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Who should be on the Blue Jays’ playoff roster?
By Cam Lewis1 year ago
The Blue Jays will be taking the field next weekend in a three-game wild-card round series. We don’t know whether it’ll be at home or on the road or who it’ll be against, but they’ve guaranteed themselves a playoff spot.
The final few days of the season will be about determining who hosts and who doesn’t and teams will also be figuring out which players they’re going to add to their playoff rosters. Currently, teams can have 28 players on their active roster, but that’ll be trimmed to 26 players for the playoffs.
What does the Blue Jays’ ideal 26-man playoff roster look like? Let’s go through the decisions that John Schneider and Co. will have to make…
The Starting Rotation
This is an easy place to start. Even though the wild-card series is only three games long, the obvious move is to have all four of Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, Ross Stripling, and Jose Berrios on the playoff roster for insurance in the event of an injury or illness.
The one-two punch is clearly Manoah and Gausman, while Stripling has become the team’s No. 3 starter given how all over the grid Berrios has been. If Stripling doesn’t look sharp early, Berrios could be an option out of the bullpen to salvage the start. He could also be used as a reliever in a leverage spot if other arms are gassed. Who knows! But Berrios will be on the playoff roster even despite his puzzling season.
Bringing four starting pitchers along means that the Blue Jays have room to carry nine other arms in their bullpen, as MLB’s playoff rules stipulate that teams can have a maximum of 13 pitchers on their roster.
Jordan Romano, Yimi Garcia, Tim Mayza, and Adam Cimber have been Toronto’s late-inning arms all season and they added another one, Anthony Bass, at the trade deadline. David Phelps, Trevor Richards, and Zach Pop are very good bets to be on the playoff roster as the middle-inning arms.
That gives the Blue Jays room for one more arm, depending on what they want to do with their bench. Are there any other pitchers who could contribute?
Mayza is Toronto’s only lefty, which isn’t ideal, but Yusei Kikuchi hasn’t been very consistent out of the bullpen, so it’s difficult to imagine the team would be comfortable using him in a leverage spot in the playoffs. It’s somewhat surprising we haven’t seen more of Matt Gage down the stretch, as he fared quite well when he was up with the team back in June.
There was hope that either Julian Merryweather or Nate Pearson could catch fire late in the season and give the Blue Jays a fire-throwing strikeout arm, but it hasn’t worked out with either of them. Merryweather was recently optioned to Triple-A Buffalo following some ugly outings and Pearson hasn’t pitched in the big leagues this season.
Mitch White has likely played his way off of the playoff roster with his last few starts. His stuff could play up in shorter appearances but his command has been too sporadic to make him a comfortable option in a playoff game outside of being used in a mop-up role.
If the Blue Jays roll with the 12 arms that I have listed above, they’ll be able to have 14 position players on their playoff roster.
There are 10 obvious names who are going to be there that we can rattle off first: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, George Springer, Matt Chapman, Teoscar Hernandez, Alejandro Kirk, Danny Jansen, Whit Merrifield, Cavan Biggio, and Raimel Tapia.
Two other names who would be obvious are Lourdes Gurriel and Santiago Espinal but they’re both currently on the Injured List.
If those two are good to go, the Blue Jays would have room to bring along two more position players from the group of Jackie Braldey Jr., Bradley Zimmer, Gabriel Moreno, and Otto Lopez. If they aren’t good to go, the question sort of answers itself.
Let’s assume that Gurriel and Espinal are good to go and the Blue Jays have two more open spots on their roster. Having both Bradley Jr. and Zimmer gives Schneider all kinds of options for late-game running and defence upgrades, but having Moreno as the third catcher also helps with the possibility of using one of Kirk or Jansen as a designated hitter or as a pinch-hitter at some point in the game.
To me, having three catchers seems like the right move, especially with Tapia, Merrifield, and Biggio already available off the bench in the event that Gurriel and Espinal are starting. Bradley Jr. has more experience and takes better at-bats but Zimmer is faster and better defensively. I would lean towards the latter but could see why Schneider would want the World Series winner in the mix.
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