Something had to give after Alex Anthopoulos placed second baseman Devon Travis on the disabled list and made trades to acquire relief pitcher Mark Lowe and left fielder Ben Revere. Four things had to happen: 1) the Blue Jays had to add a middle infielder to back up Ryan Goins and Troy Tulowitzki, 2) a reliever, probably a right-hander, had to go, 3) one of the players used in left field had to go, and 4) someone else had to go to get the roster down to 25.
ROSTER MOVES: Kawasaki recalled & Tepera optioned to @BuffaloBisons. Carrera and Valencia designated for assignment.— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) August 1, 2015
The Blue Jays described the four things they did in one concise tweet this morning--and coincidentally in the same order that I listed above too!
The first three of the four moves are kind of easy to explain: 1) Munenori Kawasaki and Ty Kelly are the only 40-man roster guys who play middle infield and only Kawasaki has big league time, 2) Ryan Tepera was a righty and was one of four relievers with options (Aaron Loup is a lefty, the other three are good), and 3) Ezequiel Carrerra was obviously a dead man walking during yesterday's game.
So it comes down to the fourth move and the title question: why was Danny Valencia designated for assignment? First, it should be made clear that, unlike the majority of DFAs throughout the season, Valencia isn't being designated for a demotion. No players may be traded in the first 48 hours after the non-waiver trade deadline (more on that below) so Valencia had to be stashed somewhere for the weekend and the 10-day decision period of the designated list allows the Blue Jays to wait out the 48 hours without having to have him taking up a roster spot.
Another bit of clarification: the Blue Jays didn't need to clear a spot on the 40-man roster (they had 38 players on it) but they did need to clear someone on the 25-man roster. Here were the candidates to be removed from the 25-man roster:
- LF-1B Chris Colabello (R)
- OF-IF Danny Valencia (R)
- 1B Justin Smoak (S)
- RP Aaron Loup (L)
- RP Bo Schultz (R)
Out of these five, Colabello, Loup, and Schultz have options. Schultz, despite lately allowing some deep fly balls, has been good and is known to be in John Gibbons' good books. And while Loup has not been effective the whole season, it wouldn't have made sense for the Jays to have gone down to just Brett Cecil as the only lefty in the bullpen. Lastly, with R.A. Dickey scheduled to make a start on short rest this Sunday, it's probably good for the club to go with an eight-man bullpen.
Now, turning to he batters. Justin Smoak has had a couple of bad games but he can hit from the left side and offers good defense at first base. He will stick for now but certainly doesn't have a guaranteed spot on this club.
That means the choice for Anthopoulos was between Colabello and Valencia. Colabello brings a slightly better bat, minor league options, and is not arbitration-eligible until 2017. Valencia is a versatile fielder and is able to back up Josh Donaldson at third, is just slightly worse with the bat, and has become somewhat of a dark horse fan favourite with his beautiful face and unbridled excitement about his teammates' achievements.
They are really similar, really. If no further moves are made going forward then general manager Minor Leaguer would've probably chosen to option Chris Colabello and leave Danny Valencia on the team to both hold assets and benefit from Valencia's versatile glove. But, actual general manager Alex Anthopoulos isn't done with roster moves yet, which makes me think that they have received some interest in Valencia, who is now on trade assignment waivers. Valencia could've been placed on waivers if he had remained on the roster, but then Colabello would not be available in Toronto until he sits out the requisite 10 days.
During his time on trade assignment waivers Valencia could be claimed by any team, but priority of claim goes in reverse winning percentage of all American League teams then reverse winning percentage of all National League teams. The numbers will change by Monday 4 pm, but it it is pretty safe to assume that the Athletics, Red Sox, and Mariners will be the top three in the priority list.
Claiming him through waivers would cost these teams $20,000, but since trade waivers are revocable the Blue Jays have a little bit of leverage in asking the claiming team for a little more than that, as they could always pull him back and put him through outright waivers, whose priority order is simply based on winning percentage and is league-agnostic.
An Aside on Optional Waivers
In order to option a player who had made his major league debut more than three calendar years before the date of assignment, teams would have to place them through optional waivers. No club ever claims any other club's players out of a gentleman's agreement, so in general they don't matter. However, because a new waiver period started on August 1, it is slightly more difficult to option these players for the next 48 hours.
Every waiver period a team puts all players who need to clear optional waivers through said waivers, and they can be moved down freely at any time during that wavier period. But if a team wanted to option a player in this situation today, they would have to DFA him and wait 48 hours for waivers to clear even though everyone knows that they would not be claimed. A similar situation happened last year with Bobby Korecky and with Jesse Chavez in 2012, who were called up for less than 48 hours so he had to be DFAed to get optioned.
For the Blue Jays, Drew Hutchison, Munenori Kawasaki, and Aaron Loup are the players in the big leagues who would need to go through optional waivers before being sent down.
For more information on the intricacies of waivers, go to this page or ask below in the comments.