TORONTO -- The Blue Jays’ offseason shifted into focus during December with the free-agent additions of starters Hyun-Jin Ryu and Tanner Roark, which give the club a much stronger base to build upon.
Needs remain across the roster, both in terms of primary and depth roles, but Toronto accomplished much of its heavy lifting with Ryu. The team remains engaged on the free-agent and trade markets, however, and could soon shift to more position players.
Here is how the 26-man roster could play out on March 26, when the Blue Jays open their season at home against the Red Sox.
Locks: Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire
Many teams will envy the Blue Jays’ catching depth in Jansen, a Gold Glove Award nominee in his rookie season, and McGuire, a solid defender in his own right who just keeps hitting at the Major League level. Toronto is certain to add a veteran catcher on a Minor League deal, but despite the offseason chatter of league-wide interest in the young catching tandem, they’ll enter the year as 1A and 1B.
First base (1)
Lock: Travis Shaw
The Blue Jays landed Shaw on a one-year deal worth $4 million plus incentives, and are hoping they can help the 29-year-old recapture his 2017 and ‘18 form after a very poor ‘19 season with the Brewers. Shaw is confident that he’s back to his old swing, and the Blue Jays will give him every opportunity to prove it. It’s possible that Toronto will add another bat to the 1B/DH situation or could toy with platooning, but Shaw is the starter.
Second base (1)
Lock: Cavan Biggio
Second base is Biggio’s position for now. Manager Charlie Montoyo was pleasantly surprised with his defence, and if Biggio can post another .793 OPS and potentially hit 20-plus home runs over the course of a full season, that’s some serious value from second.
Lock: Bo Bichette
Bichette put many questions about his defence to rest in 2019 and showed he has the natural ability to continue developing there. Even if Bichette can play as an average Major League shortstop through his 20s, the offensive value he brings to the position will be extremely rare across baseball. He’ll be out there every day.
Third base (1)
Lock: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
The Blue Jays are committed to keeping Guerrero at third base for the time being. That could change six months from now -- or three years from now -- but on March 26, expect to see Vladdy back at third. With an increased focus on his defence and his body this offseason, all eyes will be on that element of his game in Spring Training.
Lock: Internal candidate
Possibilities: Brandon Drury, Breyvic Valera, Santiago Espinal
Drury has the inside track entering Spring Training, but nothing will be handed to him after he posted a .642 OPS in 2019. Valera is still holding a 40-man roster spot, though he could soon be on the bubble, and the Blue Jays like what Espinal brings to the table with a bit of offensive upside. Expect the team to add a veteran on a Minor League deal -- much like it did with Eric Sogard a year ago -- and keep in mind that Shaw has some versatility, if needed.
Designated hitter (1)
Possibilities: Rowdy Tellez, Teoscar Hernández, rotation
Tellez might be on the Opening Day roster if the season started now, but the Blue Jays can get more value from their DH spot. It’s still possible that they might add a bat to complement the lineup, and Tellez will be given a chance to show he’s taken a step in Spring Training. It’s also very possible that the DH position will be a revolving door in 2020. Despite Hernandez’s mixed results in a ‘19 season that started poorly and ended strong, some within the organization think his bat is about to truly break out.
Locks: Randal Grichuk, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Hernández, open (2)
Possibilities: Derek Fisher, Billy McKinney, Anthony Alford, Jonathan Davis, Forrest Wall
Here lies the tangled web of the Blue Jays’ roster. This group could account for the four (or five) rostered outfielders in March, with someone like Alford or Davis earning that 26th spot with their athleticism. Or things could get much more complicated. As a whole, the group needs to improve its defence and on-base percentage, and it’s still possible Toronto could target a true centre fielder (though there aren’t many available). This group could also end up taking the majority share of DH at-bats.
Starting pitchers (5)
Locks: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark, Matt Shoemaker, Chase Anderson, competition
Possibilities: Ryan Borucki, Trent Thornton, Shun Yamaguchi, Jacob Waguespack, Anthony Kay, T.J. Zeuch, Nate Pearson
This group looks much better than it did a month ago. The elite upside of Ryu and steady presence of Roark look good in a vacuum, but they seem even better when you consider how they fill out the rotation, negating the need for the Blue Jays to lean on inexperienced arms like they did in 2019. Pearson, the team’s No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, should be in the rotation at some point, but the competition for the fifth job will be a highlight of spring. It will also overlap significantly with the bullpen picture, depending on which starters are left on the outside looking in.
Locks: Ken Giles, Wilmer Font, Anthony Bass, internal (3), free agents (2)
Possibilities: Jordan Romano, Yamaguchi, Sam Gaviglio, Sean Reid-Foley, A.J. Cole, Justin Miller, Hector Perez, Patrick Murphy, Bryan Baker, Jackson McClelland, Travis Bergen, Kirby Snead, Waguespack, Thomas Pannone
As you can tell by the long list of possibilities, the bullpen is still wide open for the Blue Jays. There will be free-agent signings, and they have done well to find veterans on Minor League contracts or smaller Major League deals over the past several years. Yamaguchi is also very likely to open the season in the bullpen, but he’ll remain a rotation option entering Spring Training as Toronto prioritizes flexibility. Other factors include 2019 starters opening the year in the bullpen as long men (Thornton, Waguespack) or younger arms being shortened up for different roles (Reid-Foley).
Keegan Matheson is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @KeeganMatheson.