The Blue Jays are playing baseball games this weekend! Real, fake, meaningless baseball games! But still, real, fake meaningless baseball games are much, much, muuuuuuuch better than brainlessly scrolling through twitter trying to see if the team has added anybody to minor-league deals and re-watching highlights from the 2000s to pretend winter is over.
I wouldn’t blame you if you zoned out over the off-season. The big narrative this winter was the idea of collusion between Major League teams to drive down the prices of free agents that the Jays weren’t going to be in on anyways. The organization is massively lowering payroll and the team is going to be loaded with Large Adult Sons trying to prove they’re worth keeping around for the long-haul.
Ryan talked about the new pitchers who are in the mix over the weekend, so now I’m going to talk about the position players who might make you scratch your head as spring training gets rolling.
The Jays have purged themselves of all of their old, expensive veterans.
The Troy Tulowitzki era came to an end when the team announced they were going to release the oft-injured shortstop, giving him a chance to rejuvenate his career elsewhere. Of course, because we live in a simulated version of hell, Tulo signed a minor-league deal with the Yankees, and he’ll surely hit 40 homers while fans who cried about how he was an overpaid bum in 2018 will come out of the woodwork to suggest that he could have been the missing piece to a playoff contender if SHATKINS wasn’t so goddamn cheap!
The Russell Martin era also came to an end when the Jays shipped him to the L.A. Dodgers, the place he began his career. Dodgers fans came into the off-season expecting J.T. Realmuto, but they ended up with Martin. I love Russ, but boy, that’s a bit of a drop. Anyways, Martin will have a chance to win the World Series on an excellent Dodgers club while the Jays will now have more time behind the plate for Danny Jansen.
Yangervis Solarte was non-tendered and ended up signing a deal with the San Francisco Giants organization, Aledmys Diaz was shipped to the Houston Astros in exchange for pitching prospect Trent Thornton, and, as we know, guys like Josh Donaldson, Steve Pearce, and Curtis Granderson were dealt during the season. I think that covers pretty much everyone.
Who’s still here?
We went into the off-season with the reality that pretty much anybody could be sent packing. Everyone really, really wanted Kevin Pillar to get dealt, but that didn’t happen. He’ll go back to sharing the outfield with Randal Grichuk, Toescar Hernandez, and Billy McKinney, all of whom may or may not be in the Jays’ long-term plans.
Justin Smoak was another name mentioned in possible trade talk, but given the way the market views first base, DH types (C.J. Cron, a dude who smacked 30 bombs last year, ended up on waivers), keeping Smoak around to do his thing just made the most sense. Kendrys Morales will also enter the final year of his contract. His role is to be Vlad Jr’s father figure on the team, the same way Vlad Sr. was Kendrys’ father figure coming up with the Angels organization.
Two of the biggest surprises, who remain in the mix, are Dalton Pompey and Devon Travis. Pompey seemed like an inevitable candidate to be removed from the 40-man roster prior to the Rule-5 draft given the fact he was the only guy not to get a cup of coffee with the team in September, but the Jays are giving him a chance to showcase himself in spring training. He’s out of options, so the Jays will likely be looking to make a deal. Travis had a miserable 2018 season and looked like a non-tender candidate, but he’ll get a chance to prove himself before Vlad Jr. gets called up a few weeks into the season. If Travis isn’t hitting at that stage, a displaced Brandon Drury at third will likely grab his spot at second.
Finally, Luke Maile and his clutch bat will be back again next year splitting time behind the plate with, I imagine, Danny Jansen.
The Large Adult Sons
This is what the season is all about. Jansen and Lourdes Gurriel, who made their debuts last year, are pretty much locks to make the team. I can’t see the Jays using both Reese McGuire and Jansen, so the former will start the year with the Buffalo Bisons. Max Pentecost will be at spring training as a non-roster invitee. He had a nice finish to the season last year, and 2019 will be a chance for him to regain prospect status.
Vlad Jr., as we know, won’t be around until his service time has been manipulated. Bo Bichette isn’t on the 40-man roster, and it seems unlikely we’ll see him on the Jays this season. If we do, it’ll come in September. Cavan Biggio is an interesting one. He isn’t on the 40-man, but he’s older and more versatile than Bichette, so he might be the more likely candidate to come up during the season. Both Bichette and Biggio are non-roster invitees to spring training.
Santiago Espinal, acquired in the Steve Pearce deal, is another invitee not on the 40-man. I can’t see him jumping Richard Urena on the organizational utility guy depth chart this year, though.
Rowdy Tellez tore the cover off the ball during his September showing and could find himself in a full-time gig if the Jays end up dealing Justin Smoak mid-season.
I don’t know if we consider Hernandez or McKinney prospects, but they’re pretty close to locks too. Beyond them, Anthony Alford, Jonathan Davis, and Dwight Smith Jr. will be around in Triple-A knocking on the door. All three are on the 40-man roster and could displace McKinney or Hernandez if either play poorly. Forrest Wall, acquired when The Final Boss was dealt to Colorado, will be in Dunedin as a non-roster invitee, but I don’t see him seriously competing for a role on the team.
The big, exciting off-season acquisitions!
Freddy Galvis, ladies and gentlemen! The biggest splash the Jays made this off-season was adding Steady Freddy to be the team’s starting shortstop. He’s got a good glove and he’s played 162 games in back-to-back seasons. He was originally going to wear No. 19, but switched to 16 out of respect for Jose Bautista! Good guy!
Beyond Galvis, the only other notable addition was Eric Sogard, who inked a minor-league deal to be this year’s version of Gift Ngoepe or Gio Urshela. We’ll probably only see Sogard if shit really hits the fan in Toronto. It’s just veteran depth for Buffalo.
There’s still another month left to go before the season, and I imagine we could see some more guys added on minor-league deals as time goes along. Hey, Bautista doesn’t have a deal yet and Zeke Carrera is looking thicccc! But yeah, as I said earlier, this year is about the Large Adult Sons.