I was digging through the free-agent tracker and saw Edwin Jackson's name. Since he turned down arbitration from St. Louis, I think he would make a lot of sense for the Blue Jays. I like what he brings to the table, and he would make a perfect one-two punch with Ricky Romero. Am I out to lunch on this one?
-- Brad H., Sudbury, Ontario
You're not out to lunch, but this is still a scenario that is very unlikely for the Blue Jays to pursue. General manager Alex Anthopoulos has been searching all offseason for a starter to slide into the front end of his rotation, but he said if he is unsuccessful in that quest, then Toronto will maintain the status quo for 2012.
The Blue Jays already have a plethora of young pitchers who will be competing for a starting job at the back end, and Jackson isn't an obvious upgrade over their potential. The 28-year-old has posted an ERA under 4.00 just twice during his past eight seasons in the Majors, and he is 60-60 with a 4.46 ERA in 1,079 career innings.
There's no debating that Jackson has a lot of upside and could become a more consistent pitcher in the future, but he currently is looking to be paid like a bona fide ace. Agent Scott Boras reportedly is seeking a five-year contract worth $60 million, and while that may seem excessive, Boras has an uncanny ability to get what he wants.
Toronto instead will take its chances with Romero, Brandon Morrow, Henderson Alvarez and a competition between Dustin McGowan, Brett Cecil and Kyle Drabek for the final two spots. Also not far off are top prospects Drew Hutchison and Deck McGuire, who are expected to be ready to make the jump at some point this season.
Cubs right-hander Matt Garza is 28 years old and a proven American League East pitcher. Garza can't be a free agent until after the 2013 season and he'd be a strong mentor in the clubhouse. Why don't we want that?
-- Gabe N., Toronto
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It's not that the Blue Jays don't want Garza -- I think it's safe to say any club would love to acquire a pitcher with that type of skill set. Toronto is just hesitant to part with a large crop of prospects for a pitcher who is only under control for two more seasons.
In theory, Garza is exactly what the Blue Jays need at the front end of their rotation. He has proven to be effective in the competitive AL East while possessing the type of overpowering stuff and high strikeout rate that Anthopoulos seems to prefer his starters to have.
But the Cubs are asking for a high ransom in return for the potential ace. The bar was set very high by the A's with their recent trade of Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals in return for four very good prospects, and Chicago is seeking similar high-end talent. The club reportedly is very interested in Anthony Gose and Jake Marisnick, but Chicago would undoubtedly also want to acquire some of Toronto's top young pitchers.
If the Cubs' asking price drops, then the Blue Jays could once again be considered a suitable trade candidate, but as of right now, it appears another organization would be willing to part with more young talent in exchange for Garza's remaining two years of service time.
Why haven't the Blue Jays gone after big-name free agents in recent years? Is it because big-name free agents do not like to play north of the border?
-- Abi K., Toronto
The lack of big-name free agents signing in Toronto has nothing to do with Canada and everything to do with the Blue Jays' philosophy on how to build a sustainable winner. While it's true that some players would not prefer to play in a foreign country, the team that wins a player's rights is often the highest bidder. If the Blue Jays offered a big-name free agent more money than any other club, there's no reason to believe the city's location would cause any major road blocks to the deal.
Anthopoulos and the rest of his front office have yet to take the risk and make that type of move a reality. Toronto's GM has continuously stated that a big signing isn't likely until the club proves itself on the field. He points to the situation in Texas, where the Rangers went out and signed third baseman Adrian Beltre to a lucrative contract after the club reached the World Series as the perfect example of how to sustain a winning ballclub.
Team president Paul Beeston has stated the club's ownership group does have the resources to increase payroll in future years, but that seems very unlikely at this point in time. Beeston and Anthopoulos have strongly hinted that extra influx of cash won't be readily available until the team starts to win and more fans begin to show up at Rogers Centre. It's going to be a gradual increase -- not something that happens overnight in a quick-fix scenario.
Does Carlos Villanueva have a shot at starting next season or will he be the long reliever out of the bullpen?
-- Michel R., Zurich, Switzerland
Villanueva said at the end of last year that he hoped to receive an opportunity to compete for a spot in the rotation. It's possible he will open Spring Training with that chance, but it's very unlikely he will begin the year as a starter.
The Blue Jays love Villanueva's versatility out of the bullpen, and he likely will be the main option used in long relief. Villanueva did get an opportunity to start midway through the 2011 season, but the extended innings eventually took their toll on the right-hander, who prepared for the season as a reliever.
Look for Villanueva to begin the season in the bullpen, and with more starting pitching depth in the Minors this year, it's unlikely the Dominican native will be pressed into starting duties even if someone goes down with an injury.
What are the plans for Joel Carreno in 2012?
-- Kyle A., Halifax, Nova Scotia
Carreno will compete for a spot in the bullpen when Spring Training opens in February. He quickly became a favorite of manager John Farrell's during a brief stint with the club in 2011 en route to a 1-0 record and a 1.15 ERA in 15 2/3 innings.
The 24-year-old will be given strong consideration to make the club because of that impressive performance, but at the moment, it still appears unlikely he will break camp with the team. Toronto currently has Sergio Santos, Casey Janssen, Jason Frasor and the imminent arrival of Darren Oliver at the back end of its bullpen.
The rest of the relief corps is expected to be rounded out with veterans Jesse Litsch and Villanueva, while Luis Perez appears to have the inside track for the final spot. Perez is out of options on his contract and would give Farrell a second lefty to use out of the bullpen, and those assets should be enough to hold off Carreno.
If Carreno is unsuccessful in his bid to make the club, he likely will become the first pitcher called up to the Majors in the event of an injury. In the meantime, the Blue Jays could opt to use him in the starting rotation at either Double-A New Hampshire or Triple-A Las Vegas.
What do you think will happen with David Cooper? As great as he was last season at Triple-A, his numbers weren't great up until last season, and there doesn't appear to be a spot for him on the team right now. Do the Blue Jays feel he can use another season in the Minors?
-- Brahm H., Ottawa, Ontario
Cooper is slated to once again start the year with Triple-A Las Vegas. It has less to do with the Blue Jays feeling he needs another year of seasoning and more to do with that there just isn't room for Cooper at the Major League level.
Adam Lind will be Toronto's everyday first baseman for the second consecutive year, while Edwin Encarnacion is expected to receive most of the at-bats at designated hitter. That doesn't leave any plate appearances available for Cooper, so he will be relegated to the Minors unless either of the aforementioned players suffers an injury.
Cooper enjoyed a breakthrough season with Las Vegas in 2011. He managed to post a .364 average with 96 RBIs, but he didn't hit for much power even in the friendly confines of the Pacific Coast League. The California native recorded just nine homers in 467 at-bats, and the lack of long balls will his biggest obstacle to overcome en route to a regular spot in the Major Leagues.
Who on the current roster are the Blue Jays looking at to back up first and third base? Or are they possibly looking for more depth for those positions?
-- Brad B., Timmins, Ontario
The Blue Jays' infield appears to be set for the 2012 season -- third baseman Brett Lawrie, shortstop Yunel Escobar, second baseman Kelly Johnson and Lind round out the starting four. There likely will be room for only one backup infielder on the 25-man roster, because Anthopoulos previously stated the club would like to go with five outfielders.
The backup infielder job will be decided in Spring Training, with a competition between veteran Mike McCoy and newcomer Luis Valbuena. The club also has the luxury of having Encarnacion at DH, and he will also back up first and third base. If Encarnacion gets an occasional start in the field, then one of the extra outfielders would simply slide into the DH spot for one game.