DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays are in win-now mode, and the club has said time and time again that it will pick the best 25-man roster possible, but options and potential opt-out clauses will still have to be considered.The days of carrying a young player simply because he cannot
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays are in win-now mode, and the club has said time and time again that it will pick the best 25-man roster possible, but options and potential opt-out clauses will still have to be considered.
The days of carrying a young player simply because he cannot be sent to the Minor Leagues without clearing waivers are over, but Toronto will need to pause before making a similar move with its veteran players. The Blue Jays are all about 2016, but the importance of organizational depth cannot be overlooked.
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Toronto has a lot of players without options in camp, but the vast majority of them are not in danger of missing the cut. Brett Cecil, Jesse Chavez, R.A. Dickey, Josh Donaldson, Justin Smoak and Josh Thole don't have anything to worry about, but the same cannot be said about everyone.
Here's a closer look at the positions where options could play a role:
The fourth outfielder: Toronto is expected to pick between Ezequiel Carrera and Junior Lake for this job, and both players are out of options. The Blue Jays want Dalton Pompey to receive everyday at-bats, and that can't happen in the big leagues right now, so all signs point to a stint with Triple-A Buffalo. That leaves the battle between the incumbent Carrera and Lake, who was claimed off waivers from the Orioles during the offseason.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons has said the club likely will prioritize speed and defense in this final spot. He also wants someone who can play center field, which seems to rule out the recently signed Domonic Brown. Carrera spent 91 games with the Blue Jays last year and might be the early favorite here, but Lake is someone to keep an eye on because at age 25, he has yet to tap into his full potential.
The final two spots in the bullpen: The configuration of Toronto's bullpen remains an unknown because there are so many moving parts. Here's what we know: Drew Storen, Roberto Osuna and Cecil are locks for late-inning relief. Chavez and Gavin Floyd are competing for the final spot in the rotation, but if Aaron Sanchez ends up winning that job, then both of these veteran right-handers will end up in the bullpen.
With lefty Aaron Loup expected to miss the start of the year because of an elbow injury, that leaves two spots up for grabs, and this is where options really could come into play. All things being equal, Ryan Tepera and Pat Venditte likely would be the favorites, but both pitchers have options remaining, while some of their competitors do not. If the club wants to preserve its depth in an effort to guard against future injuries, this is where it can be done.
Steve Delabar, Joe Biagini and Arnold Leon are the three that fit into this category the best. Biagini is a Rule 5 Draft pick who has to be offered back to the Giants if he doesn't make the team, while Delabar and Leon both need to make the team or instead be placed on waivers. Toronto wants two lefties in the bullpen, though, so it seems unlikely that two of these three righties would be able to crack the roster.
Minor League veterans: Toronto has not confirmed which of its veteran players on Minor League contracts received opt-put clauses, but it's pretty common practice around the league to release a player in this situation from his deal if an opportunity can be found elsewhere. The group of veterans on Minors deals includes David Aardsma, Roberto Hernandez, Wade LeBlanc, Brad Penny, Tony Sanchez and Brown.
From this group, LeBlanc seems to have the best shot at making the Opening Day roster. The 31-year-old did not appear in the big leagues last season, but he posted a 2.82 ERA with 19 hits and four walks allowed in 22 1/3 innings for the Angels after he signed as a free agent with them in June 2014. His biggest competition for the second lefty spot likely comes from the switch-pitcher Venditte and 25-year-old Minor Leaguer Chad Girodo.
Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.