So… I’m bored, okay? I could write the consensus prospect column I never got to when things were shuttered but let’s save that content until such time as it might be relevant, eh?
Since then basically, nothing has intrigued me enough to write it up. To be honest, most of it has been more along the lines of “I’m following this sport why again?” If you were going to speculate what Manfred could have done the last couple of years if he were trying to kill the sport are you sure you’d have proposed anything different? But I don’t want to detail all the ways he’s pissing people off. I have many dark thoughts about the insane five-round draft proposal but…*sigh*…moving on.
Anyway, the one thing that seemed maybe worth a little speculation (beyond the first-round pick in the draft which everyone is already all over – I want Lacy, assume we won’t get him – it’s that provision in the owner’s proposal about each team working with a 30 man roster and a 20 man “taxi squad” (presumably to cover for injuries). My first thought is that there’s room in that for a six-man rotation, and the team absolutely has the arms for that, but my second thought was – what does this 50 man squad look like?
To an extent, it’s going to be affected by roster status questions but I’m inclined to assume that they will waive a lot of the regular rules simply because you can’t practically have taxi squad guys shuffling onto and off of the 40 man roster in the traditional fashion, there are all kinds of headaches in even trying to figure out how that works. So I’m going to lay that aside and just look at who is in the system that would make sense to be involved in this proposed bizarro season (which, for the record, I am against. if it were up to me they would simply bang the whole thing and be done with it but, it’s not). All the following assumes no injuries of course because who knows anything on that score.
The first part is easy. Almost everyone on the 40 man roster stands to be involved. The main exceptions possibly being the three pitchers who were in AA last year but haven’t appeared in the majors. That would be Patrick Murphy, Hector Perez, and Thomas Hatch. Hatch is probably on the cusp but in general, in a year with no real player development, throwing a prospect into a major league situation is probably something most teams would hesitate to do (with one obvious exception!). The other guy I’d be unsure about is Elvis Luciano. He does have a full year in the majors (technically) so if there are no untoward player-control roster complications he might be involved in the taxi squad despite his youth. Or not. Let’s dig in further.
Let’s set aside pitchers for now and consider the offensive side. There are 17 players on the 40, 16 of which have major league experience, that, barring injury, will be involved here. The lone exception being Santiago Espinal. Starting with the tentative assumption of 15 hitters and 15 pitchers (which is subject to revision) the safest assumption is that one outfielder from among Jon Davis, Billy McKinney, Anthony Alford, and Derrick Fisher would be out on the taxi squad. This may or may not be affected by the “out of options” status of Alford and Fisher (I’m inclined to think that in this scenario it would be impractical to hold teams to the option status rules as relates to movement between the active and taxi rosters). Additionally, it’s a certainty that the team will want another available catcher so Caleb Joseph is in. There are plenty of available OF options already so the other taxi squad guys would presumably lean to the infield.
My guess is that teams will lean towards veterans with a lot of experience and in need of less coaching or development. The Jays signed Ruben Tejada in January and he would seem a shoe-in. The other experienced option – albeit mostly in the KBO – is Andy Burns who is able to play all over the infield. This provokes me to ask – are the teams going to expect the taxi guys to stay fresh by playing in some sort of unofficial scrimmages? would they not then need to be able to field a complete team and have one to play against? It seems unlikely they would involve that many more bodies in this operation so – probably not. This reinforces the argument that teams would lean toward the experienced guys where possible, more than those needing more development.
So hitters (taxi guys with a *): Jansen, McGuire, Joseph*, Shaw, Tellez, Biggio, Panik, Bichette, Guerrero, Drury, Tejada*, Burns*, Espinal*, Gurriel, Hernandez, Grichuk, McKinney, Alford, Fisher, Davis*. So far.
On the pitching side, if we again tentatively assuming 15 active players, I’d suggest that there are (again) 16 fairly obvious candidates that, barring injury (and let’s be real, almost certainly someone or more of these guys will be aching pretty much at any given time) would be assumed to be active roster guys. Among these are seven starting pitchers, and if I assume a relatively standard usage, except with a six-man rotation, one of these guys may well be taxied just so that they can keep him stretched out (as much as possible in sim situations) – at least that’s what I’ll assume for the purpose of this exercise. The seven are pretty obvious: Ryu, Shoemaker, Roark, Anderson, Thornton, Borucki, and Pearson. You may, if you like, assume either of the last two or three are not-active at any given time.
If you back this with nine relievers this too should be obvious: Giles, Yamaguchi, Font, Dollis, Bass, Gaviglio, Romero, Panone, and Waguespack – although the latter three may shuffle back and forth off the roster more freely than the others. This leaves us with fully 14 taxi squad slots available and this is where you dial up the speculation.
My working theory, as noted, is that teams will lean towards veteran experience and it just so happened that the Blue Jays packed the AAA roster with veteran relievers who would presumably have faced cutthroat competition to cling to a roster in a different timeline. That’s on top of having a fairly deep AAA rotation of pitchers with at least a taste of the majors. In the latter group there’s Sean Reid-Foley, TJ Zuech, Anthony Kay, and Yensy Diaz. Let’s add in her Julian Merryweather who really needs to be getting SOME work in after losing so much time to injury. If you put all of these guys on the squad you have nine slots left.
In the former group, veteran relievers, we have the following candidates: AJ Cole, Ryan Dull, Phillippe Aumont, Brian Moran, Justin Miller, Jake Petricka and Marc Rzepczynski. You could add Travis Bergen, who spent more than half a season in the majors last year, and Luciano in here. If all these were healthy, and pitched well enough to make the cut, you could have a lot of bullpen options if someone flamed out but you’d have to assume that not all of them will prove healthy and worthy. That would finish filling the 20 spots for the taxi squad. But it’s not unreasonable to suppose that spending 15 of the 20 on pitchers, and nine of those on relievers, seems pretty far out of balance. So without assuming a specific number of injuries or failures, whom else might appear on such a squad instead? I mean, if you want to address that imbalance with a few hitters? Well, if we’re talking about people already in the system, the pickings are thin.
There’s the option of adding another catcher, but Patrick Cantwell is the only other minor league veteran and he’s never played in the majors so that seems unlikely. There’s OF/1B Patrick Kivlehan. He led the Bisons in homers last year and has 212 (pretty unimpressive) MLB at-bats so he’d get consideration. Forrest Wall is the most advance OF in the system, otherwise. He might get a look. The cupboard is pretty bare after that. What about unsigned guys though?
Well Devon Travis is still unsigned but that might mean he’s still not able to play. There are some other relatively high profile names like Scooter Gennett but let’s skip over guys who can’t reasonably be expected to sign for a taxi squad. Once you do that it’s a pretty thin selection as far as fringe major league guys. Tim Beckham, Jung Ho Kang, Jesus Sucre – you get the idea. A glance over the unsigned minor league free agents is even less promising. So what’s already in house is basically it. Assuming, of course. Which, you know, you really shouldn’t.