Since there's basically nothing Blue Jays related going on these days, let's look forward a couple months and get a sense of what the opening day roster could look like with the players currently in the organization. There will be roster changes between now and opening day, maybe—hopefully—some substantial ones, but in the interim we'll work with what we've got.
Largely owing to a liberal use of waiver claims (seven and counting this winter), the Jays have a full 40-man roster. Come opening day, all players on the 40-man must be on the active roster unless they are on optional assignment. So we can start by placing all 40-man players who cannot be optioned on the roster. That is not always the easiest information to find, but fortunately here at Bluebird Banter we track and regularly update this in the Option and Outright Status entry in the Library links available on the main page. Below is an abridged version of that entry for the current 40-man roster:
|Player||Pos.||2015 Option?||Player||Pos.||2015 Option?|
|Jose Bautista||RF||No||A.J. Jimenez||C||Yes|
|Scott Barnes||LHP||No||Aaron Loup||LHP||Yes|
|Mark Buerhle||LHP||No||Russell Martin||C||No|
|Cory Burns||RHP||Yes||Dioner Navarro||C||No|
|Brett Cecil||LHP||No||Daniel Norris||LHP||Yes|
|Chris Colabello||1B||Yes||Juan Pablo Oramas||LHP||Yes|
|Steve Delabar||RHP||Yes||Kevin Pillar||OF||Yes|
|R.A. Dickey||RHP||No||Dalton Pompey||CF||Yes|
|Josh Donaldson||3B||No||Rob Rasmussen||LHP||Yes|
|Kyle Drabek||RHP||No||Todd Redmond||RHP||No|
|Edwin Encarnacion||DH||No||Jose Reyes||SS||No|
|Marco Estrada||RHP||No||Aaron Sanchez||RHP||Yes|
|Ryan Goins||SS||Yes||Michael Saunders||LF||Yes|
|Preston Guilmet||RHP||Yes||Bo Schultz||RHP||Yes|
|Matt Hague||1B/3B||Yes||Justin Smoak||1B||No|
|Liam Hendriks||RHP||No||Marcus Stroman||RHP||Yes|
|Drew Hutchison||RHP||Yes||Ryan Tepera||RHP||Yes|
|Colt Hynes||LHP||Yes||Josh Thole||C||Yes|
|Maicer Izturis||IF||No||Steve Tolleson||IF||No|
|Chad Jenkins||RHP||Yes||Danny Valencia||3B||No|
You can see that 18 of the 40 cannot be optioned, which goes a long way towards filling up the 25-man active roster. Of the 18, nine are on guaranteed contracts. Another four (Estrada, Cecil, Valencia, Donaldson) are arbitration-eligible who were tendered 2015 contracts, leaving five pre-arb guys with no options (Tolleson, Drabek, Redmond, Hendriks, Barnes). Other than Redmond, none of the five are locks to make the opening day roster and are potential DFA candidates if 40-man spots are needed. But for now we'll assume they're in.
That leaves seven spots to fill from the 22 with options. There are four clear locks based on past performance: Stroman, Hutchison, Loup, and Saunders. Despite ambiguity from the team about his role, for this exercise Sanchez is included as a fifth lock since the current roster lacks for strong relievers. That brings the total to 23, and lines up as follows:
|Pos.||No Options||Lock||Need||40 Man||Other|
|SP1||Dickey||D. Norris||J. Francis|
|BP2||Loup||C. Burns||B. Burke|
1 - Editor's note: Ryan Kalish's minor league contract was not completed due to an unknown reason, according to Sportsnet's Shi Davidi in a report that came just after this piece was published.
Assuming a seven man bullpen (please!), that fills out the pitching staff and infield but only two outfield spots. That means the last two outfield spots go to the only other two outfielders on the 40-man, Pompey and Pillar, who make up the "needs" column. Estrada is slotted as the 5th starter, I could see Redmond or Hendriks potentially there. It's basically the only question mark I see with the current 40-man. In reality, some of the relievers left off the active roster have real shots to make the opening day roster at the fringes over some of the out of options players assumed safe for now. But one takeaway is that unlike the last few years the Jays can hypothetically carry keep everyone currently on the 40-man if they choose, without needing injuries to open up spots or going with a 8-man bullpen.
The next column shows the other 15 players on the 40-man left outside the 25-man projection, which is overloaded with potential relievers. The last column shows players not on the 40-man but with previous MLB experience as well as Devon Travis and Greg Infante who could potentially figure into the mix.
This also highlights the areas of weakness that should come as no surprise to most. Other than at catcher, the Jays lack quality depth up the middle, and lack established starting options at second base and in centrefield. The bullpen lacks in impact arms, on the other hand there's a rich assortment of potential options to choose from.
How would your opening day squad differ from the above based on the current roster?