We are, as the analogy goes, at an inflection point in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays. The thing about the future is that while you’re looking into the distance towards it, suddenly the road curves directly under you.
With the call-ups of Danny Jansen and Sean Reid-Foley this week, Thomas Pannone last week and Ryan Borucki now firmly ensconced in the rotation, the 2018 roster has begun to look a lot like what we could expect to see for many years to come.
Over the next four weeks, there are still a number of roster changes that could make the final month a little more interesting, even if the best prospect in baseball doesn’t happen to be one of the new faces smiling beneath the bill of a fresh new Blue Jays cap.
On the Way Out
While the Blue Jays were as active as anyone in shipping players out before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, there are a few players whose ongoing presence on the team remains surprising.
Few would be particularly upset that Curtis Granderson remains with Toronto at this point, given his knack for big hits and his mature and thoughtful disposition. The fact that there’s even chatter about his suitability as a good clubhouse presence for future years as a new generation of players integrates themselves into the big leagues is a testament to what a good dude he seems to be.
At the same time, Granderson’s deal was for this year only, and he should be the type of bat and role player that would attract some level of interest. The Yankees, with Aaron Judge out for longer than initially expected after getting hit on the wrist with a pitch, would seem to be an obvious landing spot.
That Tyler Clippard is still a Blue Jay is likely a testament to his erratic performance, and penchant for giving up big home runs at inopportune times. Clippard can string together three or four stellar outings, only to then combust spectacularly, which is likely not the level of performance a contender might seek.
Currently, he has five consecutive scoreless outings after his less-than-stellar opening appearances in Seattle. While the return wouldn’t be marginal at best, one could only hope that scouts have taken notice.
Injuries will likely also negate the ability of the Jays to shop Yangervis Solarte, while it would likely take an impossibly positive spike in performance for Jaime García to make himself marketable again.
Finally, grainy video of Josh Donaldson carefully rounding first base raises the expectation that maybe he could be back on a field soon. If he were healthy and able to play up to his considerable abilities, there may be the potential for an interesting return. But with two weeks to get him in game form and sufficiently showcased so as to make him eligible for someone else’s playoff roster, that possibility is becoming more remote by the day.
On the Way Up
By now, mostly everyone who is on the 40-man roster and is a likely candidate for a September call-up has made it to the big club.
As DL stints conclude in the coming weeks, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Brandon Drury will undoubtedly be reinstated into the lineup, as will Aaron Sanchez, should his rehab starts continue to progress as expected.
Richard Ureña is filling in out of necessity, but if Drury and Gurriel return, it’s hard to imagine what benefit there would be to having him at the end of a long bench.
Dwight Smith Jr. would seem to be a shoo-in to be added to the expanded roster in the coming weeks, given his steadfast performance whenever called upon this season. One also suspects that the front office will want to give new acquisition Billy McKinney some MLB time if there’s enough room and reps in the outfield.
If both of those outfielders were added, it would potentially leave Anthony Alford on the outside looking in. At one time the most notable prospect in the Blue Jays’ system, a .626 OPS posted in Buffalo and Dunedin this season has definitely dimmed his shine.
Rowdy Tellez has had a hot and cold season, and is likely reaching the end of his rope on the Jays’ 40-man. It’s possible that he could get a good faith call-up, possibly to showcase him for other teams in the the coming year, but there’s little urgency at the moment to bringing him up.
If Not Vlad, Then Who?
Have we reached the point of acceptance yet when it comes to the idea that the Blue Jays will only promote Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at some point in May of 2019? Or is it just a sense of begrudging realism?
Both Vlad and his running mate Bo Bichette will likely have to wait until next season to get a taste of the highest level. There’s even some rationale to letting them work together to win another minor league championship, this time with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats after winning the Florida State League championship last season. Let them get a taste of what must surely be dealcoholized champagne.
In terms of who from the system could make an unexpected appearance on the September active roster, their Double-A teammate and fellow big-leaguer scion Cavan Biggio could have a case. Biggio leads Blue Jays minor leaguers in homers with 26, while his 89 walks are second in the system. He also leads the system in strikeouts, which likely makes him an ideal player for this era of three true outcomes.
At 23, there are few control issues to consider, and Biggio has played around the diamond through this season, making him easier to squeeze into a bench role.
Canadian Jordan Romano might also be a candidate to pick up some innings if there is a need in the last month. The 25-year-old from Markham has struck out 8.1 batters per nine innings while allowing 2.8 walks over 22 starts with New Hampshire and one with Buffalo.