For the past year or so most people have assumed that the Rays would replace Carl Crawford in left field with top prospect Desmond Jennings, a 23-year-old speedster who’s drawn frequent comparisons to Crawford while coming up through the minors.
However, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times “the most likely scenario” for the Rays’ outfield on Opening Day is B.J. Upton in center field flanked by Matt Joyce in left field and Ben Zobrist in right field.
Nothing is set in stone yet, of course. Topkin writes that Jennings “will get a long spring chance to show if he’s ready” and if the Rays feel they need Zobrist more as an infielder the path would be pretty clear for Jennings to make the Opening Day roster.
Jennings got his first taste of the majors in September, going 4-for-21 (.190), but prior to that he had a relatively underwhelming season at Triple-A by hitting .278 with a .362 on-base percentage and .393 slugging percentage in 109 games. He did swipe 37 bases while being caught just four times and posted a solid 67/47 K/BB ratio at Durham.
If it were up to him, Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson would finish the remainder of his career in Toronto. In fact, he’d be “ticked pink” if the club decided to sign him to a long-term deal. Whether the Blue Jays share that sentiment is still unclear, as Donaldson said Saturday that the team has yet to engage his agent in extension talks.
“I’ve said that I wanted to be here,” he told MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm. “That’s pretty much all I can say. I’m not the one who makes the decisions, nor would I try to put them in the position to do that. Like I said, I believe the situation will become more fluid when the time is right.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean an extension is out of the question. The Blue Jays reached an unprecedented one-year, $23 million agreement with the three-time All-Star in arbitration, and have been reticent to field trade offers despite continued interest from the Cardinals this winter.
Donaldson, 32, is poised to enter his eighth season in the majors and fourth with the Blue Jays. In 2017, he batted .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs and a .944 OPS in 496 plate appearances, ranking sixth among all major league third baseman with 5.0 fWAR. He’s scheduled to enter free agency following the 2018 season.