Baseball’s yearly General Managers Meetings take place starting on Monday, November 11th, in Orlando, FL. The first few sparks of the Hot Stove will officially be ignited at these meetings, and the Toronto Blue Jays look to be at the center of the activity.
It was at last year’s meetings where the Blue Jays formally laid the groundwork for their expansive offseason, starting the ball rolling on the monstrous trade with the Miami Marlins that netted Toronto starters Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, shortstop Jose Reyes, utility-man Emilio Bonifacio, and catcher John Buck. From there the Blue Jays would continue building, signing Maicer Izturis and Melky Cabrera to free agent contracts, and trading for R.A. Dickey and Josh Thole later in the winter.
Whether or not the Blue Jays can follow their offseason championship from last season with a similar winter remains to be seen. This time around, the focus will be on adding pieces that can finish what last season started and propel the team to the postseason in 2014. Toronto will come into the meetings looking to add a starting pitcher, a second baseman, and a catcher, and will approach their needs from free agency and the trade market, according to MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm.
The first priority will be to discuss a starting pitcher, as Toronto likely needs to add at least one and preferably two capable and durable starters to the rotation. The top available pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka, would easily top any team’s list. However, with his posting bid likely to top $75 million and the Yankees said to be in hot pursuit, he is likely out of Toronto’s range. That means Toronto will turns its attention to other available arms.
Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, and Ubaldo Jimenez are the top three available pitchers on the open market this winter. Santana is said to be looking for a 5-year, $100 million deal on the open market, which will be an extremely risky deal for any team. Jimenez and Garza’s current asking prices are not yet known, but they will also try to take advantage of a down pitching market to maximize their own deals.
A trade may be a more viable solution here, with David Price and Max Scherzer topping that market. Price isn’t likely to be traded within the division, at least for any sort of affordable price. Scherzer could be had, and would be a bold move for the Blue Jays, but he has only one year left on his contract and as a Scott Boras client, he is likely to test the free agent market after the 2014 season. That may bring into consideration trades for secondary pitchers like Kyle Lohse or Yovanni Gallardo, both of whom could serve as short-term stop-gaps to get the team to the 2015 free agent market, where Clayton Kershaw, Scherzer, Jon Lester, and Justin Masterson are all currently slated to make waves.
The other components needed this winter are considered secondary to pitching. Adding a second baseman and a catcher will likely come with certain budget constraints, meaning that the big tickets like Robinson Cano and Brian McCann, and to a lesser degree Omar Infante and Carlos Ruiz, are likely out of the picture. That means Toronto could add a piece like A.J. Pierzynski or Mark Ellis, or try to swing a trade for a Ryan Hanigan, Hank Conger, or Chris Ianetta at catcher, and Gordon Beckham, Howie Kendrick, or Daniel Murphy at second base.
With that in mind, it will be interesting to see what groundwork gets put into place in the coming days, and just how deep in the mix the Blue Jays are. There are a lot of options in the air at these early stages, and if we know anything about Alex Anthopoulos, he’s likely to pull a surprise out at any time.