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Three Blue Jays heading into Spring Training without minor-league options or a guaranteed roster spot

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Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Shushkewich
3 months ago
The Toronto Blue Jays enter the 2024 campaign looking to improve upon their early exit from the 2023 postseason, a sweep at the hands of the Minnesota Twins in the AL Wild Card as the Jays put up just one run across both contests.
This offseason, the Jays front office has made a few moves, bringing back Kevin Kiermaier and inking utility player Isiah Kiner-Falefa to a two-year deal, but currently enter the new year with multiple holes in the lineup.
Matt Chapman, Brandon Belt, and Whit Merrifield are free agents this winter, while from a pitching standpoint, the Blue Jays are without Hyun Jin Ryu, Jordan Hicks (Giants), and Jay Jackson, although the pitching staff seems more complete compared to the needs on the position player front. After a collectively disappointing season at the plate, which saw down-years from key players such as Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Alejandro Kirk, and George Springer, the front office has yet to add a bonafide bat to the lineup although multiple options are still available in Rhys Hoskins, Jorge Soler, J.D. Martinez, and Canadian Joey Votto amongst others.
As with any new year, the Blue Jays will enter next season with a few internal players looking to crack the Opening Day roster, with some needing a spot more than others depending on their Minor League options. Once a player is out of options, they must make the active roster to start the year or they have to be designated for assignment and moved off the 40-man roster at the conclusion of Spring Training. This potentially exposes the player to the waiver wire, where any team can claim said player or the Jays can trade away the DFA’d player to another organization. Should the player be exposed to waivers and not be claimed, they will be outrighted off the roster and remain in the organization otherwise, with another service time, said player has to agree to being optioned.
For the 2024 season, the Blue Jays enter the new campaign with three players who are out of Minor League options (per FanGraphs): RHP Mitch White, INF Ernie Clement, and INF Otto López.

Mitch White

For White, this will be his second Spring Training where he enters camp looking for a spot on the 40-man roster although last season saw the former Dodgers pitcher start the season on the IL, delaying his debut until June 10th.
The now 29-year-old was DFA’d last season by the Jays at the trade deadline and passed through waivers to remain in the Jays organization in Buffalo, where he finished the year.
Acquired at the 2022 trade deadline, White has struggled to live up to expectations, posting a 7.74 ERA through 10 outings to finish the 2022 campaign and authoring a 7.11 ERA last year out of the bullpen for Toronto, struggling to keep runs off the board while driving his BB/9 up to a 5.0 rate. The club added him back to the 40-man this past winter and he will likely compete for a spot in the bullpen but could be a candidate to start should Alek Manoah struggle this spring.

Ernie Clement

After stints with Cleveland and Oakland, the Blue Jays added Ernie Clement last winter on a Minor League deal to add some depth to the infield at the higher levels of the farm system.
Clement spent most of last year in triple-A but produced off the bench when called upon by the Blue Jays, authoring a .380/.385/.500 slash line through 50 at-bats while adding three extra base hits and 10 RBIs to the tune of a .885 OPS through the small sample size. In Buffalo, Clement continued to produce at the plate, posting a .944 OPS while adding 11 home runs and 58 RBIs through 72 games with the triple-A affiliate.
With the departures of Chapman and Merrifield, Clement has set himself up for a solid shot at making the Opening Day roster in what will likely be a bench capacity. He has experience across the infield and showcased last year that he could handle himself at shortstop, although that likely won’t occur in 2024 unless Bo Bichette finds himself back on the IL, so a move to third base or second could be in order as he fills in as needed.

Otto López

Last season did not go the way Otto López likely had hoped, as the Dominican product finished the year on the IL with an oblique strain and factored into just 84 games for the Bisons while not making an appearance at the big league level.
López has been knocking on the big league door since 2021, having 10 at-bats over the past three seasons with the Jays, but really struggled last year at the plate. posting a .656 OPS while striking out at a 15.9% rate and seeing a steady decrease in his walk percentage down to 6.6%. On top of this down-year, López is now having to contend with a horde of internal candidates for a spot on the active roster, including Clement, Davis Schneider, Addison Barger, Leo Jimenez, and Damiano Palmegiani.
A highly rated prospect early in his career, the Jays added López to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft back in 2020, and since then, each season, he has to burn an option as he hasn’t been able to lock down a spot on the roster.

Predictions

The ball is still up in the air into just how many spots will be available on the roster as Spring Training is slowly coming into view. The Jays will likely add another bat or two to the lineup, which will impact how many spots will be open for internal candidates either on the bench or potentially on the field in a full-time role.
Barring a trade for the likes of Schneider, Cavan Biggio, or Santiago Espinal, of the three players mentioned above, Ernie Clement has the highest likelihood of remaining with the club when Opening Day rolls around given his strong campaign in 2023 and the apparent confidence the club has in the New York product when Bichette was injured last year. He swung a hot bat during the short stints with the club as well and López has likely fallen down the depth charts far enough that a strong spring from other internal candidates could see the infielder exposed to the waiver wire by the end of March.
Pitching-wise, White is on the outside looking in, especially since he would be great depth in the starting rotation down in triple-A but can’t go down without being exposed to the waiver wire, although he has passed through before. The club has Wes Parsons and Bowden Francis as additional starting depth options, and both players have an option at their disposal, making White a bit expandable, considering Francis also did well out of the bullpen for the Jays last year as well.
There could be some competition for a bullpen spot this spring but if Francis picks up from where he left off last year (and the Jays consider him a reliever over a depth starter), White will be on the outside looking in without options.

ARTICLE PRESENTED BY BETANO

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