Wednesday marked another noteworthy date in the glitzy world of low-end roster alterations that characterize the MLB offseason. Two weeks after moving on from Ryan Tepera and Devon Travis, preparations for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft have once again placed 40-man roster spots at a premium.
Teams had until 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday to finalize their 40-man roster in advance of the draft which transpires on Dec. 12.
The Blue Jays added the contracts of pitcher Thomas Hatch and infielder Santiago Espinal to the roster. To make room for those players, they dropped relievers Tim Mayza and Justin Shafer.
Toronto acquired Hatch at the trade deadline in a deal with the Chicago Cubs for one-year reliever rental David Phelps. Hatch made six starts at Double-A New Hampshire after the deal, sporting a 2.80 ERA. The 25-year-old was a third-round pick of the Cubs in the 2015 draft. Across all minor league levels in three seasons, he holds a 3.99 ERA derived from 79 starts.
In Espinal, the Jays retain a player that occupied multiple positions across two minor league levels last season. The 25-year-old primarily played shortstop and second base through 103 games, while also playing a handful of innings in centrefield and at third base. He hit well in both Triple-A and Double-A in 2019, posting a .287/.347/.393 combined line. A 10th-round pick by the Red Sox in 2016, Espinal is a worthwhile low-risk addition to the roster if he can continue to hit consistently in a full season at Triple-A. He was part of the return for Steve Pearce in June 2018.
As far as who’s on the way out, Tim Mayza was assigned to Triple-A. The 27-year-old lefty made 124 appearances over three major league seasons. He performed well in flashes during his first two seasons and was called on 68 times last year, posting a 4.91 ERA as the team’s main lefty out of the bullpen. He suffered a major elbow injury late in the season and underwent Tommy John surgery. He was likely to miss the entire 2020 season.
Shafer has been designated for assignment. Also a 27-year-old, he made 34 appearances last year, posting a 3.86 ERA. He struggled with his strikeout-to-walk rate, leading to a 5.18 FIP. The team has 10 days to either trade, release, or outright him.
Two 27-year-old relievers are removed and two 25-year-olds added. Such is the life cycle of the bottom fringe of a 40-man roster.
Players become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if they are not on a team’s 40-man roster five years after being signed if they were 18 at the time of signing, or four years if they signed at 19 or older. Any player selected in the draft is required to stay on the new team’s 25-man major league roster for the entirety of the next season, or the club may offer him back to his old team. The Blue Jays used Rule 5 to select Elvis Luciano last year and notably added Joe Biagini in 2015.
For posterity, here is how the 40-man roster currently sits for the Blue Jays heading into the Rule 5 Draft.
Pitchers: Jason Adam, Chase Anderson, Anthony Bass, Ryan Borucki, Yennsy Diaz, Wilmer Font, Sam Gaviglio, Ken Giles, Thomas Hatch, Anthony Kay, Derek Law, Elvis Luciano, Julian Merryweather, Patrick Murphy, Thomas Pannone, Hector Perez, Sean Reid-Foley, Jordan Romano, Matt Shoemaker, Trent Thornton, Jacob Waguespack, T.J. Zeuch.
Catchers: Danny Jansen, Luke Maile, Reese McGuire.
Infielders: Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Brandon Drury, Santiago Espinal Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Rowdy Tellez, Richard Urena, Breyvic Valera.
Outfielders: Anthony Alford, Jonathan Davis, Derek Fisher, Randal Grichuk, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, Billy McKinney.
The next signpost on the road to next season’s roster construction is the non-tender deadline on Dec. 5. Teams have until then to offer players on renewable deals a new contract or they are added to the free agency pool. With the 40-man currently full at 40 players, somebody will need to be non-tendered by that date or designated for assignment for the team to add any new players.
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