Up until a few days ago, the Toronto Blue Jays roster seemed like it was basically set. Aside from the questionable status of Devon Travis, all 25 roster spots looked like they were accounted for.
But then, on Saturday the Blue Jays placed Mike Bolsinger on waivers, which essentially named Ryan Tepera as the final reliever in the Blue Jays bullpen by default.
That left one final roster spot for one remaining position player. Most figured it would probably go to Melvin Upton Jr., but considering how long the Blue Jays have taken to make this decision, maybe it’s not an open-and-shut case.
And then Buster Olney mentioned how the Blue Jays wouldn’t have Melvin Upton Jr. on their Opening Day roster, and then the rumour mill went into overdrive. Is that because Upton was getting traded? Would he be released? Would the Jays try to option him to Buffalo?
As much as Melvin Upton Jr. has struggled in a Blue Jays uniform, he’s still a backup outfielder with some pop. For all his defensive prowess, Ryan Goins simply can’t hit. Goins can field at shortstop and second base, but he can’t even match the production of Darwin Barney.
I realize someone like Ryan Goins is probably wise to keep around, given the injury history of Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki. But if the Blue Jays were willing to expose Mike Bolsinger to waivers, what’s the problem with doing the same to Ryan Goins?
For all of Melvin Upton Jr’s faults, he’s still a much better all-around player than Ryan Goins. It shouldn’t be a complicated decision for the Blue Jays, but for some reason … it is.
However, the conversation changes if the Blue Jays can somehow come up with a better outfield option before 12:00pm on Sunday. Angel Pagan has been linked to the Blue Jays all offseason long, and he seems to be a much more viable outfield option for the Blue Jays.
The timing of the Chris Coghlan signing was also rather curious; on the eve of the Opening Day roster deadline, the Blue Jays acquired yet another depth outfielder – another contingency plan for Upton, perhaps?
But if nothing materializes in the next few hours, why not just go with Melvin Upton Jr. and see if you can sneak Ryan Goins through waivers?
In one sense, I wouldn’t blame the Blue Jays for cutting bait with Melvin Upton Jr. … they’re only on the hook for $1 million of his salary in 2017. Even if they can’t find a trade partner for Upton, eating $1 million is very minor in terms of buyouts.
I mean, how bad do you have to be to get cut from the Blue Jays – even though they only have to pay you $1 million in 2017 – and they still prefer to give you your walking papers? If that actually happens with Melvin Upton Jr., it will say a lot about how far he’s fallen.
In 57 games with the Blue Jays last year, Melvin Upton Jr. was a below-average hitter and defender, and a decent baserunner. But being “decent” in one of those three categories probably doesn’t justify a roster spot.
Not that Ezequiel Carrera, Dalton Pompey or even Chris Coghlan are going to save the day in left field, but doesn’t it set off all kinds of warning bells about the depth in left field when the Jays are willing to release Melvin Upton Jr. for nothing?
Maybe we’re splitting hairs over nothing, because it seems like John Gibbons may in fact roll with Steve Pearce in left field to begin the season, which would’ve left Upton on the bench to do nothing anyway.
Ezequiel Carrera and Melvin Upton Jr. almost cancel each other out against left-handed pitching, except Carrera is a lefty, which gives him the edge. In that respect, the Blue Jays may view Upton’s salary as dispensable.
I don’t believe the Blue Jays’ season will come down to this Opening Day final roster spot decision, but I admire the Blue Jays for assembling the best team possible out of the gate. No hanging onto relievers because they’re out of options – no hanging onto bad players because the Jays only have to pay $1 million of their salary this year.
Unless something materializes at the 11th hour, I think Melvin Upton Jr. either ends up released by the Blue Jays or traded for a bag of baseballs. And if the Blue Jays feel like that’s the best move, then all the power to them.
Because if Upton was going to return to his pre-2016 trade deadline self, he would’ve done it by now.