A great year of baseball has now come to a close and now it’s onto the busy offseason where teams will be overspending for talent and trading away their future for a shot at quick success. GM’s will be evaluating their pieces one-by-one trying to come up with the magic formula to bring them to the big dance. Lets do a review of our own and play a little armchair GM with Alex Anthopoulos and the Toronto Blue Jays.
Ricky Romero: A third straight year of progress for the ace of the staff. 15 wins and an ERA under 3 are solid stats and put Romero near the upper tier of AL pitchers. He has also steadily increased his innings each year with 225 innings this past year. He brings the tenacity and determination you want from an ace. Blue Jays pitcher of the year by far.
Brendan Morrow: Big things were expected from Morrow after his solid first year with the Jays. However, Morrow did not make big strides this year as thought and there were whispers during the year that possibly a move back to the closer role may be ideal. My personal opinion is that he would be better off in the rotation. It is rare to have a power arm in the rotation that the opposition fears and that can single handedly win the game for you. Getting ahead of hitters and cutting down on the walks will be the main focus for next year.
Brett Cecil: The year started off horribly for Cecil as his velocity was down and he was inevitably sent down to the minors to regain his form. He showed some flashes of talent upon his recall, but overall the year was disappointing as he finished the year 4-11 with a 4.73 ERA. His long term future in the rotation is cloudy at best with all the young guns in the minors getting closer and closer to MLB readiness.
Henderson Alvarez: Alvarez had a solid first 10 starts in the bigs and he likely has a spot in next year’s rotation. He has a power arm, but needs to develop his secondary pitches a bit more especially his slider if he will be truly effective. He could be special.
Dustin McGowan: The feel good story of the year for the Jays. McGowan overcame all odds to make it back to the bigs after overcoming what was widely thought as career ending injuries. His spot in next year’s rotation is far from guaranteed, but would be an amazing accomplishment if he was able to pull it off.
Kyle Drabek: A disappointing first season for the centre piece in the Roy Halladay deal. Walks were a problem all year for Drabek and they continued for Drabek after his demotion to the minors. The Blue Jays will give Drabek all the chances in the world to make the team and succeed. He has electric stuff and if he can get it all together he can be in the rotation next year and for many years after.
Off-season Plans: The Blue Jays will be actively searching for rotation help. There have been rampant rumours that they are also heavily interested in acquiring Japanese star Yu Darvish. The starting pitching free agent pool is not very exciting this year so AA may go the trade route to satisfy his needs. However, the Jays pitching talent pool is deep so he won’t be desperate to overpay for talent.
Brett Lawrie: Has any other Blue Jays prospect generated as much buzz and excitement as Lawrie? Probably not. His bat is clearly MLB ready and his compete level is something every team would kill for. Jays fans will be drooling to see what he can achieve in a full season.
Yunel Escobar: Escobar had a solid season both in the field and at the plate. He showed excellent plate discipline at the top of the order and could find himself there again next year. He did show the occasional mental gaffs, but it appears he is dedicated and focused under the tutelage of some of the vets like Jose Bautista. Will be the starting SS for many years to come barring injury.
Adam Lind: A hot and cold kind of season for Lind. When he was hot, he was scorching, but he also went through painful cold streaks. He likely will not return to .300 form like in 2009, but the power is still there. Is he the long term answer at first base? In my opinion no. He strikes out far too much and gets on base far too less (under .300 OBP in consecutive years).
2nd Base: To be determined. Kelly Johnson ended the year at 2nd for the Jays, but it’s not a guarantee that he will be back. The free agent pool is thin this year and there isn’t an up and comer in the minors. Johnson could be back, but he will be a temporary stop gap for the Jays until they can figure out a more permanent solution.
Edwin Encarnacion: EE is reportedly working on outfield skills this offseason. The Jays are likely to continue to give EE chances to succeed as he has shown flashes of potential in each of his years with the Jays. His future is not in the infield and he is probably better suited in a DH/4th outfield type of role.
Off-season plans: Obviously 2nd base needs to be addressed and I see the Jays bringing back Johnson for another go. The big question is will the Jays make a big splash and go for a big name first baseman. The Jays have repeatedly denied interest in any of the big names such as Fielder or Pujols. Another name that has been spinning about is Joey Votto. He is not a free agent, but there have been rumours that he is being made available for trade offers. The Jays would have to give up a lot of their prized possessions to have any hope of landing the Canadian. I would do it though in a heartbeat for Votto. I doubt the Jays have any chance at signing Pujols or Fielder.
JP Arencibia: A solid rookie season for Arencibia at the dish with 23 HR and 78 RBI. The average left a lot to be desired (.219), but the Jays will take the 20+ HR’s and run production any day. Arencibia’s game calling and defence is still a work in progress. Arencibia doesn’t have much lee-way to fail as the Jays have Travis d’arnaud tearing up the minors behind JP. Something will eventually give here as d’arnaud won’t stay in the minors long and the Jays will not make either of these guys a back-up.
Jose Molina: Arguably the best back-up catcher in the league. An important mentor for Arencibia and virtually another coach on the bench for the Jays. His skills may be declining, but his influence in the clubhouse is priceless
Off-season plans: No changes here, my thoughts are that d’arnaud gets called up in September and is eventually the starter for the Jays in 2 years.
Jose Bautista: For the 2nd straight season Bautista is the MLB home run king and a Silver Slugger Award winner. There were doubts that he would be able to replicate his magical season of a year ago, but all he did was go out and have a better all around year this year. In my opinion right up there in the top 5 players in the league. He not only is a dangerous hitter, but also a feared defender with his cannon in right. The lucrative deal the Jays’ signed him to last offseason is looking like the deal of all deals right now.
Colby Rasmus: You have to wonder how Rasmus feels these days after seeing his former team win the World Series. It is widely thought that the trade between the Jays and the Cards involving Rasmus was the catalyst for the Cards late season surge into the playoffs and eventual World Series win. The talent for Rasmus is there, defence, power, speed…the whole package. It’s the heart and character that is questionable right now and if the Jays can do a Yunel Escobar intervention on Rasmus they may have their best centre fielder since Devo.
Eric Thames: Thames came virtually out of nowhere to thrust himself into the future plans for the Jays. A starting spot is not guaranteed for Thames, but it is his to lose. His defence is his weakest link, but he showed during the season he is willing to put in the extra time to improve. His future depends on the next guys future…
Travis Snider: A disastrous year for Snider last year. This year was thought to be his breakout year and instead it was a year of regression. It seems like he has been around forever, but he is still only 23 years old. His upside is arguably much higher than Thames’, but it’s uncertain if the Jays front office has much confidence in him any longer. Potentially a large trading chip for AA this off-season.
Off-season plans: I thinks the Bautista, Rasmus and Thames alignment is the one we will see on opening day, with Rajai Davis and EE rotating in here and there. I just a have a feeling Snider will be packaged along with some other prospects to land some big fish.
I’m not going to break this group down individually because the bullpen will be undergoing a complete teardown this offseason. The bullpen was by far the weakest part of the team this year. The Jays were tied for first in the AL with 25 blown saves, converting on only 57% of their save opportunities. Incumbent closer possibilities Frank Francisco is likely gonzo and Jon Rauch was bought out. There are a boat load of free agent closers this off-season highlighted by Papelbon, Madson and K-Rod. However, I don’t see the Jays blowing the bank on Papelbon and will likely instead go for middle to low tier options like Madson, Cordero or Broxton. AA will likely wait to add a big name closer once the team is closer to contention. So for now, the Jays and their fans will have to suffer through nervous ninths until the next Tom Henke or Duane Ward is brought in.
Blue Jays fans will need to have patience because the Jays are still a few years away from being serious playoff contenders. AA and his staff have laid out a sustainable plan to build a consistent winner not just a flash in the pan one year wonder. It will be interesting to see if AA continues to be patient this offseason or give in to the pressure and blow some $$$. In my opinion I hope he stays the course and in 2-3 years blow the $$$ to put the Jays over the top, like how Gillick did it with the 2 championship teams in the 90′s.