So here we are: the 2010 MLB season is officially wrapped (congrats, San Francisco Giants), free agency is set to get underway on Sunday and the Blue Jays franchise has taken a significant step forward with the hiring of John Farrell as the new manager of a rising, young club.
The question is, what’s next? The Jays have a good deal of their core in place heading into the winter, but that isn’t to say that GM Alex Anthopoulos won’t be making calls, knocking on doors and trying to improve the team.
Here are some of issues to be sorted out by Anthopoulos this off-season, and some of the possible roads the wonderkid may look to in order to bolster the Jays.
Who would have thought last spring that getting Jose Bautista’s name of a long-term deal would be a central element to Toronto’s off-season plan heading into the 2011 campaign, but that’s what 54 homers does for you. The issue with Bautista has less to do with hammering out a deal than it does with what the terms should be. Arbitration-eligible and coming off a year in which he earned $2.4 million, there is little doubt that he’s in for a substantial pay raise. However, how much do you really want to surrender for a 30-year old who hadn’t shown much inclination toward power prior to last year, especially with Shaun Marcum and Brandon Morrow in line for extensions? Even as Bautista expresses a willingness to take another one-year deal before cashing in, I’d pencil him in for three years and about $30 million.
Pending Free Agents
Kevin Gregg kept plenty of Jays fans on edge during his save opportunities this past season, but I don’t see another potential 37-save closer on the market outside of Rafael Soriano, who is likely to command top dollar, and Mariano Rivera (not gonna happen). I’d rather have Gregg back than fellow free agent relievers Scott Downs and Jason Frasor, who are Type A free agents and would earn the Blue Jays high draft picks if a) they don’t offer arbitration and b) Downs and Frasor sign elsewhere. Among positional players, Lyle Overbay shouldn’t be brought back unless he settles for a cheap, one-year deal and a back-up role. In a much tougher call, John Buck will command big money as a reigning All-Star and 20-home run hitter playing a position with precious little depth. If they don’t resign Buck, a catching platoon of Jose Molina (team option for 2011) and J.P. Arencibia won’t cut it. But at what cost is the 30-year old worth it?
With so many options out there, I’m going to offer some thoughts on guys I’d like to see the Jays pursue based on positional need (no thanks, Cliff Lee) and likelihood of mutual interest (see ya, Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth).
Adam Dunn – So, JP Ricciardi has some heat with Dunn based on comments made on the former GM’s Fan590 radio show while he was still with the Jays. Ricciardi’s gone and Dunn (as far as we know) has no beef with Anthopoulos, so it shouldn’t be a story anymore. That said, if Adam Lind moves to first base next season, the former National seems like a great fit as a strong on-base guy and a middle-of-the-order power threat.
Victor Martinez – It’s unknown whether the Jays can afford the versatile 32-year old, but he’d be an excellent fit on a team looking to offer rising young players a shot at major league duty. As a veteran who can catch, play first base and DH, he’d be able to move over seamlessly if, say, Arencibia stakes claim of the backstop job or if Adam Lind establishes himself as an everyday first baseman. Even with the cost he’s sure to command, Martinez could be worth a look at a smart hitter and chemistry guy (he’s known for creating a different handshake for each of his teammates).
Adrian Beltre – So much of a perennial underachiever who suddenly awakens in a contract year screams “stay away” but there’s a lot to like about Beltre if you are a Jays fan. The third baseman hits for average and power, gets on base and would be an infinitesimal improvement over Edwin Encarnacion at the hot corner.
It’s useless to speculate on who might be on the Blue Jays’ radar trade-wise, so let’s look at who could be made expendable and/or dangled for another piece.
Marc Rzepczynski – Anthopoulos seems loathe to surrender pitching depth, but he, himself, spoke of “taking chances” in a Canadian Press interview and trading from a point of strength to address other needs seems like a risky – but potentially beneficial – proposition. With Ricky Romero, Marcum, Morrow and Brett Cecil already in place, and Kyle Drabek knocking on the door, a guy like Rzepczynski or Brad Mills would seem the odd man out.
Edwin Encarnacion – One way or another, I don’t see Encarnacion on the roster come 2011. He may not have much trade value, but he did get hot towards the end of last season and could be an option for a club who misses out on other free agent infielders.
Farmhands – It’s a nice problem to have when you accumulate sufficient minor league prospects that some become trade-able based solely on having their route to the majors blocked by others. Justin Jackson, for instance, is a middle infielder who could have issues finding major league duty with Aaron Hill, Yunel Escobar and Adeiny Hechavvaria in the way. Similarly, C Brian Jeroloman, 1B David Cooper and pitchers Chad Jenkins, Zach Stewart and Henderson Alvarez could be moved without the Jays losing much at the positions.
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Written by Ben Fisher