Anthopoulos era signals changes afoot
New GM starts rebuilding process, starting with 2010 club
The Blue Jays are entering a new era. Led by a rookie general manager in Alex Anthopoulos, and preparing for the retirement of manager Cito Gaston, Toronto has reached an important turning point in club history. It is an appropriate time to examine 10 key questions facing the team in 2010.
As the Jays head into the post-Roy Halladay era, who on the current staff could be considered a potential "ace" for the team's future?
The "ace" label might need to be stripped from the Blue Jays' vocabulary during the 2010 season. Toronto believes it has a few young pitchers who might be worthy of that title down the road, though. As things currently stand, the Jays' No. 1 starter for the upcoming year will likely be Shaun Marcum or Ricky Romero. In the future, the Blue Jays are hoping pitching prospect Kyle Drabek -- acquired in the trade that sent Halladay to the Phillies -- can develop into a big league ace.
After career years at the plate last season, can Adam Lind and Aaron Hill be counted on for repeat peformances in 2010?
Of the two players, it seems more likely that Lind has the potential to improve on his offensive totals from last season, when he hit .305 with 35 homers, 46 doubles and 114 RBIs. Hill's production in 2009 (36 homers, 108 RBIs) far exceeded anyone's expectations and he even joked that people shouldn't expect him to put up such lofty numbers year in and year out. That being said, Lind and Hill should still provide the Jays with a powerful one-two punch in the heart of the order in 2010.
Over the past few years, Vernon Wells has battled injuries and has been inconsistent in the batter's box. Can Blue Jays fans expect him to return to his old offensive form?
Shortly after this past season, it was revealed that Wells had been fighting a left wrist issue throughout the season -- perhaps explaining why 2009 was such a down year at the plate for the center fielder. He underwent surgery to repair some damage in his hand and the Jays expect him to be fully recovered in time for Spring Training. Does that mean he will return to the player he was in '06? Time will tell. Toronto certainly hopes so, considering Wells is still owed $107 million over the next five seasons.
Will Travis Snider finally emerge as the middle-of-the-order power threat that the Blue Jays believe he can become?
First, Snider needs to make the Opening Day roster. Anthopoulos has told Snider that he needs to win a job with the big league club during the spring. This does not mean that the Jays don't believe the young outfielder can still be a big part of the offense in the future. Think back to Lind a few seasons back. He had a rough time in the Majors and was sent back and forth between Toronto and the Minor Leagues. Last year, things finally clicked for Lind and he developed into one of the league's best hitters. The Blue Jays think Snider could be on a similar path.
With the announcement that Gaston will retire from managing after the 2010 season, when does Anthopoulos plan on beginning his search for a replacement?
Anthopoulos plans on starting to gather information during Spring Training. He wants to reach out to every general manager in the game and discuss the process with a few GMs in particular. Throughout these talks, Anthopoulos will ask for recommendations from every organization and compile an early list of potential candidates. By doing this, Anthopoulos can then use the entire 2010 season to narrow the list before finally deciding on Gaston's replacement next offseason.
In light of the issues that came up late last season between the players and Gaston, does he risk losing the clubhouse when the team knows he won't be back in 2011?
That risk is definitely there. In talking with a few of the Blue Jays' players this winter, though, the changes Anthopoulos made to the coaching staff, as well as other in-house decisions, helped diffuse the unfortunate clubhouse situation that came up late in the year. During the Winter Meetings, Gaston said he plans on using the upcoming season as a chance to continue teaching, hoping to help create an easy transition period for the new manager.
What kind of impact will the coaching changes have on the team?
The Jays certainly lost a valuable asset when pitching coach Brad Arnsberg left his role to fill the same job with the Astros. That being said, Toronto's pitchers are very familiar with and have a good relationship with new pitching coach Bruce Walton, who worked very closely with Arnsberg as a bullpen coach. The Jays' hitters also have a great relationship with new hitting coach Dwayne Murphy, so that should be a smooth transition.
For Gaston, having former first-base coach Nick Leyva as the new bench coach will only help, because Gaston has a closer relationship with Leyva than with Brian Butterfield. Moving Butterfield back to third-base coach duties is also a good move, considering he is regarded as one of the top coaches in the game in that role. It will also provide Butterfield with more time to work on defense with Toronto's infielders -- one of the coach's best skills.
Are there any Minor Leaguers who might be given a chance on the Major League stage this year?
Two of the players that the Blue Jays landed in the Halladay trade -- Drabek and first baseman Brett Wallace -- could wind up on the big league stage some time this season. With a lot of young arms in the mix for rotation jobs, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Drabek makes a push for a spot on the roster. First baseman Lyle Overbay is currently in the final year of his contract, so Wallace may get a look at first at some point as well. Other players to keep an eye on include pitchers Zach Stewart and Reidier Gonzalez, catcher J.P. Arencibia and first baseman Brian Dopirak.
The Blue Jays are in line to have nine picks within the first three rounds of the First-Year Player Draft in June. How will Anthopoulos use this to help strengthen the team's Minor League system?
Beyond the first few picks, the Major League Draft can be unpredictable. Having a lot of early picks will help increase the probability that Toronto will select some players who will develop into future big leaguers. Anthopoulos is working on a long-term plan that will hopefully strengthen the Blue Jays' farm system, help form a strong young core group and give Toronto a better chance at becoming a playoff contender down the road. The Draft will also be a good chance to see what Anthopoulos' philosophy will be in terms of the type of players he wants to add to the organization.
Where does the 2010 season fall within Anthopoulos' plan to help the Jays reach the postseason for the first time since winning the World Series in 1993?
Anthopoulos is quick to note that the Blue Jays aren't conceding anything in 2010, but he knows as well as anyone that making the jump from being a 75-win team in '09 to becoming a playoff team in the upcoming year is not necessarily realistic. Turning Toronto into an American League powerhouse again is going to take time and '10 will be a stepping stone in that process. Given the current core of players, and the development period needed for others perceived to be a part of the club's future, the Jays will likely need a few seasons to be a legitimate contender again.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.