Will Mike McCoy find a way on to the 25-man roster? - Greg Fiume
The Blue Jays have made plenty of positive moves this offseason, but how is the 25-man roster looking right now? Let's look at which issues still need to be addressed.
The Blue Jays had many questions heading in to the 2012 offseason. Left field needed to be addressed. The options for second base looked bleak. Starting pitching had been horrendous in 2012 and needed an overhaul. The first base/designated hitter role filled by Adam Lind was, and still can be, considered an issue.
On November 19th, general manager Alex Anthopoulos addressed many of these issues by--as you all know--acquiring from the Miami Marlins SPs Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, SS Jose Reyes, IF/OF Emilio Bonifacio, and C John Buck, in exchange for SP Henderson Alvarez, SS Yunel Escobar, SS Adeiny Hechavarria, C Jeff Mathis, and prospects Jake Marisnick (OF), Justin Nicolino (SP), and Anthony DeSclafini (RP). Anthopoulos then signed OF Melky Cabrera to a two-year deal. Combine these moves with the earlier signing of 2B Maicer Izturis to a three-year contract, and you might say that the offseason has so far been an eventful one for the Blue Jays.
To summarize, these moves filled the gaps at starting pitching, left field, and second base. Here is what the roster looks like currently, including contracts. Note that several players have yet to go through arbitration, as noted with an asterisk. Approximate salaries were taken from MLBTradeRumors' Projected Arbitration Salaries for 2013.
What still needs to be done here? From this spreadsheet, we can see that one bench spot remains open. This will most likely go to an infielder, as Rajai Davis fills the need of fourth outfielder, and Emilio Bonifacio can play infield as well as outfield positions. The other issue at the start of the year: the other 1B/DH (other than Edwin Encarnacion, that is) appears to be Adam Lind yet again. New manager John Gibbons made comments last week indicating that Lind will be a regular to start the year. If Lind struggles against lefties, you may expect to see Rajai Davis get some at-bats against left-handers in place of Lind.
As for that other infield vacancy on the bench, let's throw out some ideas as to who that could be to start 2013.
Internally, the Blue Jays don't have many options here. Mike McCoy, as always seems to be the case when there is a bench vacancy, could fill the role. He fits in positionally very similarly to Bonifacio, in that he can play second base, shortstop, third base, or center field (he can pitch too!). The bat doesn't play well at all, with a .190/.273/.256 career line in the bigs, however the thing I like about McCoy is that he takes quite a few pitches. Over his Major League career, McCoy has seen 3.84 pitches per plate appearance, which would put him 39th among American League qualified batters for 2012--tied with Nelson Cruz, ahead of Albert Pujols (3.78), Prince Fielder (3.71), and Miguel Cabrera (3.76), among others.
It appears as though the fourth bench player may not be in the Blue Jays organization at the moment. There are several interesting outside candidates who could find themselves on the Jays in 2013.
The Tampa Bay Rays have a slew of infielders who could potentially be available. One of Sean Rodriguez (IF, .225/.301/.356 career line), Elliot Johnson (IF, .223/.283/.338), or Reid Brignac (IF, .227/.268/.317) could fill the Blue Jays' final bench position.
Other players currently under contract who could fill the need (although who may not be available) include Jonathan Herrera (COL, IF, .259/.323/.324) and Chase d'Arnaud (PIT, IF, .208/.232/.275), to name but a few.
The most likely option however is to sign a free agent infielder on the downside of his career to a cheap one-year deal. Jason Barlett (SS, .271/.336/.366) played in only 29 games in 2012 before being placed on the disabled list with a right knee strain. He was released on August 20th. Barlett is now 33 years old and hit .133/.240/.193 last year in those 29 games.
Other free agent options include Alberto Gonzales (IF, .242/.279/.317), Ronny Cedeno (IF, .247/.290/.357), or Placido Polanco (2B/3B, .257/.302/.327 in 2012).
Ultimately, I believe that with the possible injury risks that come with Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, and Brett Lawrie, the Blue Jays will be looking for an infielder with the ability to play 2B, SS, and 3B. There seem to be a few options, but I look forward to seeing how the fourth bench position will be filled.