How will Minors options affect 25-man roster?
Quite a few players would need to pass through waivers before being sent down
TORONTO -- Every spring, teams from across Major League Baseball insist they will take the best 25 players, but more often than not, the business of baseball factors into the final decision.
There are times when a player is kept on the roster simply because he can't be sent to the Minors without first going through waivers and the organization doesn't want to lose an asset. The pros and cons are examined, and occasionally it makes more sense to take a chance on someone the team doesn't want to lose.
Toronto is no different, and over the past several years, options have been front and center in which players head north. Here's a closer look at the Blue Jays who would have to go through waivers before getting sent to the Minors:
RHP Kyle Drabek
Drabek was once considered to be a future cornerstone of the rotation, but injuries and a lack of command limited his upside. He was moved to the bullpen last year, and if he's going to make the team in 2015, it will be as a reliever. That could be good news, because the Blue Jays have at least three jobs up for grabs. Drabek needs a strong spring to prove he belongs.
RHP Liam Hendriks
Hendriks seems destined for the waiver wire unless there are at least a couple of injuries during camp. Toronto's rotation appears to be R.A. Dickey, Marcus Stroman, Mark Buehrle and Drew Hutchison, with Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris and Marco Estrada competing for the final spot. That doesn't leave much room for Hendriks, but it's possible he's someone who could get through waivers at the end of camp and begin the year at Triple-A Buffalo.
RHP Todd Redmond
Redmond made the team last year at least partially because he was out of options, and he'll likely find himself in a similar situation this spring. Even though Redmond was on the bubble, he proved to be a valuable arm and posted a 3.24 ERA in long relief. That should be enough to give him an inside track on a similar role in 2015.
1B/DH Justin Smoak
Smoak shouldn't have to worry about his job at the beginning of the season, because he projects as the club's starting first baseman. He'll be given an opportunity to play regularly, but the performance will have to be better than it was during his final season in Seattle when he hit .202 with a paltry .614 OPS. Smoak's spot appears safe, but if he struggles in April, then he'll likely go through waivers as well.
INF Steve Tolleson
Tolleson carved out a rather substantial role on the Blue Jays last season even though he didn't make the team out of camp. The veteran infielder appeared in 109 games and spent most of his time platooning at second base. He is particularly valuable against lefties, but with Maicer Izturis returning from injury, Tolleson's job security is very much in doubt. Toronto can't afford to carry Izturis, Tolleson and Ryan Goins on the 25-man roster, so unless Tolleson has a strong spring, he could be on his way out.
INF Danny Valencia
Valencia's job appears safe, and he'll likely receive playing time at first, third, designated hitter and possibly even second base. He's arguably the most valuable player off the bench, and his ability to post strong numbers against lefties means he could see a lot of time at first in a platoon with Smoak. Unless a future trade is in the works, Valencia isn't going anywhere.
LHP Scott Barnes
Barnes was claimed off waivers during the offseason, and he'll head to camp looking to win a job out of the bullpen. It will be a crowded competition, and the fact that the Blue Jays already have a pair of lefties in Aaron Loup and Brett Cecil doesn't bode well for his future. A strong spring could help change that, but there's an equally good chance that Toronto will be forced to put Barnes through waivers at some point in the coming months.
Josh Donaldson, Cecil and Dickey don't have any options, but they are barely worth mentioning in this piece. Donaldson is a core piece of the everyday lineup, while Dickey still projects as the club's Opening Day starter. Cecil has been out of options for the past several years, but he is an integral part of the bullpen and won't be going anywhere any time soon.