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State of the 40-man: December 2018

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MLB: Toronto Blue Jays-Press Conference Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Two months ago, I broke down the 40-man roster before the off-season began with a view towards the 2019 season. Now in the interlude between the various roster machination deadlines in November and the frenzy of the Winter Meetings that is the peak of the hot stove, let’s take a look at how things evolved. At the time, there were 43 players on the roster, and it looked like this (see the link for details on categorization):

2019 40 man breakdown

Since then, there have been 10 departures and 6 additions to the 40-man, resulting in the current total of 39 players as the Blue Jays have cleaned up the 40-man. It now breaks down as such:

40-man Dec 2018

The free agent category is now obsolete; likewise, with the non-tender deadline now passed, the two arbitration-related buckets are collapsed into one for those offered arbitration. Combined, this accounts for four of the departures (including Jake Petricka who was removed before the tender deadline). With his option exercised, Justin Smoak formally joined the group under contract. Trading Aledmys Diaz was the one removal from the renewals bucket, as the Jays apparently deemed him surplus to their needs and/or future direction.

The remaining five departures unsurprisingly all came from the bubble, which has been significantly trimmed. Interestingly, unlike last year where it was players on the bubble without options who were hit hardest and cleaned out, this year all the net subtractions came on the side of the bubble of players with options as four of the seven have already been removed. And with both outfielders from that original list still there, at least one more eventually would not surprise me.

On the flip side, just one of the three without 2019 options were removed, and Taylor Guerrieri’s removal was offset by the addition of Oliver Drake. It’s ultimately not an important distinction, as the Jays only have eight players who cannot be optioned in 2019, so roster flexibility isn’t an issue (and some of those could be moved).

The six additions are the five Rule 5 protectees and the aforementioned waiver claim of Drake, with the latter the only one that really has implications for the 25-man, at least to start the season. While the headline numbers above indicate a fair bit of activity in the last two months, it’s largely amounted to trimming around the edges as opposed to major surgery.

In terms of what a 25-man roster built internally would look like, the infield situation is most affected, the situation somewhat clarified but still largely in flux. At the outset of the offseason, I had slotted Diaz as the starting third baseman; we know that this going to be occupied by Vlad Jr for the majority of the season so it doesn’t really matter, but I guess I’d slot Gurriel in there for now as a placeholder. Alternatively, if Russell Martin isn’t moved then maybe he gets the starts there to begin the season with Jansen the starter behind the plate.

Realistically, we may not get a lot more clarity here until March when we’ll have a better idea if Troy Tulowitzki is actually going to be starting at shortstop. Or unless and until Martin is moved, which would rule out him freelancing around the infield in addition to some catching if Jansen were the primary catcher as probably makes most sense in terms of the longer term outlook.

Anticipating the high likelihood of Solarte not returning, I had just dumped him in as the last guy on the bench as essentially a placeholder. It wouldn’t be surprising if that went instead to an eighth reliever, but could that be a role for Dalton Pompey? Indulging in a hypothetical where the Jays don’t cut bait or move him this winter, he could also fit in as the 4th outfielder to start the season. Keeping him in more of a utility role would open up the ability to carry Billy McKinney as the 4th outfielder, though it may well be the Jays prefer everyday playing time in Buffalo (barring further moves to open up a starting role).

Finally, there’s a little shuffling at the backend of the bullpen, where Guerrieri and Petricka were tentatively allocated spots at the back end. Drake effectively replaces Guerrieri on the basis on no options, and I guess I’d move in Sam Gaviglio as a long-man for the time being. That will certainly change, and given how much is amorphous and remains in flux, I won’t even bother with an overview image. Hopefully, a month from now things are much clearer.

The salary picture at least has been firmed, as this lineup forecasts around $102-million. That’s made up of $61.5-million for the five guaranteed contracts, $34.2-million forecast by MLBTR for the nine arbitration players, and roughly $6-million for 11 more pre-arb players. That compared to around $109-million if they had tendered everyone and kept Diaz, so there’s theoretically a little more flexibility. There hasn’t been any reporting on a budget number, but I’d hope there’s at least $20-million to manoeuver plus anything freed up from trading veterans.