Baseball’s winter meetings are a week away, and there are several developments that will be bound to have an impact on the Blue Jays.
1. MiLB Contraction
Despite a huge public outcry, MLB appears dead-set on eliminating over 40 teams, and perhaps several short-season leagues, as part of the first major streamlining of the minors in over half a century. Part of that process will involve moving the draft to August, and limiting it to 20 rounds.
Public figures as far up the food chain as Bernie Sanders have decried these changes, pointing out the access to baseball for people far from MLB centres, the local employment MiLB provides, and the state funds that were used to build and/or upgrade soon-to-be-shuttered ball parks.
This is a matter that won’t be settled at the winter meetings, but it’s likely to become a hot topic of discussion.
2. Rule 5 Draft
The Blue Jays had RHP Jordan Romano and LHP Travis Bergen claimed in last year’s draft. Romano came back to the organization at the end of spring training and showed promise in his MLB debut as a reliever. Bergen was returned late in the season by the Giants as a result of a roster crunch.
RHP reliever Jackson McClelland is the Blue Jay most likely to be selected in the Rule 5. He would likely be a niche pick, but for a team with patience and some space in their bullpen, he would be well worth kicking the tires on in spring training.
Don’t expect the Blue Jays to be active at the Rule 5. Starting Pitching is the name of the game with this organization, and the only name that seems to fit the bill for their preferences in a starter is Sterling Sharp of the Nationals, who hasn’t pitched above AA.
3. The Blue Jays may be dealers
Toronto may be more active next off-season, when they’ve had a chance to further evaluate their current roster, and know what their shopping list might better look like.
As MLB Pipeline suggested, Anthony Alford may be offered in a deal. Alford will be out of options next spring, but at 25 there is still enough there in terms of tools and upside for a team with some 40-man flexibility to trade for him.
But that won’t stop them from considering deals. Improving the 25-man is always a priority, but again this front office values Starting Pitching. So does everyone else, unfortunately.
If the Blue Jays do talk trade, they have some depth up-the-middle to deal from. They have a surplus of Catching prospects with Alejandro Kirk, Gabriel Moreno, and Phil Clarke (who may move off the position down the road). Jordan Groshans is as close to an untouchable as this organization has, but there is a stockpile of SS/2B guys like MWL batting champ Otto Lopez, Leo Jimenez, Miguel Hiraldo, and Orevlis Martinez. The latter pair project more as corner infielders, but the Blue Jays have some potential trade flexibility with this group.
4. Look for staff announcements
The Blue Jays need a new MiLB Catching Instructor as well as Manager for Dunedin after Ken Huckaby was named to skipper Buffalo, and Cesar Martin moved up to New Hampshire.
Many teams have already announced their minor league staffs, but the Blue Jays tend to take their time with these decisions.