The Toronto Blue Jays currently stand at 38 players on their 40-man roster, leaving just two spots for the club to make any additional signings or moves this winter without having to designate someone for assignment to clear space.
The team has made moves to add some players early this winter, such as Brendon Little (acquired via trade), Mitch White, and Adam Macko, the lone player the Jays protected from the Rule 5 Draft, but have left themselves with little room to work with this winter, with clearing space coming in the form of letting players go to free agency and by non-tendering Adam Cimber.
Looking at the current roster and the offseason plan, the Blue Jays don’t necessarily need to add to the pitching staff as much as they need some additional bats, with the club struggling to produce at the plate in 2023 (at least to the standard fans are used too). While the pitching and defence were top-notch, the bats struggled to shine when needed and were one of the main contributors to the Jays’ early exit in the 2023 playoffs, producing just one run across two games against the Twins in the AL Wild Card.
The 2024 roster will look considerably different with Matt Chapman, Brandon Belt, Kevin Kiermaier, and Whit Merrifield all free agents and with no guarantee of returning. Losing veteran players such as these four will always create a sizeable hole in the batting order but considering the Jays are in “win now” mode with their current core, they will either need to find replacements on the open market or give some leeway to internal options, a risky move for a team looking to win their first postseason game in over seven years.
Looking at trade situations to improve both the active and the 40-man roster
With this in mind, when you look at the 40-man roster, the Blue Jays appear overloaded at the infield position, with numerous fringe-type players likely getting an opportunity to earn a big league spot next year.
While the likes of Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are locked on the roster, the rest of the current staff is not so clear at this point, which boasts the likes of Addison Barger, Ernie Clement, Cavan Biggio, Santiago Espinal, Spencer Horwitz, Orelvis Martinez, Davis Schneider, Otto Lopez, and Leo Jimenez. While one or two players will likely find themselves on the big league roster come spring, it’s safe to say the Blue Jays have some depth that they could choose to deal from if they are looking to improve the current active roster with veteran talent.
In particular, with Kiermaier heading to free agency and the likelihood of Daulton Varsho moving to centre field, the Jays will need someone to take over in left field unless the club is intent on using Nathan Lukes in the spot. With so many fringe infielders, the Jays could choose to move one or more to not only create some roster space but also help with the current roster outlook, depending on who they trade. The club could use one of these players at third base to take over for Chapman but again, this is a risky move and still leaves a hole in the outfield.
Espinal and Biggio both have the most experience at the big league level amongst the group and could both be on the trade block, especially since both players are arbitration-eligible. Espinal struggled to live up to expectations in 2023, posting a .644 OPS while working mostly off the bench but still slotting into 93 games. Lefty-hitting Biggio found more success this past campaign (.710 OPS with 40 RBIs through 111 games) and could be moved as well given his versatility across the diamond. Both players won’t yield a huge return but considering they have a couple of years of contract control under their belt, there is some value to be had, especially if packaged with another player or two.
Alternatively, the Jays could choose to move a depth piece instead such as Martinez, Barger, Schneider, Jimenez, or Horwitz, which may yield more in value compared to Espinal or Biggio, although a package deal may be the way to go with these internal options. Martinez, the Blue Jays #2 ranked prospect, has likely the most value amongst the group but Schneider and Barger rank well as well, especially since Schneider had a great cup of coffee with the big league squad towards the end of the season. Horwitz is likely on the radar of a few clubs as well after posting a 102 OPS+ through 15 games with the Jays, especially since he can slot in at first base or the DH spot. There are multiple ways the Blue Jays’ front office could choose to attack the trade front with their infield depth, including players not even on the 40-man such as Damiano Palmegiani, Alex De Jesus, and Rainer Nunez, although that doesn’t help their 40-man roster crunch.
Blue Jays’ rookies and Buffalo buds Davis Schneider, Spencer Horwitz and Ernie Clement https://t.co/UwEohINLdw
— Toronto Star (@TorontoStar) November 23, 2023
This could all be for naught, considering the Jays could improve their roster by signing a free agent or two, such as Jorge Soler or Jeimer Candelario (or potentially a big fish like Shohei Ohtani). Still, with those signings, the Jays dig themselves a bigger hole on the 40-man roster front. There are a few players the club could DFA to make space, especially since White, Clement, and Lopez are out of Minor League options and will require a roster spot out of Spring Training (or risk being DFA’d). The “two birds one stone” ideology would be to move one or more of these players for an active roster player that fills a need now, but that would all depend on the player in question being acquired and what will be needed to make a deal work.
With an area of depth in the infield, the Blue Jays could leverage one of the many infielders to not only improve the current roster (bats, bats, and more bats) but also create some 40-man roster space in the same breath.
ARTICLE PRESENTED BY BETANO