Inbox: Could Thames shift to second base?
Beat reporter Gregor Chisholm fields questions from fans
Is there any chance the Blue Jays will try to increase Eric Thames' versatility by trying him at second base -- much like they are planning to do by trying Edwin Encarnacion in the outfield?
-- Aaron S., Brantford, Ontario
I'm not sure why, but this seems to be a popular question this week. There are no plans to transition Thames to second base, and there isn't anything to suggest the 25-year-old would be capable of playing the position.
The situation is not comparable to Encarnacion learning how to play left field. Second base requires a lot of lateral movement with quick reaction time, and Thames doesn't have the body type nor the skill set required for a middle-infield position. He is best suited as a corner outfielder or as a designated hitter.
I hear so many rumors about the Blue Jays trading a good prospect for A's closer Andrew Bailey. Do you see this move happening, and if so, what prospect do you think we'd have to give up?
-- Jesse B., Picton, Ontario
It will take a lot more than one good offensive prospect for a team to pry Bailey away from the A's. Oakland reportedly has been listening to offers for its closer, but the 27-year-old right-hander is under club control for the next three seasons and the A's are under no pressure to pull the trigger on a trade.
A lot of teams are looking for late-inning relief, and with free-agent candidates asking for a lot of money, the A's can afford to shoot for the moon in trade negotiations. Oakland general manager Billy Beane reportedly turned down an offer from Texas last July, which included three very good prospects, and there's no reason to believe the asking price has dropped in recent months.
There doesn't appear to be anything imminent, and trade talks likely will continue well into December. Bailey posted 24 saves with a 3.24 ERA in 42 games in 2011.
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Any chance the Blue Jays will go after Ryan Madson now that Jonathan Papelbon signed with the Phillies? He could be a great fit for the open closer's role.
-- Blair H., Brantford, Ontario
Madson likely isn't a realistic option for the Blue Jays to pursue, because he will be seeking a long-term contract through free agency. GM Alex Anthopoulos has been very hesitant to guarantee multiyear contracts to relief pitchers, and Madson reportedly has been asking for a deal that will span four seasons.
Anthopoulos will continue to monitor this situation just like he does with every top talent that is available through free agency or trade. If the asking price drops, then Toronto could enter the mix, but as of right now, potential closers are in high demand across the league, and Madson should be able to find a team willing to approach his asking price.
With all this talk about Toronto's closer situation, where does Huston Street fit in? There have been a lot of reports that the Rockies are looking to trade him.
-- Sam H., Winnipeg, Manitoba
Colorado would love to find a taker for Street after the veteran right-hander lost his closer's job to Rafael Betancourt in August.
The Rockies aren't under any pressure to cut salary, but shedding Street's $7.5 million contract in 2012 would free up money for other areas of need. Street also has a player option for 2013 at $9 million that can be bought out for $500,000.
Street went 1-4 with a 3.86 ERA while recording 29 saves in 33 opportunities this past season. He has enjoyed three consecutive seasons with at least 20 saves, and has 178 during his seven-year career.
That type of performance could attract the Blue Jays' attention after a year in which the club tied for the American League lead with 25 blown saves. Street also should come cheaper than other potential closers on the trade market because of his high salary. Street could become a consolation prize for teams that miss out on Joe Nathan and Jonathan Broxton in free agency.
Have there been any rumors of Kelly Johnson going anywhere? I haven't seen any. Seems he may be a good option to keep for short term, and the market for second basemen is shrinking.
-- Andy F., Toronto
Johnson is currently in the unenviable position of having to wait for a new collective bargaining agreement to be reached between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association. There is still a possibility that the talks, which are currently ongoing, will include changes to the compensation process for free agents.
Under the current agreement, Johnson is classified as a Type A free agent. Once the Blue Jays offer the veteran infielder arbitration, another team would be forced to surrender a top Draft pick to sign Johnson.
That's something organizations are hesitant to do for Johnson, and as a result, his overall value in the open market has been negatively impacted. If the current system remains in place, there is still a strong possibility that Johnson would be forced to accept arbitration from Toronto and try his luck as a free agent next offseason.
With Seattle looking to unload Chone Figgins, is there any thought with the Blue Jays to get him via trade and have him play second base? He could provide the leadoff hitter Toronto needs, and cover the hole at second.
-- Stephen D., Toronto
Seattle reportedly is open to the idea of paying a portion of the $17 million in guaranteed money that Figgins is owed through the 2013 season. That could increase interest around the league, but it remains uncertain whether the Blue Jays would be one of those clubs once Johnson's situation at second base is resolved.
Figgins is coming off back-to-back subpar seasons, and he hasn't enjoyed much success since 2009, when he was still with the Angels. The 33-year-old hit just .188 with 11 stolen bases in 2011, and was unable to find a consistent approach at the plate.
Those subpar numbers could be enough to dissuade the Blue Jays from pursuing the veteran infielder. There's also the issue of a vesting option on Figgins' contract in 2014 that would need to be worked out. If Figgins reaches 600 plate appearances in 2013, he receives an additional year valued at $9 million. Anthopoulos does not like those type of options, because of the distractions they can cause to both the player and the team.
Will Jose Molina continue to back up J.P. Arencibia this year, or will he or the Blue Jays be looking elsewhere? What are the options available should he not be around in 2012?
-- Phil Z., Toronto
Toronto is expected to offer arbitration to Molina, but the veteran catcher should be able to find more guaranteed money through free agency.
The Type B free agent could net the Blue Jays a pick in next year's First-Year Player Draft, and it's the type of compensation that Anthopoulos highly covets. If Molina is unable to secure a better contract, he could find himself back in Toronto next year, but don't expect the situation to be resolved any time soon.
Toronto could explore the possibility of signing Chris Snyder if Molina does leave for another organization. The Blue Jays have expressed interest in Snyder in the past, and it would not be a surprise for the two sides to explore a potential contract. Snyder hit .271 with three homers and 17 RBIs last season for Pittsburgh, and he is currently a free agent.
With all of the focus on Arencibia, what has happened to Brian Jeroloman, and how does he fit into the plan going forward?
-- Gord H., Kelowna, British Columbia
Jeroloman spent the 2011 season as Toronto's first option to be called up if either of the club's two Major League catchers suffered an injury. That is expected to be his role again in 2012, and he'll likely spend the year backing up top prospect Travis d'Arnaud in Triple-A Las Vegas.
The 26-year-old Jeroloman didn't get a chance to play at the big league level this season because Arencibia and Molina did not require any time on the disabled list. If one of the two catchers goes down with an injury, then Jeroloman would slide into a backup role with the Blue Jays, but at this point, he just provides depth to the organization and does not fit into their long-term plans.
I know that the Blue Jays have said Brandon Morrow has a guaranteed job in 2012. But he was very disappointing this season, so I would like to know how much of a chance is there of him being traded.
-- Brad B., Timmins, Ontario
There's no such thing as an untouchable player when it comes to Anthopoulos' team. Every player could be available for the right price, but when it comes to Morrow, that price would be extremely high and there's no reason to think a deal would be considered.
Morrow suffered through an inconsistent season in 2011, but seemed to find a groove late in the year. The 27-year-old took a more aggressive approach on the mound and also introduced a cut fastball that led to improved results.
People often forget that the 2011 season was only Morrow's second full year as a starting pitcher. There was bound to be some ups and down along the way, but Toronto certainly hasn't soured on its No. 2 starter.
The Blue Jays are looking at possible ways to upgrade their starting staff, and dealing Morrow would go against that initiative. The native of California arguably has the best pure stuff of any pitcher on Toronto's roster, and the club still expects big things from him in the future.