The 2014 offseason officially begins Thursday, when players can officially start filing for free agency as of 8:00am Central Time. The first order of business for all clubs, including our beloved Toronto Blue Jays, is whether or not the teams will exercise contract options on players.
The one no-brainer option on that list is closer Casey Janssen. With a $4 million club option for next season, he is the epitome of the bargain closer. The 32-year-old posted a 4-1 record with 34 saves (36 Chances) and a 2.56 ERA. His 2013 was actually oddly similar to his 2012 season, with the obvious exception being that he held the closer’s role the entire year in 2013 and no one thought twice about it.
Whether or not Janssen is moved this offseason in order to address other needs will be one of the more intriguing questions this winter. However, that move will be done via a trade and the Blue Jays will not take a chance with him hitting the open market.
The next closest thing to a sure thing didn’t appear to be when the season started. When Adam Lind began the 2013 season, he was seen as a strict platoon guy and the Blue Jays had no idea of what they would get from him. However, he rewarded them with a a big bounce-back season, hitting .288 with a .854 OPS, 23 home runs, and 67 RBI. Lind exceeded expectations to such a degree that he actually forced his way into the line-up against lefties a lot more often than originally intended. He’ll be 31 in July of next season, but his $7 million option ($2 million buyout) looks a lot move feasible now.
Mark DeRosa is another player the Blue Jays would love to have back. The 38-year-old journeyman was brought in as a veteran presence for a clubhouse that was seen as needing it, and his versatility was going to be important to the club. The only real question was whether or not he could stay healthy enough to matter on the field.
In his 16th year, DeRosa gave the Blue Jays everything they could of hoped for and more. With injuries across the infield, DeRosa saw plenty of action in 2013, playing in 88 games last season, his highest total in four years. He parlayed that playing time into a .235 average, 7 home runs, 36 RBI, and a .733 OPS, while appearing at five different positions. The Blue Jays hold a meager $750K option on his for 2014 and are likely to exercise it. The only real question is whether DeRosa will opt to play next season or retire.
The final option will be the most interesting. The Blue Jays will have to ask themselves how much value can you put on a 32-year-old shortstop whose biggest contribution is that he is a fan favorite. Munenori Kawasaki endeared himself to the Blue Jays faithful through quirky routines, lively interviews, and some scrappy play. With the injury to shortstop Jose Reyes, Kawasaki saw a large amount of playing time, appearing in 96 games and collecting 289 plate appearances in the process. He hit a meager .229 with a .634 OPS, but played solid defense at second and short and provided a little life to a team that otherwise exhibited little. Is that worth $1 million? That’s a question the Blue Jays will need to decide.
So, if you were Alex Anthopoulos, and I assure you that many of us think we are on most days, which choices would you make? Bring them all back or which ones?