Predicting the Blue Jays’ opening day roster

J. A. Happ went 6 innings giving up 4 hits and 1 run as the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 in Spring Training.

DUNEDIN, Fla. – Moving into the final week in Florida, the Toronto Blue Jays are left with exceedingly few roster decisions to make before the season opens up earlier than it ever has before, on March 29. J.A. Happ will likely face the New York Yankees and righty Luis Severino at Rogers Centre to open a four-game series and weeklong homestand.

The biggest questions going into the pre-season were about health, specifically whether or not Aaron Sanchez, Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki would be ready to answer the bell when things got real. Those questions appear to have been answered. Sanchez and Travis have looked outstanding all spring, while Tulowitzki has not been able to get into a Grapefruit League game and likely won’t.

The Blue Jays are highly likely to run with a seven-man bullpen and four-man bench. The late-spring additions of reliever Tyler Clippard and infielder Danny Espinosa have cleared up questions about who survives at the bottom of the ‘pen and who replaces Aledmys Diaz as the backup middle infielder, now that Diaz will have to move into Tulowitzki’s spot as the starting shortstop.

The only remaining question appears to surround the health of Randal Grichuk’s ribcage. He was back swinging in the cages on the weekend, and if he can get healthy in the week and a half that remains before opening day, he will be in right field. If he can’t, Teoscar Hernandez will likely hold the fort down until he can.

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

The projected 25-man roster to start the season has three players on it who are not currently on the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster, which is full, so the Jays will have to open up space for Clippard, Espinosa and John Axford. One spot can be freed by running lefty Sam Moll back through waivers in the hopes that he will clear. The Jays claimed him on March 17.

The other two spots are more problematic. The easiest moves to clear space would be to put Carlos Ramirez and Tulowitzki on the 60-day disabled list, which would have them ineligible for at least the first two months of the season. Ramirez hasn’t pitched since Feb. 27 because of a shoulder strain.

Other options for the Blue Jays include outrighting players like Dwight Smith, Jr., Roemon Fields, Richard Urena and Taylor Guerrieri.

Smith and Fields have fallen behind Hernandez and Anthony Alford on the outfield depth chart. Urena may be a luxury with the additions of Diaz, Espinosa, Yangervis Solarte and Gift Ngoepe (and with Bo Bichette coming up quickly from below). Guerrieri is an intriguing arm, but only pitched in two games last season because of injury and was waived by Tampa Bay earlier this winter.

Of course, Urena or a spare outfielder could be traded to make room on the 40-man.

Here’s how it looks to me like the Blue Jays roster will shape up on opening day, assuming Seung-hwan Oh gets a work visa by then:

Pitchers (12):
John Axford
Danny Barnes
Tyler Clippard
Marco Estrada
Jaime Garcia
J.A. Happ
Aaron Loup
Seung-hwan Oh
Roberto Osuna
Aaron Sanchez
Marcus Stroman
Ryan Tepera

Catchers (2):
Luke Maile
Russell Martin

Infielders (7):
Aledmys Diaz
Josh Donaldson
Danny Espinosa
Kendrys Morales
Justin Smoak
Yangervis Solarte
Devon Travis

Outfielders (4):
Randal Grichuk
Curtis Granderson
Steve Pearce
Kevin Pillar

Disabled List – Dalton Pompey (wrist), Carlos Ramirez (shoulder), Troy Tulowitzki (ankle)

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