Latest Roster Moves Make Sense For Blue Jays
Losers of six of their last seven games, the Blue Jays continued to shake up their roster with a series of moves Thursday.
In are utility man Steve Tolleson and outfielder Anthony Gose. Gone are the out-of-options Moises Sierra, who was designated for assignment, and Jonathan Diaz, optioned to Triple-A Buffalo. These moves come just days after the Blue Jays optioned Ryan Goins to the Bisons and purchased the contract of infielder Chris Getz. The Goins-Sierra-Diaz trio combined to hit .133 over 128 at-bats. Something needed to happen and it did, and, while Gose and Tolleson are unlikely to come in and hit the cover off the ball, these moves make sense.
Sierra didn't hit, wasn't used in a platoon role at designated hitter, and can't play center field as a fourth outfielder should be able to. There was no use for him on the team. I said as much in the offseason, too, when I wrote that the Blue Jays should likely take their chances and risk losing Sierra for nothing. I was operating under the impression that the Blue Jays would sign a right-handed bat they felt comfortable with carrying on the active roster but that, of course, didn't materialize.
A right-handed bench bat to platoon with Adam Lind -- and now Juan Francisco -- was an area of need this offseason, and still is today. In theory, Sierra could have been that guy, but the Blue Jays barely gave him any looks there. And, really, that was the only reason he made sense taking up a precious spot on the 25-man roster.
Sierra doesn't provide enough with his glove or on the bases to be used as a substitution in late-game situations. He was essentially dead weight and the writing for him getting shipped out of Toronto has been on the wall for weeks. Under Major League Baseball rules, the Blue Jays have 10 days to either trade, waive or release Sierra. If Sierra clears waivers, he can be outrighted to the minor leagues and be placed on the Bisons roster.
Gose, meanwhile, hasn't hit during brief cameos with the Blue Jays over the last few seasons, compiling a .238/.298/.359 batting line over 347 career plate appearances. He does, however, provide the Blue Jays with a few things Sierra didn't: Gose can run, making him a legitimate pinch-running threat and someone who can swipe a base for a team which doesn't run. And he can play defense, with his natural position being center field. If Gose was a right-handed bat he would provide the club with even more value, but, all told, he is a much better fourth outfielder than Sierra.
The Gose move was slightly surprising to me because I thought the club was keeping him down in Buffalo in order to receive everyday at-bats in the event the 23-year-old assumed a starting role with the club next year, as both Colby Rasmus and Melky Cabrera are impending free agents. Once the Blue Jays eventually decided to get rid of Sierra, I thought the club would promote the recently acquired Darin Mastroianni, who, like Gose, can run but is also a right-handed bat. While I'm fine with the move, I wouldn't be surprised if we see Mastroianni at some point in the near future, which would allow Gose to head back to the Bisons and receive regular playing time, something he won't get in Toronto.
With Tolleson, the Blue Jays are getting a career .282/.371/.407 minor league hitter, who will provide more with his bat than the all-glove Diaz. Tolleson, who has played 54 games in the big leagues, is versatile -- he has played second, short and third with the Bisons this season and logged some time in left field with the Orioles in 2012 -- and, throughout his time in the minors, has had good walk rates and hit both lefties and righties. Toronto signed Tolleson to a minor-league contract in the offseason.
The moves now give the Blue Jays a three-man bench consisting of Gose, Tolleson, and backup catcher Josh Thole. After Toronto wraps up a three-game set in Kansas City on Thursday, the club will embark on a five-game road trip in National League parks. Toronto will head to Pittsburgh for three games before concluding the trip with a pair of contests against the Phillies.
A three-man bench, with one of those players being your backup catcher, is never ideal, especially not when playing in NL parks where pitchers must hit. If Toronto's starters can't go deep, something the group has collectively struggled to do, pinch-hitting options will dry up quickly. Don't be surprised if the Blue Jays have another move coming to bring in another bat. Then again, don't be surprised if they do nothing, as the eight-man bullpen -- which at least makes some sense right now, although what players the club has occupying those spots leaves plenty of room for debate -- has become a staple of Toronto's over the last two seasons.