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Looking at the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster crunch with the Justin Turner signing and upcoming Yariel Rodríguez addition

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Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Shushkewich
2 months ago
The Toronto Blue Jays made headlines yesterday when the club added veteran infielder Justin Turner on a one-year deal worth $13 million. Needing some additional firepower in the lineup, Atkins and Co. turned to the right-handed batter with a career .288/.363/.465 batting line and .829 OPS who will likely be getting a significant amount of reps at the DH spot this year.
This winter, the Blue Jays have been somewhat active, starting with the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes before he signed with the Dodgers and then pivoting to outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, utility player Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and most recently, Turner. To make room for the former Red Sox and Dodgers infielder, the club had designated catcher Brian Serven and he cleared outright waivers and was moved to triple-A on January 29th. At the time, it seemed like the Serven move was to clear space for a different signing but that isn’t the case at this time.
The current Blue Jays roster stands full at 40 players yet they still have one transaction on the horizon, as right-hander Yariel Rodríguez has reportedly agreed to terms with the organization pending a physical. These rumours were discussed almost two weeks ago but the signing of the Cuban product has not been made official yet.

Looming roster decision for the Blue Jays with the incoming Yariel Rodríguez signing

With this deal still pending, the Blue Jays will have to clear another roster spot before being able to officially add Rodríguez, which will be a bit of a tough task when you look at the depth of the different positions.
Looking at the infield, the Blue Jays have a ton of infielders who are knocking on the MLB door and looking for a roster spot, such as Ernie Clement, Addison Barger, Spencer Horwitz, Leo Jimenez, Otto López, Orelvis Martinez, and Davis Schneider. With limited bench space and utility players aplenty on the active roster the club could remove one that has an outside shot of making the team to make room for Rodríguez.
This could mean the end for López, who enters this Spring Training out of minor league options and also on the outside looking in for a bench spot, as the rest of the group mentioned above are likely higher on the depth charts than the Canadian-born infielder. Clement is also out of options heading into the new year but after a solid (yet brief) showcase with the Blue Jays last season, he will likely get a fair shake at trying to lock down one of the roster spots this spring and could be a last cut type of player if he doesn’t make the team. Everybody else mentioned is likely safe from the DFA line at least at this time.
Outfield-wise, the club outrighted the speedy Cam Eden earlier this winter already and outside of the core four outfielders (if you put Isiah Kiner-Falefa in that category), Nathan Lukes is the only remaining outfielder on the 40-man who likely won’t break camp with the team barring an injury. Lukes is likely safe as well, considering the depth at the outfield position is not as strong compared to the middle infield, but stranger things have happened.
Looking at the pitching corps, only Mitch White is out of options heading into the new year and considering the lack of starting depth the Jays have outside of the current rotation, he likely doesn’t get DFA’d until late into Spring Training (should he not make the Opening Day roster).
It will be interesting to see if the club is willing to designate a pitcher for a new arm in Rodríguez, especially since the Blue Jays starting depth is limited to White, Bowden Francis, Wes Parsons, and top prospect Ricky Tiedemann, who is likely not big league ready at this time but should be knocking on the door later this season. Francis isn’t going anywhere after putting up solid numbers last year but the club could DFA Parsons or newcomer Brendon Little to create space for Rodríguez, although losing Parsons would go against the already thin depth at the starting position, especially if Rodríguez features as a bullpen arm this year. The Blue Jays can alleviate that issue with some MiLB deals over the next few weeks, such as the Paolo Espino contract from earlier this winter, but as of now, Parsons likely has a leg up over Little.
Also on the roster in regards to pitching are Hagen Danner, Zach Pop, Yosver Zulueta, Adam Macko, and Nate Pearson, although this group of pitchers is likely safe from the chopping block compared to Parsons and Little at this time.

How a trade could open up roster spots for the Blue Jays

Lastly, the Blue Jays can create some space by trading a player or two from the current 40-man roster, although the return of whoever gets traded away could have net equivalence on the roster crunch unless a 2-for-1 deal is made on the Jays’ side.
Speculation has been leading that the Jays are open to trading away Santiago Espinal, which opens up a roster spot (again depending on who is acquired) and a package deal including one of the infielders mentioned earlier nets two open spaces for the club and likely enhances the return as well, as Horwitz, Jimenez, Barger, Schneider, and especially Martinez all carry some trade value for the right club. The Jays don’t have to force a deal for roster space by any means but trading from the utility player depth is an option for general manager Ross Atkins should he so choose, especially if the Jays are looking for another outfielder/DH type of bat (preferably a left-handed one as well).
Looking at the current roster, the Jays can create an open spot for Rodríguez by likely dropping another pitcher, such as Brendon Little, while still keeping starting depth on the 40-man in White and Parsons. Should the front office want to keep Little on the roster, they could DFA Otto López instead, as the middle infielder has struggled over the past few seasons to lock down a spot on the big league roster and other internal infield prospects have officially caught up or surpassed the Montreal product on the depth charts.

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