02/11/10 10:00 AM EST
Jays facing questions regarding staff
Opening Day starter role, 'pen vacancies must be filled
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
1. Who will replace Roy Halladay as the leader of Toronto's young rotation?
For the last seven years, "Doc" Halladay was on the mound for the Blue Jays on Opening Day. Halladay won the American League Cy Young Award for Toronto in 2003, was consistently one of the game's best aces, piled up club records and showed patience in signing two contract extensions with the club over the years.
The top two candidates to step into the rotation's No. 1 slot are left-hander Ricky Romero and right-hander Shaun Marcum. Romero turned in a solid rookie campaign a year ago and Marcum, who missed all of last season with a right elbow injury, was one of Toronto's promising young starters in 2008.
This spring, the Jays will have a long list of arms in the mix for rotation jobs. Behind Romero and Marcum are Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, Marc Rzepczynski, Brian Tallet, Scott Richmond, David Purcey and Dustin McGowan, among others. So who will replace Halladay? The Blue Jays know that question could take years to answer.
2. Which pitchers will be in the Blue Jays' bullpen come Opening Day?
Beyond the race for rotation jobs, the bullpen is also a wide-open competition. The only locks appear to be newly-signed Kevin Gregg, along with Scott Downs, Jason Frasor and Tallet, if he isn't in the rotation. That leaves three or four vacancies for the dozen or more arms that are in the mix.
Within the bullpen, Toronto will also be using Spring Training to determine who will be handed the closer's role. Gregg, Downs and Frasor each have pitched in the ninth inning, and all three are in the running for the primary closing duties this year. Gregg could have the upper hand, considering he has the most closing experience.
3. Will the prospects acquired in the Halladay trade join the Jays this year?
The Blue Jays acquired three former first-round picks -- first baseman Brett Wallace, right-hander Kyle Drabek and catcher Travis d'Arnaud -- in the deal that sent Halladay to the Phillies. Wallace could see time with the Jays this season, while 2011 seems like a more realistic target date for Drabek. Considering he's expected to open this year with high Class A Dunedin, it could take a couple years before d'Arnaud is knocking on the big league's door.
75-87, fourth in the AL East
1. RF Jose Bautista:
.235 BA, .349 OBP, .408 SLG, 13 HR, 40 RBI in 2009
2. CF Vernon Wells:
.260 BA, .311 OBP, .400 SLG, 15 HR, 66 RBI in 2009
3. 2B Aaron Hill:
..286 BA, .330 OBP, .499 SLG, 36 HR, 108 RBI in 2009
4. DH Adam Lind:
.305 BA, .370 OBP, .562 SLG, 35 HR, 114 RBI in 2009
5. 3B Edwin Encarnacion:
.225 BA, .320 OBP, .410 SLG, 13 HR, 39 RBI in 2009
6. 1B Lyle Overbay:
.265 BA, .372 OBP, .466 SLG, 16 HR, 64 RBI in 2009
7. C John Buck:
.247 BA, .299 OBP, .484 SLG, 8 HR, 36 RBI in 2009
8. LF Travis Snider:
.241 BA, .328 OBP, .419 SLG, 9 HR, 29 RBI in 2009
9. SS Alex Gonzalez:
.238 BA, .279 OBP, .355 SLG, 8 HR, 41 RBI in 2009
1. Shaun Marcum, Injured in 2009
2. Ricky Romero, 13-9, 4.30 ERA in 2009
3. Brandon Morrow, 2-4, 4.39 ERA in 2009
4. Brian Tallet, 7-9, 5.32 ERA in 2009
5. Marc Rzepczynski, 2-4, 3.67 ERA in 2009
6. Brett Cecil, 7-4, 5.30 ERA in 2009
Closer: Kevin Gregg, 23/30 saves, 4.72 ERA in 2009
RH setup man: Jason Frasor, 11/14 saves, 2.50 ERA in 2009
LH setup man: Scott Downs, 9/13 saves, 3.09 ERA in 2009 The new guys
RHP Lance Broadway: The Jays signed Broadway to a Minor League contract this winter and included an invitation to attend Spring Training with the big league club for a shot at cracking the bullpen. Broadway, 26, split the 2009 season between the White Sox and Mets organizations, posting a 5.87 ERA over 16 games. Buck: Shortly after the Royals decided against offering the arbitration-eligible Buck a contract in December, making him a free agent, the Jays quickly signed him to a one-year deal worth $2 million. Buck will step in as Toronto's starting catcher. Last year, he hit .247 with eight homers and 36 RBIs over 59 games with Kansas City. LHP Willie Collazo: Collazo signed a Minor League contract with the Blue Jays this winter and will join Toronto as a dark-horse candidate for a bullpen job this spring. Last year, the 30-year-old lefty pitched in the Marlins system, posting an 8-5 record with a 3.85 ERA for Triple-A New Orleans. d'Arnaud: Acquired from the Phillies in the Halladay trade, d'Arnaud is a player the Jays believe can develop into a starting catcher in the future. He'll likely open the season with high Class A Dunedin. Last year, d'Arnaud hit .255 with 13 homers and 71 RBIs while playing for Class A Lakewood. Drabek: Considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, Drabek was an integral piece in the trade that sent Halladay to Philadelphia. Last year in the Phillies' system, the right-hander went 12-3 with a 3.19 ERA and 150 strikeouts over 158 Minor League innings. Drabek is expected to open this year at Double-A New Hampshire. LHP Dana Eveland: The Blue Jays acquired Eveland from the A's this offseason in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Eveland appeared in just 13 games for Oakland last season, but went 9-9 with a 4.34 ERA over 21 starts with the A's in 2008. He gives the Jays' inexperienced pitching staff even more depth.
OF Joey Gathright: The speedster inked a Minor League deal with the Jays this winter and will compete for an outfield job this spring. His experience as a center fielder and a leadoff man put him in a good position to earn a spot on Toronto's bench. Last year, Gathright hit .267 between stints with the Cubs, Orioles and Red Sox.Gonzalez: The Jays signed Gonzalez to a one-year deal worth $2.75 million to be their new starting shorstop, and included a club option for the 2011 season. The 32-year-old Gonzalez only hit .238 between stints with the Reds and Red Sox last year, but posted a .284 average with five homers in 148 at-bats after being acquired by Boston in an August trade. Gregg: Toronto signed Gregg to a one-year deal worth $2.75 million and included club options that could keep him in the fold through 2011 or '12. The 31-year-old right-hander -- in the mix for the closer job -- saved 23 games last year for the Cubs and has 84 saves over the past three years. He's also blown 20 save chances over that span. LHP Sean Henn: Anthopoulos' first official transaction as the new GM of the Jays was claiming Henn off waivers from the Orioles in October. The 28-year-old lefty, who is out of options, will be in the running for a spot in Toronto's bullpen this spring. Henn split the '09 season between the Twins and Orioles, going 0-3 with a 7.53 ERA in 25 appearances. RHP Shawn Hill: Hill underwent Tommy John ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow in June and, after signing him to a Minor League contract, the Jays will likely give him a full 12-month recovery period. That provides potential depth for midseason or next year for Toronto. Hill has gone 8-16 with a 4.95 ERA over 40 career starts in the Majors. 2B Jarrett Hoffpauir: The Blue Jays claimed the 26-year-old Hoffpauir off waivers from the Cardinals this winter and will give him a shot at winning a job as a backup infielder this spring. Last year, Hoffpauir hit .250 in an eight-game stint with St. Louis. At Triple-A Memphis, he hit .291 with 14 homers, 22 doubles and 53 RBIs over 108 contests. LHP Zach Jackson: The Jays sent Jackson to the Brewers before the 2006 season in the trade that brought Overbay to Toronto. This winter, the Jays reacquired Jackson from the Indians in exchange for a player to be named later. Last year, Jackson spent most of his season with Triple-A Columbus, going 4-8 with a 6.05 ERA in 30 games (14 starts). OF Chris Lubanski: In 2003, the Royals use the fifth overall selection in the First-Year Player Draft on Lubanski. This offseason, the Jays added him to their system on a Minor League deal that included an invite to attend Spring Training. Over 715 career games, Lubanski has hit .278 with 91 homers, with a career-best 28 homers for Class A High Desert in 2005. SS Mike McCoy: The Blue Jays claimed McCoy off waivers from the Rockies this offseason, acquiring an infielder who could battle for a spot on the bench this spring. Last year, McCoy mainly manned third base or shortstop, had a stint with Colorado and hit .307 with 40 stolen bases, 52 RBIS and 102 runs scored over 132 Minor League games. SS Jesus Merchan: The Jays added some infield insurance by picking up the 28-year-old Merchan with a Minor League contract this winter. Last season, Merchan split time between Triple-A Columbus, Double-A Akron and the Rookie League Indians in Cleveland's system. He played both shortstop and second base and hit a combined .306 over 43 games. Morrow: The Jays acquired Morrow from the Mariners in a three-player trade and will give the right-hander a chance at winning a spot in the starting rotation. Last season, Morrow went 2-4 with a 4.39 ERA in 69 2/3 innings for Seattle and 5-3 with a 3.60 ERA over 10 starts with Triple-A Tacoma. OF Jorge Padilla: The Blue Jays added some more outfield depth to the upper tiers of their farm system by signing the 30-year-old Padilla to a Minor League contract this winter. Padilla, 30, appeared in 20 games with the Nationals last season, but spent the majority of the season with Triple-A Syracuse. OF Jeremy Reed: The Jays signed the 28-year-old Reed to a Minor League contract this winter and will give him a chance at earning a job in the outfield this spring. Reed's experience as a center fielder is a plus, considering that Toronto doesn't have a clear backup option for Wells. Last year, Reed hit .242 in 126 games with the Mets. RHP Steven Register: The 26-year-old Register heads into camp on a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training with the big league club. The Jays will throw the righty into the mix for a bullpen job, but he will likely provide Toronto with Minor League depth. Last year, he split the season between the Rockies' and Phillies' organizations. RHP Merkin Valdez: The Blue Jays acquired Valdez from the Giants in exchange for cash considerations this winter and will give him a shot at winning a spot in the bullpen this spring. The 28-year-old Valdez appeared in 48 games as a reliever for San Francisco last season, posting a 2-1 record with a 5.66 ERA. Wallace: The Jays initially acquired outfield prospect Michael Taylor from the Phillies in the Halladay deal, but Toronto quickly flipped him to the A's in order to land Wallace. Toronto sees Wallace as its future first baseman and a power threat in the heart of the order. Last year, Wallace hit .293 with 20 homers and 63 RBIs between Double-A and Triple-A. RHP Zech Zinicola: The Blue Jays added the 24-year-old Zinicola to the wide-open race for bullpen jobs by selecting him in December's Rule 5 Draft. If Zinicola does not make the Opening Day roster, he will have to be offered back to the Nationals. Last year, the righty went 1-2 with a 5.33 ERA between stops at Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse. Prospects to watch
C J.P. Arencibia: With Buck only signed to a one-year contract, and the only clear backup option being veteran Raul Chavez, Arencibia has a chance at reaching the Majors this year. A first-round pick in 2007, Arencibia will come into camp with an opportunity to impress the Jays and will try to force their hand during the season. Drabek: The touted righty is a long shot to make Toronto's rotation this spring, but he could potentially earn a big league promotion with a strong showing in the Minors during the season. Drabek is arguably the top pitching prospect in the club's system and the team believes he can develop into a staff leader. RHP Reidier Gonzalez: With a strong showing in the Minor Leagues last season, Gonzalez put himself in a prime position to be considered for a big league promotion in the near future. The 23-year-old right-hander -- a 19th-round pick in the '05 Draft -- went 4-6 with a 2.90 ERA in 17 starts with Double-A New Hampshire in 2009. RHP Zach Stewart: Behind Drabek on the list of top Blue Jays pitching prospect is Stewart, who was acquired from the Reds in the trade that sent third baseman Scott Rolen to Cincinnati in July. Like Drabek, Stewart is unlikely to make Toronto's rotation this spring, but he is in a position to convince the club to promote him some time this year. Wallace: It might not take long for Wallace to find his way onto the Blue Jays' roster. Overbay -- Toronto's current first baseman -- is only signed through 2010 and the club would likely trade him if the right deal came along. Barring some a setback, Wallace will likely be playing first for the Blue Jays at some point this season. On the rebound
Encarnacion: Shortly after the 2009 season concluded, Encarnacion underwent surgery to shave a large bone spur off the hamate bone in his left wrist. The Jays are hoping the wrist issue explains what was a down year offensively for the third baseman. If healthy, Toronto believes Encarnacion can add some power to the lineup. Marcum: At the end of the '08 campaign, Marcum required Tommy John ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow and missed the entire '09 season as a result. Marcum is now completely healthy and in the mix for the top slot in the rotation. In his career as a starter, the righty has gone 23-15 with a 3.85 ERA. McGowan: In July 2008, McGowan had surgery on his right shoulder. He was expected to return some time last year, but remained sidelined in light of some setbacks, including an unfortunate knee injury. Once considered a future ace, McGowan is now out of options, throwing off a mound and hoping to compete for a spot on the Jays' pitching staff. Snider: At 21 years old, Snider opened last season as the Jays' left fielder and tasted some early success. Snider then slipped into a prolonged slump that led to a demotion to Triple-A at the end of May. Snider -- a first-round pick in the '06 Draft -- is competing for a job again this spring and is hoping to show he learned from last year's struggles. Wells: The Blue Jays are hoping Wells can bounce back from what was an extremely disappointing and frustrating 2009 season for the center fielder. Wells put up some of the worst offensive numbers of his career while playing with a left wrist injury. He had surgery on his ailing hand this winter, and the club is hoping that will lead to a strong comeback. Long gone
C Rod Barajas: After two seasons with the Jays, Barajas filed for free agency and Toronto went in a different direction. Last year, Barajas hit .226 with 19 home runs and 71 RBIs over 125 games. Barajas qualified as a Type B free agent, meaning Toronto will earn a compensatory Draft pick for him signing elsewhere. C Michael Barrett: The Blue Jays added Barrett last season and hoped he could develop into a solid backup catcher last season. Instead, the veteran labored through an injury-plagued season in which he appeared in just seven games. Toronto parted ways with Barrett this offseason and he became a free agent. OF Johermyn Chavez: The Blue Jays sent Chavez -- an outfield prospect -- to the Mariners in the trade that brought Morrow to Toronto. Chavez, 21, hit .282 with 21 home runs and 89 RBIs with low Class A Lansing in the Jays' system in 2009. His production earned him an R. Howard Webster Award, honoring Chavez as the Player of the Year with Lansing. Halladay: After spending the better part of the past decade as the face of the franchise, Halladay was dealt to the Phillies in a complicated series of trades involving three teams and eight players. The departure of Halladay -- after six months of reports and rumors -- signaled a major turning point in Toronto baseball history. INF Joe Inglett: The Blue Jays lost Inglett to the Rangers this winter in a waiver claim, and Texas then lost the utility player to the Brewers in the same manner. Inglett, 31, hit .281 with the Jays in 2009. One year earlier, he filled in admirably as the regular second baseman when Hill was sidelined with a serious concussion. RHP Brandon League: The 26-year-old League -- sent to Seattle in the trade for Morrow -- had spent his entire big league career in the Jays' bullpen. Last year, the hard-throwing right-hander set a career high with 67 appearances and 76 strikeouts over 74 2/3 innings. Over his career with Toronto, League went 7-10 with a 4.09 ERA over 202 1/3 innings. 1B Kevin Millar: After a subpar season as a part-time player with the Blue Jays, Millar filed for free agency and eventually signed a Minor League deal with the Cubs. With Toronto in 2009, the veteran first baseman hit .223 with seven home runs and 29 RBIs. His 78 games played marked his fewest in one season since 1998. SS Marco Scutaro: Coming off a career year as the starting shortstop and leadoff hitter for the Blue Jays, Scutaro filed for free agency and signed a two-year deal with the rival Red Sox. Scutaro spent two seasons with the Jays and qualified as a Type A free agent this offseason. Toronto will receive two compensatory Draft picks due to his signing with Boston. RHP Brian Wolfe: After bouncing between the Minor Leagues and the Blue Jays' bullpen for the past three years, Wolfe turned down a Minor League assignment and became a free agent this winter. He then signed with the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan. Last season with Toronto, Wolfe went 2-2 with an 8.22 ERA in 14 appearances.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.