The problem with being a part time writer during these days of market saturation, and Blue Jays fans seem to be especially savvy when it comes to information dissemination, is that the thoughts within this post will probably be dated by the time I hit publish and send the article out to the world.
That being said, the winter meetings will be the last great flurry of baseball news before we enter the off-season doldrums, so is worth spending the time to write down any thoughts.
As has been universally acknowledged, Alex Anthopolous has probably already done the bulk of his work this off-season, with the signings of Maicer Izturis and Melky Cabrera, and, of course, a reasonably significant twelve player swap with the Miami Marlins. But, as all Jays fans also know, AA wouldn’t be AA if he wasn’t gathering information and seeing what is out there. I love this quote from Josh Johnson‘s agent Matt Sosnick in this article from The Star: ‘When it comes to turning over stones, he’s an animal. I bet he makes 20 calls to one, compared to some other GMs. He’s merciless.’
It’s those sort of endorsements which engender a lot of confidence in the guy running your baseball team. And looking at AA’s three year resume at the winter meetings, he’s pulled off some pretty significant and positive moves. It’s because of this history that we can’t assume Anthopolous will be sitting on his hands in Nashville. The Jays still have a hole or two to fill, pieces both in the minor league system and on the major league team to get a deal done, and, as many are predicting, the potential to increase the team’s payroll even further.
One of the areas that needs addressing is the first basemen/dh not known as Edwin Encarnacion. I think we can all agree that Adam Lind should no longer be allowed to try and hit left-handed pitching at the major league level, having posted a .553 OPS last season. My colleague Daniel George goes into more detail here, discussing a few of the names that are out there and may be a match for the Jays. As Daniel has already done the heavy lifting, I won’t look to find other names that may fit. One thing I do want to say though, is that despite my patriotism as a Canadian baseball fan, throwing Justin Morneau‘s name out there is probably done mainly from the heart. When using your head, and seeing that Morneau was, in a lot of ways, a worse hitter against left-handers than Lind in 2012, will be nine million bucks more expensive in 2013, and is struggling to overcome his concussion problems, it is pretty difficult to justify bringing Morneau on board, despite the fact he might sell a few more tickets.
The name I was hoping to see in Jays blue as a first basemen, dh, spare catcher as per the recent Jays Journal staff round-table discussion was Mike Napoli. Honestly, it was a pipe dream to begin with, and the pipe was broken as soon as three quarters of the Marlins salary was taken on, but with today’s news that Napoli has signed with the Red Sox, any last vestige of hope has been extinguished.
The second name I threw out there during the round table (using my heart over my head) was Ryan Dempster. Again, this was
before the Marlins deal which added two front end-ish pieces to the Jays rotation. The prevailing opinion now says that Toronto only needs rotation depth, possibly pushing J.A. Happ to a swingman role or filling out the Buffalo rotation. According to this report Dempster is seeking a three year deal and Toronto isn’t on the list of initial suitors. Of course, as per above, this doesn’t mean Anthopolous isn’t sniffing around. You can never have enough pitching, and with Josh Johnson potentially being elsewhere in 2014, three years of Dempster wouldn’t be the worse thing in the world (I am being silly here aren’t I) as we wait for the top pitching prospects in A ball and below to graduate.
Going back to the Napoli signing. If the Jays are happy with their off-season and are only in Nashville to gather information and pick up fringe pieces, then watching what the other American League East teams to do ‘catch up’ to the Jays will keep us occupied. Boston, especially, could be very busy, having themselves divested a huge amount of salary in their late-season trade with the Dodgers. There is a strong possibility that Johnny Gomes and Mike Napoli are only the beginning. Tampa Bay are rumoured to be shopping pitching for hitting, and the Yankees announced today that Alex Rodriguez will have hip surgery which will keep him out for 4-6 months, which, if you take into account their thirty-eight year old shortstop is recovering from a broken leg, means they could be seeking help on the left side of the infield.
And finally, apparently the Orioles are content to stand pat. Which, when you consider how lucky they were last year, is great news.