TORONTO -- The next phase of Alex Anthopoulos' offseason plan for the Blue Jays will begin when he arrives in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., for the Winter Meetings.
Toronto's general manager has the luxury of overseeing a young roster with a lot of flexibility in its lineup. But it's also a team that has a few holes that will need to be filled if the organization is going to get back into playoff contention for the first time since 1993.
Anthopoulos has already had a busy start to the offseason. Last month, the 33-year-old injected some much-needed speed into the Blue Jays' roster by acquiring outfielder Rajai Davis. He also reportedly was in talks with the Diamondbacks about outfielder Justin Upton and the Marlins about Dan Uggla, who was later traded to the Braves.
Regardless of whether Anthopoulos is able to make a big splash at the Winter Meetings, he has made it clear he is willing to take a risk if it might improve his club for the long term. For now, Anthopoulos is trying to add as much talent to the roster as he can, and he'll worry about how it all fits together down the road.
"We're in the talent acquisition mode right now," Anthopoulos said recently. "If the right value lines up, then we'll go ahead and make that trade, or make that acquisition, and continue to sort through it as we go through the offseason."
The rumors likely will start heating up over the next couple of days. Here's a categorical breakdown of the club's situation heading into next week's Meetings:
Closer: Kevin Gregg, last season's closer, declined arbitration and is now a free agent. Anthopoulos previously stated he is open to the idea of re-signing the 32-year-old, but all indications seem to indicate that is an unlikely scenario. Toronto would receive a compensation pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft if he signs with another club, and there is no shortage of options on the free-agent market to replace Gregg. The Blue Jays reportedly expressed an interest in Twins free agent Jesse Crain, who has never been a full-time closer but is looking to become just that. Other possibilities include Bobby Jenks, who was non-tendered by the White Sox, or possibly someone like Kerry Wood, J.J. Putz and Manuel Corpas.
Third base: Edwin Encarnacion, last season's starter, is now in Oakland, but Toronto has several options they could use at the position. Hill is capable of playing third, as is slugger Jose Bautista. A more likely scenario, though, is for the Blue Jays to target someone through trade or free agency. The club reportedly has expressed interest in Arizona's Mark Reynolds, but that's just one name of many that likely will be talked about during the Winter Meetings.
First base/designated hitter: The Blue Jays have raised the possibility of using Adam Lind at first base next season. The 27-year-old has played just 11 games there during his big league career, and at this point, the sample size is too small to know whether he can play the position on a full-time basis. If the club is confident Lind can handle the position, then it likely will add a designated hitter to the team. If not, then a new first baseman will be on his way. Possibilities might include Lance Berkman, Adam Laroche and Russell Branyan.
Who they can or need to trade
Shaun Marcum: Marcum was the Blue Jays' No. 1 starter in 2010, and he is a candidate to fill the role again next season. But Toronto has a deep pool of young pitchers, and if the right offer comes along, Marcum may be expendable. The 29-year-old likely would net a large return, because he is coming off a season in which he went 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA and 165 strikeouts.
Jason Frasor: Frasor accepted arbitration from the Blue Jays and is in line to receive a raise on the $2.65 million he made in 2010. Prior to accepting arbitration, Frasor reportedly was in talks with several teams but was unable to get a deal done. Toronto could use his experience at the back end of the bullpen, but if one those interested teams calls Anthopoulos, it's not out of the realm of possibilities a trade could be worked out.
Adam Lind: Lind is one of the biggest question marks on the Blue Jays heading into next season. In 2009, Lind won an American League Silver Slugger Award, but he regressed this year and finished with a .237 average with 23 home runs and 72 RBIs. If Toronto decides he is not capable of playing first base, he is a possibility to be traded elsewhere.
Aaron Hill: Hill also struggled through the 2010 campaign. It seems unlikely, though, that the Blue Jays would move him. Hill could start at second or even third base next season, and his contract, with three option years, is structured in such a way that gives Toronto a lot of flexibility.
Fifth starter: The Blue Jays have a variety of young pitchers who will enter Spring Training with a shot at contending for the fifth spot in the starting rotation. It's also possible they could be used as trade bait if the right opportunity presents itself. Marc Rzepczynski and Jesse Litsch could be on the market, but it seems unlikely Toronto would want to sell low on either player, considering they suffered disappointing seasons in 2010.
RHP Kyle Drabek, C J.P. Arencibia, RHP Zach Stewart, SS Adeiny Hechavarria, OF Anthony Gose, C Travis d'Arnaud, RHP Henderson Alvarez, OF Moises Sierra. C Carlos Perez, OF Eric Thames, RHP Deck McGuire, RHP Chad Jenkins and C A.J. Jimenez.
The Blue Jays have enough depth in their farm system to trade some of their prospects if it means adding a key component to the Major League squad. Hard to imagine them dealing away Drabek, Hechavarria or Stewart, but, as always, it depends on the type of player they would be getting in return.
Big contracts they might unload
Vernon Wells, CF: Moving Wells and the $86 million he is owed over the next four seasons is an extremely unlikely scenario. The 32-year-old enjoyed a bounce-back season in 2010, hitting .273 with 31 home runs, 88 RBIs and an .847 OPS. Those were the best numbers Wells recorded since signing his seven-year, 126-million contract in 2006. The native of Texas has suffered through a variety of injuries in recent seasons, though, and it appears highly doubtful another team would want to take a chance on the former All-Star.
Bautista, RHP Shawn Camp, SS Yunel Escobar, RHP Casey Janssen, Davis, Litsch, Marcum, RHP Brandon Morrow and Frasor.
The Blue Jays are one of the few teams in Major League Baseball that do not operate under a set payroll. Toronto has the ability to add salary this offseason, but it's going to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Anthopoulos recently said he enjoyed this type of structure because teams who operate under a self-imposed salary cap sometimes miss out on players who make a little bit more money but offer a lot more value for their price.
That being said, the Blue Jays are still in the process of building for the future and do not see the benefit of significantly increasing payroll, unless it was for a player who will contribute for the long term.