12/22/11 3:58 PM EST
Inbox: Who will the Blue Jays go after?
Beat reporter Gregor Chisholm answers fans' questions
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
-- Giancarlo P., Toronto
There's certainly a strong possibility that could happen, and Toronto reportedly is one of the finalists to sign Beltran, according to an online report by CBSSports.com. That rumor does make some sense, as the signing would provide the Blue Jays with another middle-of-the-order bat that general manager Alex Anthopoulos has been looking for.
Beltran also likely wouldn't command a very long-term commitment, which makes the scenario even more intriguing for the Blue Jays. The 34-year-old is weighing offers that vary from two to three years, and that would fit into Toronto's overall plan of not being locked into contracts that will prohibit future moves.
Toronto already has several players competing for playing time in left field, and Beltran would be added into that mix. He likely would split his time between left and designated hitter, and he would provide a major upgrade for Toronto's lineup. He's apparently weighing an offer from the World Series champions St. Louis Cardinals and several other teams, which could hamper the Blue Jays' pursuit.
Beltran has had difficulty staying healthy in the past, but he did manage to appear in 142 games this past season. He hit .300 with 22 homers and 84 RBIs with a .385 on-base percentage with the Mets and Giants.
Now that the Blue Jays have lost out on Yu Darvish, what are the odds of pulling off a trade for Gio Gonzalez?
-- Jonathan L., Moncton, New Brunswick
It should come as no major surprise that the Blue Jays have been engaged in conversations with Oakland regarding Gonzalez. The talks took place at the Winter Meetings and continued in the weeks that followed, but so far, Oakland appears to have received better offers from other teams.
Oakland expressed interest in Snider this past season, and it's possible he could be included in a potential deal, but it would take much more than that to acquire the A's No. 1 starter. Washington is considered a top suitor for Gonzalez, and MLB.com's Bill Ladson reported Wednesday that the club has offered up top pitching prospect Brad Peacock in a package that could also include three other players. As of Thursday afternoon, reports began to indicate that a trade involving Gonzalez might be nearing completion.
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Toronto has the depth in its Minor League system to top almost any offer, but Gonzalez won't be the only option that Anthopoulos explores to upgrade the rotation. The Blue Jays reportedly have expressed interest in Chicago's Matt Garza and were a finalist to acquire right-hander Mat Latos from San Diego before he was dealt to Cincinnati last week. When other arms become available, the Blue Jays will be in on those as well.
With ownership's reluctance to offer more than five guaranteed years, why don't the Blue Jays offer five years and then player/team options to push up the deal?
-- Joe F., London, Ontario
This seems to be this week's most popular question. It's true that Anthopoulos and president Paul Beeston are reluctant to offer a player more than five guaranteed years on a contract. That has been a club policy for quite some time, and while the duo has left the door open for that to be broken in the future, it does not appear that Prince Fielder will be the exception to the rule.
There's also no reason to believe that Fielder would be willing to accept five years plus club options. He reportedly is seeking a 10-year contract similar to the one Albert Pujols received from the Angels at the end of the Winter Meetings. Agent Scott Boras might not be able to secure that type of long-term deal, but it is still expected he will get more than five years.
If Fielder's market completely collapses, then it's possible the Blue Jays would eventually enter the picture, but right now, that scenario seems extremely unlikely.
When are the Blue Jays going to start spending money on big-name free agents? Fans were told the money would be there when the club is ready, and now is the time.
-- Neil S., Calgary, Alberta
Anthopoulos seems to be coming under fire the past few weeks for not being aggressive in free agency, but Toronto's GM is sticking to the plan he stated at the end of the season. In year-end interviews with reporters, Anthopoulos said he would first explore all trade options, and improving through free agency would likely be a last result.
Expectations from fans seem to have increased since the Winter Meetings because of all the rumors surrounding the club. That likely will frustrate Anthopoulous, who has maintained that he'd like to avoid handing out long-term commitments and would rather deal with the cost certainty that comes with trades.
That doesn't mean the Blue Jays are willing to sacrifice the 2012 campaign. I was told by multiple sources during the Winter Meetings that the Blue Jays were making a strong push through trades with an eye on competing for a spot in the postseason as quickly as possible. At the time, those talks revolved mostly around the search for a frontline starter such as Gonzalez, and those type of discussions will continue in the coming weeks.
The offseason is barely half over, so it's too early to judge how Toronto will fare next season. Let's all wait at least another month before judging the final product on the field.
Where does Kyle Drabek fit into the rotation next year?
-- Alex M., Toronto
Drabek will have an opportunity to compete for the final spot in the rotation during Spring Training. But he already appears to be facing an uphill battle to make the club, and it will become an even more difficult challenge if Toronto adds another starter before February.
It appears Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow and Henderson Alvarez all have guaranteed jobs in the spring. That leaves left-hander Brett Cecil, right-hander Dustin McGowan and Drabek to battle it out for the final two spots.
Romero told MLB.com earlier this week that he has never seen Cecil as motivated as he has been this offseason. That should hardly come as a surprise since Cecil suffered through a disappointing 2011 campaign and needs a bounce-back performance to re-establish his place in the organization. Early indications are that Cecil has dropped a lot of weight through an improved training program, but the real test will come when camp officially opens.
McGowan also will be given every opportunity to make the starting five. The 29-year-old is currently out of options on his contract and has to make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training or risk being exposed to waivers. He could eventually transition to the bullpen, but the commitment from the organization is that it wants to give him a chance to make it as a starter.
That doesn't leave any room for Drabek, but it's still possible an impressive spring could change things. Otherwise, he'll likely find himself back in the Minors to start the year and would be the first pitcher called up in the event of an injury.
There has been lots of talk about the starting rotation, but I'm worried about next year's bullpen. What is Anthopoulos going to do to improve it?
-- Adam H., Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
Anthopoulos remains in the market for a left-handed specialist and ideally would add another right-handed arm to help bridge the gap between the starters and closer Sergio Santos. Toronto has been forced to deal with the departures of Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch and likely Shawn Camp, but it still has a lot of other arms at its disposal.
Casey Janssen, Luis Perez, Carlos Villanueva and Jesse Litsch appear to have secure jobs. That leaves just two openings on the 25-man roster, with Joel Carreno, Chad Beck and Danny Farquhar in the mix if the club is unable to add more depth.
Free-agent left-hander Darren Oliver would make some sense for the Blue Jays, but if Anthopoulos wants to add an eighth-inning setup man, it likely will have to come through trade. It's worth noting, though, Janssen established himself as one of the better relievers in the American League during the second half of 2011.