Continuing the review of the 40-man roster. (Note: the roster stands now at 44 players). Last week we looked at the second tier of pitchers on the roster who will be without option in 2014 . The group is crowded, and there will likely not be enough space on the major league roster for all of them, so assets will have to be moved or exposed to waivers.
To recap, the Blue Jays have eight pitchers I consider to have a guaranteed spot and the seven "on the fence" pitchers without options discussed in the previous post. Even by Jays' standards a 15-man pitching staff is a bit much. The situation gets even more crowded when looking at other pitchers in the system.
Three pitchers will become free agents: Josh Johnson, Darren Oliver and Ramon Ortiz. This will leave the Blue Jays with eight other pitchers under contract currently on the 40-man roster with options: Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, Chad Jenkins, Sean Nolin, Neil Wagner, Juan Perez, Mickey Storey, and Thad Weber. Some of them may challenge for spots on opening day, others will likely disappear.
So let’s look at what I expect to happen:
Likely designated for assignment (DFA)
Even though the Blue Jays don’t need immediate room on the roster, they will at some point. Based on this year’s results I expect Juan Perez and Mickey Storey to be DFAed. Storey didn't show much in brief stints in Toronto, and would be way down on the depth chart. Juan Perez had season-ending surgery, and would likely make it through waivers--and if not, not much is lost.
The other candidate is Thad Weber, who was solid as a starter in Buffalo finishing with a 2.71 FIP over 100 innings. His main problem is that at the major league level he had been walking players at a rate of 4.7 BB/9 IP in three short stints over two years. He would likely not make it through waivers, so he probably will be the last one to be DFA if needed. He would be valuable for the Bisons.
Will start in the minors
Drew Hutchison continues to rehab from the Tommy John surgery he had last year. He was one of the few pitchers who wasn't on the major league roster in September. He's currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League, registering seven innings so far, including four no-hit innings on Saturday. Based on this, I would expect him to be heading to Buffalo to start next year, and hopefully push for a roster spot by mid-summer.
Sean Nolin was a case of the Blue Jays' poor handling of assets. He was added to the roster in desperation, he bombed in his only start, and he was sent back down to AA the next day, never to be seen again. After a couple tough starts back in New Hampshire, he settled down and was solid for the Fisher Cats and later the Bisons in AAA. He is still a top prospect in the system. He will be in the minors come opening day 2014, but I hope he gets a fair chance soon.
Chad Jenkins battled through injuries, but did well in Toronto on his two call-ups. If the Jays weren't loaded with similar pitchers without options I would list him as having a shot, but you can put his name on a Bisons jersey.
Should be in consideration for roster spots
Kyle Drabek's placement in this category should be read with a negative connotation. He still has not proven anything at the major league level, and time is running out. Many of us were hopeful when his rehab stats showed a career low in BB/9IP, but three meaningless games in September left some of us with unanswered questions, while others have already thrown in the towel.
Neil Wagner was unhittable in Buffalo, and did well in Toronto. He has a place at the end of a bullpen, and has shown ability to throw a couple of innings at a time. He could make the team if some players are moved.
Most of these guys have value because they still have options and, except for Storey, have shown they can pitch at major league level, or are still young enough to be kept around because of their potential. Hutchison and Nolin are probably the only ones with any significant trade value, but they are
likely hopefully staying. However, I would not be surprised if only three or four of them would still be on the 40-man roster on March 31 should Alex Anthopoulos face a roster crunch.
Other pitchers in consideration
Deck McGuire finally showed some great results at the end of the season, and all his peripherals were improved in 2013. He would likely need to be added to the roster in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He would likely start next season in Buffalo.
You would expect a 26-year-old pitcher who went 66 innings in AA and AAA, striking out guys at a pace of over 12 K/9 IP with decent prior majors experience to get some consideration. This is what Joel Carreno, coming back from a winter ball injury to the head, did in 2013. He can become a six-year minor league free agent, so the Blue Jays would need to add him to the roster or sign him to a minor league contract (where he would still be exposed to Rule 5 draft). If he was added the roster, he would still have one option year left the Jays could use.
Finally I would include two prospects as deserving consideration based on their results so far. Right-handed reliever John Stilson and starter Marcus Stroman were both solid in 2013, showing that they may be ready to break camp with the big club. Roster limitation means they will likely not be on the roster in April unless they really impress the club in spring training. Of course, if the Jays end up packaging three or four pitchers for some help elsewhere, it may create some room for these two on the roster.