DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays will have a series of tough decisions to make at the end of Spring Training, and, once again, contract options will play a big role.
Toronto currently has one spot up for grabs in the starting rotation, and at least two in the bullpen. The preference is to always put the best team on the field, but more often than not, the business of baseball also becomes a factor.
When a player doesn't have any options remaining on his contract, he has to pass through waivers before being sent to the Minor Leagues. The importance of holding onto assets is a key theme in camp each year, and that will be the case again this season.
"We have a few guys," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said when asked about his players that are out of options. "That always factors in, but you still want to, we're looking for starting pitching, we want to go with the best guy. If that costs somebody a job, we're still going with the best guy."
Similar statements are made every year by managers across baseball, but Blue Jays fans know all too well just how important options -- or the lack thereof -- can be. In the past several years alone, the likes of Jo-Jo Reyes, David Purcey, Luis Perez, Esmil Rogers and Jeremy Jeffress have cracked the Opening Day roster at least, in part, because of their contractual status.
This year likely will be no different, but there could be an even greater emphasis than normal because of the sheer number of players who don't have any options remaining. Rogers, Todd Redmond and Dustin McGowan are among the candidates for the rotation that don't have any options remaining, while in the bullpen, the list includes Sergio Santos, Brett Cecil, Perez and Jeffress.
The top four of the rotation is set, with R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle and J.A. Happ, while the bullpen will include Casey Janssen, Steve Delabar, Santos and Cecil. Based on last season's results, left-hander Aaron Loup and right-hander Neil Wagner also deserve spots in the 'pen, but space will be an issue, and the club must decide once and for all just how valuable those options really are.