What does signing Freddy Galvis mean for Lourdes Gurriel Jr.? With the Blue Jays rebuilding, shouldn't they be prioritizing younger players, instead of signing veterans who block their path?
-- Chuck T., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Gurriel is still going to be an everyday player, it just might not be in the role people envisioned a few weeks ago. Instead of experimenting with Gurriel as a permanent shortstop, the club likely will use him in a super utility role with starts all over the infield, and possibly even an occasional appearance at a corner outfield spot.
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In a lot of ways, this is the role the Blue Jays envisioned all along for the product of Cuba. Bo Bichette is generally considered the shortstop of the future, with his debut likely set for 2020, so there hasn't been a pressing need to make Gurriel a full-time player at a position he won't even have a year from now. Instead, 2019 could turn into training for his future role, which centers around defensive versatility and offensive upside.
How many infielders do the Jays need? How are they going to make room for both Brandon Drury and Gurriel when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. makes his debut?
-- Theo D., Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada
This is the fallout from the Galvis deal I find the most interesting. By the start of May, Guerrero should be on the big league roster as Toronto's everyday third baseman. That will push Drury out of his starting role and leave him looking for at-bats on a team with only so many of them to go around. Finding playing time for one super utility player seems easy enough; finding playing time for two is a much different story.
Drury offers versatility with previous appearances at all four infield positions and the corner outfield spots. Gurriel's skill set is somewhat similar and that's what makes Devon Travis' presence a bit redundant on this roster. Unlike the other two, Travis is limited to one position and unless he has a hot start to the season, it's difficult to envision him sticking around because the Blue Jays can only carry so many infielders at one time.
Why Galvis? His career OBP is .290. Doesn't this mean we have another Kevin Pillar on our hands?
-- Vanessa P., Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
The simple answer is that the Blue Jays felt the need to have at least one natural shortstop on the roster. Gurriel is learning the position, but his footwork needs a lot of improvement. Bichette likely isn't going to debut for another year and the preference was to keep Richard Ureña -- and to a lesser extent Eric Sogard -- as Minor League depth.
Keep in mind that Toronto went through eight shortstops last season and at least four of them -- Russell Martin, Gio Urshela, Yangervis Solarte and Drury -- had no business being there in the first place. Don't think of Galvis as someone who is blocking a player like Gurriel, instead think of him as someone who gives the Blue Jays the ability to experiment with Gurriel and others all over the field, including shortstop.
When a free agent is signed during the offseason, someone on the 40-man roster has to be designated for assignment back to the Minors. Do these DFA'd guys automatically get a Spring Training non-roster invite?
-- Jojo A., Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Not at all. When a player is designated, it means the team has seven days to place the player on waivers, work out a trade or release the player. If the player clears waivers, he is then eligible to be outrighted to the Minors, which can only happen one time without permission during his professional career.
Take Danny Barnes for example. The Blue Jays DFA'd Barnes to make room for Galvis on the 40-man roster. Barnes cannot be sent to the Minors unless he first clears waivers. Every team in baseball will have an opportunity to make a waiver claim and the Blue Jays will then have to decide whether to let him go or work out a deal. If no team expresses interest, Barnes would clear and then be outrighted to the Minors. At that point, he would likely receive a non-roster invitation to Spring Training, but it's not guaranteed.
It's very clear that MLB does not want the All-Star Game to return to Toronto unless there's some sort of stadium "upgrade," which means a whole new ballpark in general. Does the organization realize that the stadium is still significantly outdated and if so, why not remove all of those tiny, uncomfortable seats?
-- Craig M.
Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro has been pretty open about the fact that one of his top priorities right now is to come up with comprehensive renovation plans for Rogers Centre. The first priority was to finalize plans for Toronto's Spring Training complex in Dunedin, Fla., and with that process currently now well underway, the focus can shift elsewhere.
The plans really don't have anything to do with the All-Star Game, but the franchise is well aware that upgrades are needed. The biggest challenge will be to secure funding for a project that will cost multiple hundreds of millions of dollars to complete, but internally the club has already been looking at widescale changes. A new ballpark is not in the cards, but a comprehensive facelift should be. Expect this situation to become more clear in 2019 now that Spring Training has been taken care of.
What about John Axford? He has openly stated he wants to return to the Blue Jays as a player and a mentor. Do you think a reunion is possible for 2019?
-- Peter S., Delta, British Columbia, Canada
Axford's comments came during a recent appearance at the annual Baseball Canada banquet when he said, "That's where I want to be," in reference to a reunion with the Blue Jays. That doesn't do much for his leverage in negotiations, but this is one match that makes sense for both sides. Toronto likely isn't going to hand Axford a guaranteed job, but there is no such thing as a bad Minor League deal. The Blue Jays signed Axford to one of those last spring, with an invitation to Spring Training, and a similar offer should be made again this year.
Given that the Blue Jays bought out Troy Tulowitzki and paid a big portion of Russell Martin's contract, should they not consider doing the same with Kendrys Morales to open up another roster spot for a younger player?
-- Anthony C., Newmarket, Ontario, Canada
Not at the moment, but it might happen later in the year. Martin was blocking prospect Danny Jansen, and Tulowitzki was at least partially blocking Gurriel. Morales isn't really blocking anyone at the moment. Teoscar Hernández may eventually need more time at DH but the club is still hopeful that his work in the outfield can be salvaged and there's enough playing time to go around for that four-man unit of Hernandez, Billy McKinney, Pillar and Randal Grichuk. If Anthony Alford or Forrest Wall forces the issue with a hot start in the Minors, this narrative will quickly change, but Morales is safe for now.