Taking a look at the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster decisions

It’s going to be a Transaction Friday. It might not be the ones you’re hoping for, but it’s something.

Tomorrow (Nov. 20) is the deadline for Major League Baseball teams to add players to their 40-man rosters ahead of the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place in early-December.

The Blue Jays aren’t really facing a difficult roster crunch this year but there will be some interesting decisions ahead. There are a few decent prospects who might not be that far from being big-league ready who could be snagged but the team is also planning to make a handful of additions in free agency this winter.

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Remember, a thing to consider with the Rule 5 Draft is that you’d rather leave a prospect off the 40-man and test your luck with having them selected by another team than you would designating them for assignment later in the off-season to make room for a free agent.

For example, a couple of years ago, the Jays lost Travis Bergen and Jordan Romano in the Rule 5 Draft but ended up getting both players back because the teams that selected them didn’t want to keep them on the active roster all season. Had the Jays added them to the 40-man and DFA’d them at some point, another team would have been able to claim them without worrying about keeping them on the active roster all year.

As of right now, the Blue Jays have 21 pitchers and 14 position players on their 40-man. That number could go down to 34 if the team decides to non-tender Travis Shaw, which seems possible.

This year, college picks from the 2017 draft, high school picks from the 2016 draft, and previously exposed players will be eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft. Here are some interesting names on that list…

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  • Gabriel Moreno (C)
  • Riley Adams (C)
  • Logan Warmoth (INF)
  • Otto Lopez (INF)
  • Samad Taylor (INF)
  • Cullen Large (INF)
  • Kevin Smith (INF)
  • Josh Palacios (OF)
  • Ryan Noda (OF)
  • Josh Winckowski (RHP)
  • Justin Dillon (RHP)
  • Ty Tice (RHP)
  • Zach Louge (LHP)

As I said earlier, it isn’t exactly a massive roster crunch but there are some interesting players to consider here.

Something to note… It’s especially difficult this year to make predictions as to who the organization values because there wasn’t a minor-league season. Some guys could have looked really, really good at the Alternate Training Site and we’ll never hear about it. Regardless, I’ll make my best guesses.

The obvious one is Gabriel Moreno, who’s one of the organization’s top prospects. He’ll surely be added to the 40-man. There’s also Riley Adams, another quality catching prospect. Adams slashed a .261/.366/.443 line between Double-A and Triple-A in 2019 and isn’t far from a cup of coffee at the big-league level. But adding Adams would give the Jays five catchers on the 40-man at the same time, which isn’t ideal.

I don’t think the Jays will be in much of a rush to add any of the other position players listed. Logan Warmoth, the team’s first-round pick from 2017, has been disappointing since turning pro. Kevin Smith, who’s ranked as the organization’s No. 19 prospect, struggled mightily after what appeared to be a breakout season in 2018.

Based on the fact he was on the team’s 40-man playoff pool, I think Josh Palacios might be the most likely position player outside of the aforementioned catchers to be added to the 40-man roster. But while Palacios is toolsy and has a good glove, he hasn’t had good offensive numbers since rookie ball.

Otto Lopez, the team’s No. 13 ranked prospect, is a tricky one. This situation is somewhat similar to that of Elvis Luciano, in that he’s nowhere near being big-league ready but a rebuilding team could grab him and hide him on their roster and on the Injured List in order to add a young, toolsy prospect to their system.

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And then, finally, we have the pitchers. The only pitcher who’s really on the radar is Josh Winckowski, who’s the team’s No. 26 ranked prospect. He had a great 2019 season, posting a 2.69 ERA between Low-A and High-A and would have likely pitched in Double-A had the 2020 season not been derailed. Winckowski wasn’t one of the pitchers the Blue Jays had at their Alternate Training site this summer.

So, in sum, Moreno is a no-brainer, Adams is fairly likely to be added, Lopez is a wild-card, and guys like Winckowski, Smith, and Palacios are probably on the radar.

When it’s all said and done, I wouldn’t be shocked if only the two catchers and one other name gets added so that the Blue Jays have plenty of flexibility to make free-agent additions to their roster later on in the off-season. The last thing you want is to be DFAing somebody in February to make room for free agents. Force a team to keep a prospect on their active roster all year if they want them.