While there’s not much hope of the Blue Jays contending in 2019, that doesn’t mean it’ll be a quiet season. There has been some early-season roster maneuvering already in Toronto and more could ensue in the course of the campaign.
- With Alen Hanson and Socrates Brito reporting for duty, the Jays have a pair of new position players to work into the mix. Whether either or both have staying power remains to be seen, but the out-of-options players would need to be exposed to waivers if they’re not held on the active roster. To create space, the Jays optioned back outfielder Anthony Alford (who’s evidently not yet in line for a real look at the majors) and hurler Sean Reid-Foley. Lefty Thomas Pannone is jumping into the rotation vacancy, though he may ultimately just be keeping that spot warm.
- The Toronto pitching staff will at some point feature bounceback candidate Clay Buchholz. As MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports (links to Twitter), he’s one of several hurlers on the mend. Buchholz has already built up to sixty pitches and may be ready for the majors in the next ten days or so. Relievers Ryan Tepera and Ryan Borucki are also working back from injuries; the former seems to be on Buchholz’s timeline while the latter could return by the end of April. Meanwhile, David Phelps has resumed throwing as he tries to work back from Tommy John surgery. His timeline is not apparent at present.
- Much of the intrigue this year will come from the young talent trying to force its way onto the MLB roster. No player has more hype than Vladimir Guerrero Jr., though he’s only one of several top prospects with obvious ability and intriguing MLB bloodlines. Vladito is also still working back from an oblique injury. He’s set to launch a rehab assignment this evening, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca tweets, with a Class A stop to open the season.
- The possibility of an early (even pre-MLB) extension for Guerrero or other top Jays prospects seems interesting. GM Ross Atkins discussed that possibility recently, as Emily Sadler of Sportsnet.ca writes, though he didn’t really tip his hand on the likelihood of such a deal. If anything, he seemed to downplay such a scenario (at least in the immediate term). “It happens with a lot of discussion, a lot of interaction, a lot of back-and-forth,” said Atkins of extensions for younger players, “and what’s important to a player and what’s important to an organization has to line up and those risks are very different.” Regardless of contract possibilities, the Jays are still preparing to face multiple near-term promotion questions. On that issue, Atkins struck much the same tone he has previously, saying: “We want to have the most well-rounded and complete player as possible, but we’re not going to wait for that. We’re going to do the best of our ability to balance that.”