09/15/11 1:56 PM ET
Inbox: Will Loewen return to Toronto in 2012?
Beat reporter Gregor Chisholm answers fans' questions
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
-- Brendan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Loewen is certainly making a strong case with his performance at the plate and in the field during September. He's out of options, which means he must be placed on the Blue Jays' 25-man roster in 2012 or risk being lost to another organization through waivers.
The 27-year-old will have an opportunity to earn a spot in Spring Training, but his fate will ultimately depend on a few factors. Toronto likely will have a four-man bench to start next season, with spots reserved for a backup catcher, outfielder Rajai Davis and the possible return of veteran John McDonald.
That leaves just one open spot, and the club still has Mark Teahen under contract next year for $5.5 million. It's also possible that the Blue Jays could give the final spot to either Travis Snider or rookie Eric Thames, depending on which player wins the starting job in left field.
Loewen's versatility in the field and his ability to hit for power would make him an attractive bench weapon for manager John Farrell. If Teahen is dealt or has his final year bought out during the offseason, it's very possible that Loewen could win a job. If not, he likely will be headed elsewhere, either through waivers or a trade.
What are the Blue Jays going to do with Snider next season? Does he have options?
-- Samantha R., St. John's, Newfoundland
Snider will enter Spring Training with a chance to win the starting job in left field. His main competition will come from Thames, but it's premature to speculate who will earn the role.
If Snider isn't able to break through, he does have one option remaining and could end up playing for Triple-A Las Vegas. Thames also has options, and if both players are still with the organization next season, then whoever doesn't start likely will be sent down so he can receive regular at-bats instead of sitting on the bench.
Snider will enter camp next spring with something to prove. He managed to hit just .225 with three home runs and 30 RBIs this season and lost his starting job twice. He's still only 23 years old, and his ability to hit for power and play strong defense in left shouldn't be overlooked.
What do you think is in store for David Cooper next year? He seems to have nothing more to prove in the Minors, but having a place on the Blue Jays' roster seems pretty questionable right now.
-- Richard, Toronto
Cooper likely will once again begin the season with Triple-A Las Vegas. Toronto has first baseman Adam Lind locked up for the next two seasons, with three additional club options. The Blue Jays also are expected to bring back Edwin Encarnacion on a club option to be the starting designated hitter.
That leaves no room on the roster for Cooper, who can only play first. He won the batting title this season in the Pacific Coast League with a .364 average, and although he could stand to improve his power numbers a little bit, there isn't a lot left to prove in Las Vegas.
It's also possible Cooper could be shopped with other players during the offseason by general manager Alex Anthopoulos. Otherwise, he'll provide organizational depth behind Lind and Encarnacion.
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Brandon Morrow seems to have a lot of upside as a starter, but considering his inconsistency this year, is there a chance he could become a closer next season?
-- Jeff S., Thunder Bay, Ontario
The Blue Jays will not be moving Morrow into the bullpen next season, because the organization believes he has too much value in the rotation. Morrow has dealt with an inconsistent season, but that hasn't changed the club's outlook that he can become an elite starter in the American League East.
Morrow was bounced back and forth between the rotation and bullpen during his time in Seattle. The lack of a consistent role negatively impacted his development, and Toronto would be extremely reluctant to follow a similar approach.
It's possible in future seasons if Morrow is unable to find prolonged success that his role will eventually change. Right now, though, his high-ceiling potential is more valuable as a guy who can pitch deep into ballgames every fifth day.
Do you think Henderson Alvarez can be a front-of-the-rotation pitcher?
-- Mitchel H., Kelowna, British Columbia
Alvarez has the stuff, but whether he develops into a front-line starter ultimately depends on his ability to develop a third pitch.
The 21-year-old has an impressive mid-to-upper-90s fastball and an above-average changeup in his arsenal. He also possesses a slider that he began throwing this season, but it's still a work in progress.
If Alvarez is able to consistently command the slider and use it as a go-to pitch, it likely will increase his strikeout rate and improve his ability to go through a lineup multiple times.
Given the fact that one of the holes for the Blue Jays has been the closer's role, do you think they'll re-sign Frank Francisco next year since he's been pitching much better lately?
-- Joe C., North Battleford, Saskatchewan
Francisco is expected to be offered arbitration once the season comes to an end. He appears headed for Type B free-agent status and would net the Blue Jays a compensatory pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft if he leaves for another organization.
Anthopoulos will probably take a similar approach with Francisco that he took last offseason with other members of the bullpen. Toronto allowed free agents Kevin Gregg and Scott Downs to depart in order to increase the number of picks the club had in this year's Draft. The Blue Jays also offered arbitration to Jason Frasor, and the veteran reliever accepted after he was unable to find a multiyear deal on the open market.
If Francisco can't find a suitable offer, he likely would follow Frasor's lead. Right now, though, it's hard to imagine that Francisco couldn't get a better deal through free agency, so his days with the club appear to be numbered.
With Jonathan Papelbon being available as a free agent, is there any chance of Anthopoulos going after him?
-- Mike M., Niagara Falls, N.Y.
There's little doubt that Anthopoulos will at least explore the possibility of signing Papelbon during the offseason. The GM prides himself on doing as much research as possible, and it would be hard to believe he wouldn't call to see what the going rate is on the soon-to-be free agent.
Whether Anthopoulos considers making a serious offer is an entirely different matter. In the past, Anthopoulos has shown a preference to bring in relievers on one-year contracts, and nothing in his past work would suggest he would offer four or five seasons to that type of reliever.
Toronto also isn't that far removed from having to overpay for left-hander B.J. Ryan, who only had two successful seasons in a five-year deal that cost the club $47 million. Papelbon has a more proven track record than Ryan did at the time of his signing, but that doesn't change the fact that Anthopoulos believes the bullpen is a highly volatile area and is hard to predict results-wise year to year.
If Toronto does decide to make a run at Papelbon, it won't hurt that Farrell was the right-hander's pitching coach for four seasons in Boston.
With Travis d'Arnaud looking to make the Blue Jays in either the 2012 or '13 season, what's the long-term solution for J.P. Arencibia? d'Arnaud looks to be better defensively than Arencibia, so is transitioning to DH an option for the latter?
-- Brock B., London, Ontario
The situation with Arencibia and d'Arnaud is something the Blue Jays don't have to worry about until after the 2012 season is over. d'Arnaud hasn't played above Double-A, and it's reasonable to expect that he will play the entire season in '12 as the everyday catcher in Triple-A Las Vegas.
A lot can change, and there's no reason for Toronto to pick one over the other at this point. Arencibia continues to show improvement in his game calling behind the plate, and he set the franchise record for home runs by a catcher in his rookie season. d'Arnaud's defensive abilities have been well-documented, but will need to have another solid year in the Minors before he is ready to take the next step.