Blue Jays need to bring up 4th outfielder
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons prefers a four-man bench with seven relievers working out of the bullpen. He has said as much. Now, what he wants and what's best for his team -- or what the general manager thinks is best for the team -- are not mutually exclusive things.
But, if Gibbons gets what he wants, and I believe he will, it appears that Chad Jenkins -- who was recalled after the Blue Jays placed right-hander Sergio Santos on the 15-day disabled list with a right elbow strain -- won't be here for long. Just by process of elimination, there are likely only a couple candidates the club would contemplate sending down in order to bring up another position player.
Casey Janssen, Steve Delabar, Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup aren't going anywhere. There has been no indication, either, that the Blue Jays are ready to cut ties with the out-of-options long relievers Esmil Rogers or Todd Redmond and expose the duo to waivers. Toronto has had opportunities to do so and passed each time. The club is paying left-hander J.A. Happ -- who, due to service time, cannot be sent down without consent -- $5.2 million this season, and I wouldn't expect him to agree to a minor league assignment or bank on Toronto releasing him and paying him to play elsewhere.
If Dustin McGowan doesn't last in the rotation, he will make a new home in the bullpen. That leaves one of Jenkins or Marcus Stroman as the best bets to get shipped out if the Blue Jays bring up another bench player. And I don't think Toronto will be sending Stroman back to Triple-A Buffalo anytime soon. Nor should they.
So, why even bring Jenkins up then? My guess is the club wanted some pitching insurance for Monday's contest against the Angels -- and maybe for a couple more games -- after Redmond threw 64 pitches Saturday and Stroman needed 42 to get through an 1 2/3 innings Sunday. And I'm not going to blame the Blue Jays for doing so despite my belief that, generally speaking, it's unnecessary to carry eight relievers.
If that line of thinking is correct, I would expect Jenkins to get optioned back down to Buffalo later in the week and for the Blue Jays to add one more player to a bench that consists of R.A. Dickey's personal catcher Josh Thole, Jonathan Diaz -- recalled Monday for Erik Kratz -- and Steve Tolleson/Juan Francisco depending on whether a lefty or righty is on the mound.
Brett Lawrie, Gibbons said, will see time at second base -- at least for now -- when the team is facing a right-hander in order to keep Francisco's bat in the lineup, which would allow him to play third with Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion occupying the first base and designated hitter spots in the order. When a lefty is on the bump, Lawrie will be at third and one of Diaz or Steve Tolleson will play second base. Diaz doesn't offer much in terms of a bat but the Blue Jays need a backup utility infielder who can play shortstop, something the 29-year-old can do. Maybe Diaz doesn't stay up for long, but all that would likely mean is we'd see the return of Munenori Kawasaki or Ryan Goins, another glove-first player who didn't hit his weight over 24 games in Toronto before being optioned to Buffalo.
Gibbons said, as reported by the Toronto's Star Brendan Kennedy, that Diaz is up for his ability to act as a defensive replacement for Francisco, and because he can play the outfield. Diaz getting time in the outfield should, obviously, not happen. The bat doesn't profile and if one of the starters were to get injured, the team should have a more adept replacement rostered.
Tolleson received a start in right field Saturday, shifting Jose Bautista to center with Colby Rasmus on the bench. Just like Diaz shouldn't be playing in the outfield, Bautista shouldn't be starting in center. Even if the club doesn't want to stick Melky Cabrera in center for days when Rasmus sits -- something that's clearly the case considering he has played there once and logged fewer innings in center than Bautista -- Toronto's All-Star right fielder manning that position should not be the answer, either.
The Blue Jays should have a competent right-handed hitting fourth outfielder who can play center field, which would also allow them to sit Rasmus on days when a tough lefty in on the mound. Rasmus doesn't hit lefties well, but I'm not advocating for him to be platooned. Sitting him vs. the David Prices or Jon Lesters of the world, however, wouldn't be such a bad thing.
All of that brings us back to the beginning point: Jenkins, in my opinion, will be shipped out later this week in favor of one of Darin Mastroianni or Kevin Pillar -- both players who are on the 40-man roster, are hitting with the Bisons, can run, and play center field. They are ideal fourth outfielders, both able to enter late as pinch runners, and would improve a Blue Jays bench in need of help.