TORONTO -- The Blue Jays added four players -- catcher Travis d'Arnaud, first baseman Michael McDade, right-hander Nestor Molina and left-hander Evan Crawford -- to their 40-man roster on Friday afternoon.
Friday was the final day for clubs to finalize their 40-man rosters in advance of the looming Rule 5 Draft in December. The four Minor Leaguers are now protected and can't be selected by another team in the Rule 5 Draft that will take place at baseball's Winter Meetings in Dallas.
Toronto now has 38 players on its 40-man roster, but it likely will need to create more space in the coming weeks in order to add free agents or players through trade.
"They were very easy," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said of the decision to add those four players. "They were no-brainers. We didn't have any debates. It wasn't even close on the other names."
The 22-year-old d'Arnaud was named the Eastern League Most Valuable Player during a breakout season for Double-A New Hampshire. Ranked first on MLB.com's Top 10 Blue Jays prospects list, d'Arnaud hit .311 with 21 homers and 78 RBIs en route to midseason and postseason All-Star selections.
McDade posted a .281 average with 16 homers and a club-leading 37 doubles for the Eastern League champion Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound infielder also picked up a midseason All-Star selection along the way.
Molina became one of the Blue Jays' biggest storylines in the Minor Leagues this season. He combined to go 12-3 with a 2.21 ERA between Class A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire in just his third season as a pitcher. The converted position player struck out 148 batters while walking just 16 over 130 1/3 innings.
Crawford played a key role in the Fisher Cats' championship by posting a 3.35 ERA in 45 relief appearances. The former eighth-round selection in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft struck out 62 in 51 innings.
Anthopoulos' baseball operations department had a much easier time this year when it came to deciding which players would be protected.
"Last year, we had some debates," Anthopoulos said. "The biggest debate was Moises Sierra, just because he missed the year. We think he's a very talented prospect, but you're always thinking, 'Can we slip him through?'
"Ultimately, the decision making, you do the litmus test, 'If he gets [taken in the] Rule 5 [Draft], how are we going to feel?' If it's not good, then put him on."
One notable omission from the Blue Jays' protected roster was infielder Jon Diaz. The 26-year-old hit .252 with 11 doubles and seven stolen bases for New Hampshire and will be eligible to be selected.
Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.