J.A. Happ was a better pitcher than Ricky Romero in 2012. He was also better than Brett Cecil, who was bounced between the minors and the big leagues last season.
But when 2013 rolls around, it’s Happ that will likely be on his way to starting his season in the minors, while Romero and Cecil will have the inside track to spots on the Toronto Blue Jays opening day roster.
Such is the burden of having minor league options, I suppose.
See, despite heading into his age-30 season with nearly 600 major league innings under his belt, Happ still has a dreaded minor-league option on his contract, which means that unlike other candidates – such as Cecil and Jeremy Jeffress – who are competing for a job on opening day, Happ can be sent to AAA Buffalo to start 2013 without any real ramifications to the Blue Jays.
The odds may be stacked against Happ in that regard, but it’s not to say that he can’t make it out of Spring Training with one of those spots if he can come out of the gate with good performances, however. A repeat of last year’s disastrous spring for Cecil could cause to Blue Jays to designate him to the minors, even if it means that they lose him to another team for nothing.
Romero has a much more established track record, but all eyes will be on whether he can bounce back from the worst season of his career; of course, the former Blue Jays ace has a lock on the number-five spot in the starting rotation in 2013, but we’ve seen how quickly that can change in just a few weeks, considering Cecil was in the same situation this time last year.
There’s also the injury factor – neither Brandon Morrow or Josh Johnson are exactly what you’d call durable pitchers, and Happ will be the first name that the Blue Jays call on should (though I hope not) something happen to either of them. For that depth reason alone, the Blue Jays will be motivated to having a pitcher like Happ, who has significant major league experience, hanging around in the minors as a reserve while the team figures out what they have in their option-less players.
Happ will need a strong enough spring to give the Blue Jays pause on that plan, but he will also need some dominos on the team to start falling his way if he is to come out of Spring Training with a spot on the Opening Day roster.