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Blue Jays facing 40-man roster decisions

With two 'pen spots likely to go to relievers on Minors deals, club needs to clear space
MLB.com @gregorMLB

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- This is normally the time of year when teams begin worrying about players who are out of options. That's one concern the Blue Jays don't have this spring, but it doesn't mean their roster projections are issue-free.

Outfielder Ezequiel Carrera was the only player on Toronto's 40-man roster who reported to camp without any options remaining. That meant Carrera had to clear waivers before being sent to the Minors, but in this case it didn't really matter. Carrera was designated for assignment and later granted his outright release.

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DUNEDIN, Fla. -- This is normally the time of year when teams begin worrying about players who are out of options. That's one concern the Blue Jays don't have this spring, but it doesn't mean their roster projections are issue-free.

Outfielder Ezequiel Carrera was the only player on Toronto's 40-man roster who reported to camp without any options remaining. That meant Carrera had to clear waivers before being sent to the Minors, but in this case it didn't really matter. Carrera was designated for assignment and later granted his outright release.

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The problem the Blue Jays face centers around the 40-man roster, which is currently full. Toronto has two bullpen spots up for grabs, and they almost assuredly will go to a pair of relievers who are signed to Minor League deals. The Blue Jays need to make room on the 40-man roster for those two spots and that's where things get complicated.

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John Axford and Tyler Clippard are the clear favorites for a bullpen that already includes Roberto Osuna, Ryan Tepera, Seung Hwan Oh, Danny Barnes and Aaron Loup. Keeping in mind two players have to go, here's a closer look at who could be on the bubble of the 40-man roster:

OF Dwight Smith Jr.
Smith made his big league debut last season and is entering the second of three option years. The 25-year-old appeared in 12 games for the Blue Jays last season and exceeded expectations with 10 hits in 27 at-bats. Toronto's outfield depth this spring took a hit when Anthony Alford was ruled out for up to six weeks because of a strained hamstring, but there should still be enough options that would make Smith expendable. Teoscar Hernandez is ahead of Smith on the depth chart, while Curtis Granderson, Steve Pearce, Kevin Pillar and Randal Grichuk project as the main outfielders in Toronto.

OF Dalton Pompey
One could argue that Pompey requires a fresh start after a pair of injury-plagued seasons in the Blue Jays' system. Pompey was once one of Toronto's top prospects and was the Opening Day center fielder in 2015, but he has been on a downward trajectory ever since. A concussion was to blame last season, and Pompey has been bothered by a wrist injury this spring. He's currently buried on Toronto's depth chart, but with an option remaining, it's reasonable to expect another team to take a chance and stash him in the Minors.

The longshots: RHP Taylor Guerrieri, 1B Rowdy Tellez, IF Richard Urena, C Reese McGuire
Guerrieri might be the most likely player on this list to be on the bubble but even that seems far-fetched. Guerrieri is needed to provide some additional depth early in the season while Ryan Borucki receives more time to develop. Guerrieri missed most of last season, but two years ago he posted a 3.76 ERA in 28 appearances for Double-A Montgomery. Everyone else on this list should be ruled out, especially considering McGuire and Tellez were only added to the 40-man roster this winter.

The 60-day DL
Players on the 10-day disabled list have to remain on the 40-man roster, but exceptions are made for players on the 60-day DL. If the Blue Jays have a player who requires time on the 60, then that's one less spot that has to be found on the 40. Carlos Ramirez is one candidate after he was sidelined early in camp because of right shoulder soreness. He has yet to appear in a game this spring and the Blue Jays could argue he needs to be brought along slowly at the start of the season. Less likely is Toronto taking a similar approach with injured shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. The Blue Jays have ruled out Tulowitzki for the start of the season but said him returning in late April is still a possibility.

Video: Clippard inks Minor League deal with Blue Jays

MLB.com prediction
Axford and Clippard earn the final two spots in the bullpen over Luis Santos and Al Alburquerque. Ramirez starts the year on the 60-day DL and Smith is designated for assignment. The question then becomes whether Smith clears waivers or whether his two option years entice another team to swoop in and pick him up.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays