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A Look At The Blue Jays’ 40-Man Roster Crunch

Want to talk about the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros playing in the American League Championship Series? Neither do I!

There ain’t much going on around these parts right now as we wait for the post-season to conclude and for the off-season to get rolling, so let’s take a look ahead at one of the interesting situations Toronto will be dealing with — the 40-man roster crunch.

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As with last winter (and, well, with just about every winter when you have a deep prospect pool), the Blue Jays have a handful of interesting prospects who will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft come December. They added Gabe Moreno, Riley Adams, Ty Tice, Josh Palacios, and Otto Lopez to the 40-man ahead of last year’s draft, who might they add this year?

Here are some names worth considering…

  • RHP Eric Pardinho: Back in 2017, the Blue Jays inked Pardinho as an international free agent out of Brazil to a deal with a $1.4 million signing bonus. He was a top-100 prospect coming into 2019 but injuries have massively stunted his development. Pardinho, who turns 21 in January, pitched just three innings in 2021. This would almost be an Elvis Luciano situation for somebody to take a gamble on Pardinho as the play would likely be to hide him on the Injured List for most of the season.
  • INF Miguel Hiraldo: Speaking of former highly-touted prospects, we have Hiraldo, who had a disappointing season playing with Low-A Dunedin in 2021. Hiraldo appeared in 105 games and slashed a .249/.338/.390 line with seven homers. He just turned 21 and has plenty of time to figure it out, but the Blue Jays adding him to the 40-man certainly isn’t automatic.
  • INF Leo Jimenez: Hiraldo especially isn’t an automatic when you consider the other young infielders the Blue Jays have in the mix, such as teammate Leo Jimenez. In 54 games with Dunedin, Jimenez slashed a .315/.517/.381 line with 51 walks and 38 strikeouts. Hiraldo has more power, but it’s difficult to ignore that .517 on-base percentage.
  • INF Samad Taylor: A key reason why it’s a bit difficult to imagine Hiraldo or Jimenez making their way onto the 40-man is that Samad Taylor is much closer to making an impact than they are. Taylor, who the Blue Jays acquired a few years back in the trade that sent Joe Smith to Cleveland, had a breakout season offensively in Double-A, slashing a .294/.385/.503 line.
  • RHP Hagen Danner: Circling back to pitchers, a very interesting name is Hagen Danner (no, not because of the name). He was a second-round pick as a catcher in 2017 and has since been converted to a pitcher. In 2021, his first season on the mound, Danner posted a 2.02 ERA over 35 2/3 innings for High-A Vancouver.
  • RHP Hobie Harris: Here’s another interesting name with an interesting name. Hobie Harris was a pitcher the Blue Jays grabbed from the Yankees in the minor-league part of the Rule 5 draft and he pitched pretty well for the Triple-A Bisons this year. In 43 2/3 innings, Harris posted a 3.92 ERA with 10.5 strikeouts per nine.
  • LHP Zach Logue: The last pair of names are relievers, but Logue looks like a legitimate depth starting option for the Blue Jays. He was called up to the Bisons mid-season and put up an impressive 3.23 ERA over 17 starts while striking out 90 and walking just 23.
  • RHP Joey Murray: Though he only pitched one outing in 2021, Murray is another depth starting option for the Blue Jays if he sticks around. Murray had a breakout season for the organization in 2019, posting a 2.75 ERA over 137 1/3 innings between Low-, High-, and Double-A. The challenge is he’s only tossed two-thirds of an inning over the past two seasons.

Of those names, I suspect Logue and Taylor are the ones the Blue Jays prioritize getting on the 40-man, but they might also try to sneak a younger prospect with some name value like Pardinho or Hiraldo on, too. Who knows.

Anyways, let’s go through the 40-man roster and figure out who might get dealt away or fired into space in order to make room for these Rule 5-eligible guys. We saw the Blue Jays move Derek Fisher for a low-level prospect last year, so it would make sense to see something similar this year with one or more of the fringe players on the roster.

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Marcus Semien, Corey Dickerson, Jarrod Dyson, Robbie Ray, Steven Matz, and Joakim Soria are the 40-man players who will be eligible to hit the open market, while Kirby Yates and David Phelps, who are on the 60-day Injured List, will also be free agents.

George Springer, Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel, Vladdy Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Santiago Espinal, Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk, and Gabe Moreno are the position players who aren’t going anywhere (in this conversation at least), while Jose Berrios, Hyun Jin Ryu, Alek Manoah, Nate Pearson, Adam Cimber, Trevor Richards, Jordan Romano, Tim Mayza, Ryan Borucki, Julian Merryweather, and Ross Stripling are the pitchers who are locked in for now.

That leaves us with this list of players who could be on the bubble…

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  • OF Randal Grichuk
  • UTIL Breyvic Valera
  • OF Josh Palacios 
  • INF Kevin Smith
  • INF Otto Lopez
  • C Reese McGuire
  • RHP Trent Thornton
  • LHP Kirby Snead
  • LHP Tayler Saucedo
  • LHP Anthony Kay
  • RHP Anthony Castro
  • RHP Jacob Barnes
  • RHP Bryan Baker

Grichuk is the most obvious player that the Blue Jays should be looking to move given his performance and his contract, but, given his performance and his contract, it won’t be easy. The Blue Jays will either have to eat some cash or take another bad contract back. It might just be easiest to keep him as the fourth outfielder.

Valera has stuck with the organization for quite some time and he has performed fairly well at the big league level. But will he last over younger names like Smith and Lopez? Or other prospects like Hiraldo and Taylor who are eligible for the Rule 5? There might not be room, especially when Cavan Biggio and Santiago Espinal play the same role.

McGuire cleared through waivers at the start of the season, made his way back to the team due to injury, and performed adequately. He’s a fine big league backup, but the Blue Jays have a logjam of catchers in the mix. Unless Kirk or Moreno are moved in a bigger deal, I suspect the team will look to get something for McGuire in order to open the spot for someone else.

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And then there’s a whole bunch of ho-hum pitchers. Thornton and Kay haven’t taken the strides to become capable big league depth starters and also haven’t fared all too well as relievers. Snead, Saucedo, Castro, Barnes, and Baker are all depth bullpen arms who could wind up designated for assignment in order to make room for somebody else.

The Blue Jays’ 40-man roster was a game of musical chairs all season long and that’ll continue to be the case once the off-season gets rolling. A handful of those aforementioned names are DFA candidates, but others, like McGuire and Valera, are capable big leaguers who might net the Blue Jays a low-level prospect, as Fisher did last year.

Another type of trade to look for this winter that would help the Blue Jays navigate their crunch is the Steven Matz deal. They sent two 40-man players, Sean Reid-Foley and Yennsy Diaz, along with a prospect to New York for Matz, which ultimately helped them A) get a big-league arm and B) open a 40-man spot. Names like Lopez, Smith, Palacios, and perhaps even Thornton and Kay would make sense here.