the Bay area to suit up for the Giants.

There must be a legitimate reason for Pompey’s presence on this roster, even if it’s unknown to the public. The organization wouldn’t knowingly waste a roster spot on someone who didn’t factor into the team’s plans. If Pompey sticks around through the offseason, only to find himself on waivers by April, that’s extremely poor asset management by the Blue Jays.

It was cool to see Pompey back in a Blue Jays uniform last season. I’ll always remember him as the Blue Jays larcenist on the basepaths during the 2015 playoffs. His home run off Felix Hernandez in September 2014 was another memorable highlight.

In retrospect, it may have been too much too soon for Pompey. He’s capable of being a big leaguer again, but the question is – will that be with the Blue Jays or an entirely new organization?

Given his age and his skill set, Pompey will catch on somewhere. It just won’t be with the Blue Jays.

  • Spanish Announce Table

    Agreed on all points however I think the loss of Romano & Bergen are overstated as of today. We can talk again on the last day of 2019 season if they have not been returned.

  • Player to Be Named Later

    Pompey and Oliver Drake do seem like the head-scratchers on the 40-man. Cutting ties with Tulo earlier, and exposing Pompey and Drake, would have allowed them to protect Bergen and Romano AND claimed Luciano. My take from this, however, is not that Atkins doesn’t know what he’s doing. It’s that WE don’t know what he’s doing. Maybe teams have sniffed on Pompey and he’s in line to be traded as part of a package. Or perhaps the plan is really to trade Pillar (big hot-take there) and he wants to keep Pompey as CF depth. Or… maybe they still like the tools and value him more. (Defensive value, perhaps?) Whatever the case, I think we can trust that the Jays’ brain trust spent copious hours pouring over data to make these decisions. So I’m happy to watch it unfold. And if Pompey gets a chance to play in Toronto in 2019, that will be great. We’re going to need things to root for this season.

  • The Humungus

    Is it really this hard that people don’t get it?

    You can’t fill your 40 man with guys you want to keep. If you do, and you want to sign someone, then you have to outright them. Which means waivers. Which means you lose them for nothing.

    However, by keeping guys like Romano and Bergen off the 40 man, sure, you risk losing them in the Rule 5, but it’s 1-2 Rule 5 guys per year AT MOST that don’t get returned to their team.

    It’s a less risky proposition that a couple of 25 year olds who’ve not yet passed AA will get returned then to add them, outright them, and then once they’re gone, you have to re-acquire them if someone else picks them up on waivers.

    Remember, Rule 5 guys can’t even be optioned. But waiver claims can.

  • Kristen Sprague

    Pompey has confused me in many ways. He looked pretty solid in his first call up. (I get it. Small sample size.) But the next year, his struggles offensively (this, I could see) and defensively (this I couldn’t. He looked really bad out there). The litany of injuries (bad luck) and explosion with Meacham have definitlely taken the shine of his prospect status. I’m not adding anything new on reflection but I’m kind of sad that he hasn’t worked out