By Tammy Rainey
Every year fans anticipate what their favorite team will do when it comes to September call-ups. Of course if you’re a fan of, say, the 2018 Red Sox that’s not the foremost issue on your mind but for a team looking to build for the future like the Toronto Blue Jays are this year, it’s a shiny sprinkle of glitter on an otherwise potentially dreary string being played out.
The Blue Jays, like many other clubs, are notoriously slow and sloppy about publicizing such news (honestly, I probably have a rant-post in me for a future date about how teams could be so much better in the digital age about making an event out of certain roster activity throughout their system rather than letting beat reporters drag it out through the gritted teeth of some staffer) and here I sit, four hours from September 1, as of this writing, with incomplete news for you. So I’ll tell you what I know from the beat reports, and offer my best guess at what goes on beyond that.
It was always easy to anticipate that Top 10 prospect Sean Reid-Foley would be back in the first wave and, indeed, he’s set to start for the Jays on Sunday. Joining him, per Shi Davidi, in the first bunch will be RH reliever Tyler Guerrieri and LH Jose Fernandez. Another easy guess was the return of Justin Schafer, another RH reliever the team is impressed with, and veteran Jake Petricka but since neither have been down the requisite 10 days, they have to wait until after the AAA season ends on Monday.
That’s all the official word that’s on the wire on the subject as of now. But it’s certainly not the only players who’ll be coming north. There are a few factors one can look at as one tries to anticipate the potential moves. First, anyone on the 40 man roster is at least a theoretical possibility. Secondary to that, any player who might need to be added to the 40 this winter in order to be protected from the Rule 5 draft will be considered. If a player falls into neither group, it’s rare indeed to see him added because teams are obsessive about managing roster spots, particularly prospect rich teams.
Beyond that, historically teams don’t go to 40 players just because they can. The space in the clubhouse is limited and seldom do they pack in even as many as 10 extra players. Usually you see more relief pitchers than anything else but if a team has a position where the major league squad lacks depth, you can look for a match there too. With these considerations in mind, a savvy observer can make some guesses, but you never really know. For example, the three returning guys above were easy predictions, Guerrieri not as much but being on the 40 means it was no shock - but adding Fernandez to the 40 man roster is a mild surprise. He has had a good season at AAA and was a spring training invite the last two seasons so they have had their eye on him. Still, I didn’t expect it. So we have identified five pitchers, there are only two more on the 40 and one of them is injured and the other would have been likely to be designated to make room for Fernandez absent the Donaldson trade so let’s turn our attention to position players.
Shortstop Richard Urena has gotten enough major league work this year to make his return all but certain, ditto for outfielder Dwight Smith, Jr. The former has hit better in the majors than we have any right to expect given his minor league performance, the latter has acquitted himself well in previous appearances. Others on the 40 already include the following:
Catcher Reese McGuire - typically teams always add an extra catcher, but there are three in Toronto already so he might not make it.
First Baseman Rowdy Tellez - has had a very impressive recovery after one of his typical slow starts (and coming off a very troubled season in 2017) but while it would be good to get a look, 1B and DH are filled nicely and there are already a lot of extra bodies to try and work into an occasional DH role.
Center Fielder Anthony Alford - Player development manager Gil Kim expressed this week that the team was pleased with the progress Alford has made over recent weeks in recovering from a horrible start to the season (marred, again, by injury and interrupted by a brief recall in April) and there’s a pretty good argument for getting him in the hands of the major league staff for a few weeks. One could also argue for giving him a breather and sending him to the AFL in October, and in theory he could do both and i expect that he will.
Outfielder Dalton Pompey - To be completely honest, no one knows what the team is doing with him at this point. I can’t think of a single reason not to recall him (other than the problem of having seven outfielders in the room and getting everyone some reps. Particularly given he’s out of options next spring and every look is crucial at this point. But maybe they have decided to move on already?
Finally, there’s one non-roster player that might get added later. As of now he’s on the post-season bound New Hampshire Fisher cats where he’s an untouchable closer. If the playoffs go well he will be busy there for as much as two more weeks. But after that, it’s not impossible that Travis Bergen will get to dip his toes in the big league waters. He’s been a monster this year, he’s a lefty who could very well break camp with the Jay in 2019 with a good spring, and he’d be Rule 5 eligible this winter if not added. More evidence is that he was not announced on the initial roster for the Arizona Fall League where he would seem to be a natural fit (not that the two are exclusionary to each other).
Forced to predict, I’m pretty sure Alford joins the sure bets, Pompey too, and Bergen gets that cup of coffee. Anyone I haven’t yet mentioned would be a pretty big shock (unless the team acquires someone in a trade tonight that’s a logical candidate).