Griffin: How Blue Jays latest roster moves affect Adeiny Hechavarria
On Monday afternoon, the reeling Blue Jays announced a seemingly unusual roster change, purchasing the contract of left-hander Aaron Laffey from Triple-A Las Vegas and sending right-hander Chad Beck back to their top affiliate after one day in Texas, without being used.
Meanwhile, right-hander Jesse Chavez, who was promoted at the same time as Beck and pitched five innings in relief on Sunday, therefore rendering him unavailable for at least three more days, remained with the Jays. Beck has the fresher arm. What gives?
And Monday's unusual shuffling of the deck chairs took place one day after announcing the prior unusual roster change, with Beck and Chavez being called up to the Jays, that move coming one day after right-hander Ryoto Igarashi and first baseman David Cooper were summoned as reenforcements. How to explain?
These are becoming unusual times for the Jays as they struggle to stay within range of the rest of the deep and powerful AL East and the enticing second wild-card spot.
Here's one interpretation of what it all means for the Blue Jays in the short term:
Laffey, 27, is a fresh left-handed arm to use in middle relief out of the pen against the Orioles with five lefty hitters, led by Nick Markakis and Xavier Avery and to turn two switch-hitters around, including Matt Wieters. He won't be needed that often, but he can also pitch more than one inning when called upon.
Then into town after the O's comes Boston, with four lefty swingers led by David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez and two switch-hitters including Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Laffey was 2-1 in his last four starts, with a 2.70 ERA at Vegas. His best spring outing for the Jays had been in Fort Myers against the Bosox in mid-March. When the Sox leave, all Laffey bets are off.
Chavez, 28, remained with the Jays, even after his five-inning relief stint, because the Jays need an alternate starting option for the short-term and Beck is strictly a reliever. The Jays may, in fact, be thinking about keeping Chavez and inserting him into the rotation, depending on the outcome of Drew Hutchison's start against the Orioles, Monday night.
Chavez impressed in his relief outing in Arlington on Sunday, shutting down the Rangers for the first three innings in aggressive fashion. Meanwhile Hutchison, at 21, could clearly use more developmental innings either at AA-New Hampsire or Vegas.
The problem with sending Chavez down instead of Beck on Monday, to bring up the fresh-armed Laffey is that, barring injury, Chavez, if they wanted him to make a start at the major-league level, would have had to remain in the minors for 10 days before being recalled. He stays.
Speaking of which, the Jays may have made a mistake when they sent utility infielder Yan Gomes back to Las Vegas to bring up and make room for Beck and Chavez. They likely discovered that when Yunel Escobar injured his groin in the first inning on Sunday and aggravated it in the fourth inning, forcing manager John Farrell to resort to a makeshift defensive alignment with Jose Bautista moving to third and Brett Lawrie to shortstop.
Second baseman Kelly Johnson is already hobbled with a left hamstring issue, meaning that Omar Vizquel, the only backup middle infielder, was playing second base, Sunday. Of course, Edwin Encarnacion can also play third base but he was the DH on Sunday and that would not have solved the shortstop problem.
The Escobar groin and the Johnson hamstring are two areas for a baseball player, especially a middle infielder, that you do not want to take chances with. The Jays prefer to err on the side of caution, in any case. The solution for the Jays is that they monitor the situation on Monday night, then if they feel they have to disable one of the two infielders for 15 days, they can bring back Gomes for his versatility using the DL replacement rule.
At the same time, after Hutchison's start, the Jays can decide whether the next outing from the fifth spot -- that being Sunday aganst the Red Sox, or even pushed back to next week if they use the off-day to skip the fifth starter -- they can decide whether that start will be Hutchison or Chavez. The one of the two pitchers that is being sent to the minors can be replaced on the roster by Adeiny Hechavarria, the 22-year-old Cuban shortstop at Vegas, who can make his long-awaited debut where needed.
Hechavarria, 23, is already on the 40-man roster and is already using a contract option this year, as per his original four-year, $10 million deal. The hotshot glove man is batting .314 with the 51's, with four homers, 34 RBIs and an .826 OPS. Farrell indicated at spring training that if either Escobar or Johnson was injured and on the DL, there was a strong likelihood, the team would take a look at Hechavarria.
That time may be at hand. These are tough times for the Jays.