The Toronto Blue Jays are stockpiling outfielders on their roster like canned goods in the days leading up to Y2K. The Jays recently added Domonic Brown to their out fielding arsenal, thickening the group that will inevitably spill south into Triple-A Buffalo.
At the major league level, you can count on Jose Bautista, Kevin Pillar and (for now) Michael Saunders slotting in the top three roles. After that, it's a bit of a crapshoot with Ezequiel Carrera, Dalton Pompey, Junior Lake and now Brown used as extra fielders. Really, they nearly have enough outfielders to fill both Toronto and Buffalo with Major League calibre outfielders. It's a bit of a stretch to assume that Carrera, Pompey and Brown would all be starting Major League outfielders, but you get the point.
Even when the Jays are rumoured to be getting rid of an outfielder in Saunders, they still seem to be eager to bring in more outfielders with the likes of Jay Bruce. What gives? Is this strategy a good idea and if it is, what exactly could be their back story?
To start with, collecting outfielders like baseball cards could conceivably have major ramifications on young players like Pompey. At some point during spring training, the Jays front office will come face-to-face with a decision about Pompey, deciding to either reassign him to Triple-A to accrue more reps at the plate, or promote him to a full-time role in Toronto as either an everyday player or the fourth outfielder. While he definitely struggled in 2015 after being handed the opening day job, he dominated in his time at Double and Triple-A, slashing .307/.383/.421. With numbers like that, dovetailed with his big league experience, it's fair to say he has little left to prove at the minor-league level.
At 23, it wouldn't be the best decision to have Pompey be the fourth outfielder, missing out on influential at-bats, but with Saunders' injury history, it's conceivable this is exactly where he lands for the time being.
That hypothetical outfield would leave Brown, Lake and Carrera all in Triple-A Buffalo with top prospect Anthony Alford likely in Double-A New Hampshire. That's certainly not a bad situation, but it does leave a lot of potential value sitting in the minor league system that could be used in Toronto, or alternatively, traded for upgrades in weaker areas like the bullpen for instance.
The problem with that is the Jays are unable to provide any playing time for the trio of Triple-A outfielders to foster any value. However, the current Jays' roster is simply too strong to have any of the three playing everyday to boost value. If you wanted to buy low and sell high on Brown, you'd definitely have to prove he can perform at the big league level. No amount of minor league performance is going to land you a significant usable asset to the major league roster.
Of course, the nearly unthinkable route is that the Jays could trade their star outfielder Jose Bautista, throwing the situation completely off course. With a full year on his contract, there's still plenty of value left and with that much depth, the Jays wouldn't have the worst outfield in the Majors. That said, it's still not the most advisable option to trade your locker-room captain before one of your most important seasons in the past 20 years.
Thus, what's likely is that Pompey will be given the chance in spring to be the fourth outfielder, who in all likelihood, will be an everyday player if or when Saunders needs to take time off with his knees or any of the injuries that have plagued his career thus far. If that's not the case, you'll end up seeing outfielders get circulated like carousel from Buffalo to Toronto in hopes of getting Pompey reps and maximizing the most value out of the fourth outfielder. It won't be all that easy on the eyes, but they'll get the job done with replacement level performance.
Thing is, with that much depth, it could be so much more.