The 2013 MLB Winter Meetings are set to start tomorrow in Orlando, Fla. and will run this year from December 9th to 12th. The Toronto Blue Jays enter the annual event yet to make a major move and many fans have wondered what GM Alex Anthopoulos will (or can) do to improve the club.
Much like we did with the GM Meetings in November, we will be covering the Winter Meetings with a live blog here at Jays Journal. As a primer to our coverage I’ve come up with a list of five questions that will impact the Blue Jays’ quest to contend in 2014. We could learn the answers to several of these at some point this week.
1) Will Masahiro Tanaka be posted by the Rakuten Eagles?
Reports out of Japan have confirmed a new posting system may go into effect as early as next week however it still isn’t clear if Tanaka will be made available. Patrick Newman of the NPB Tracker tweets that although the new agreement is considered a win by the Japanese player’s union it appears (understandably) that Rakuten isn’t happy, may be balking and in regards to Tanaka “asking him to stick around is a priority“. The tweet says they’ll talk to him about posting by Tuesday and feels chances are better he will post than will not but that pending decision may weigh heavily on how the other pitching dominoes fall into place at the Winter Meetings, which brings us to our next question.
2) What is Alex Anthopoulos’ plan to fix the Blue Jays rotation?
Last year’s rotation was second last in ERA, third worst in FIP (and xFIP) and had the fifth lowest FIP-based WAR. Next season should be better with more back-end depth but there’s still holes with only Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey to rely on for 200 innings. How will the Blue Jays fill their need? The pitching market hasn’t been quite as quick to heat up and the three biggest names (Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza, Ervin Santana) still remain as teams appear to be possibly holding out on Tanaka’s status before making their move. Pitching depth remains scarce but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jays aren’t exactly jumping over themselves at the idea of signing any of the three to a five-year deal. Tanaka is a tantalizing proposition but would probably require a strong endorsement from Anthopoulos to Rogers and I’m not convinced that AA is entirely sold on the Japanese star. The ideal candidate may come via trade but it’s uncertain how much the Blue Jays could bring value back without moving at least one of their two top two prospects.
This is the situation seemingly most Blue Jays fans don’t want to see happen. After losing Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud (not to mention Jake Marisnick and Justin Nicolino) last winter there’s a temptation to want to hold on to what’s left. The Blue Jays still have a good system but lack the depth of near MLB-ready talent teams are usually seeking in a trade. Stroman has a puncher’s chance of cracking the rotation out of spring training in 2014 and appears to have the arsenal to be a starter. Sanchez had a down year overall and continued to struggle with his command but ended the Arizona Fall League on the very high note and was nearly unhittable, which gives reason to believe he may still yet realize his potential as a frontline starter. As much as the Blue Jays want to win now and are built to do so, you can’t risk losing too many young, controllable assets in search of short terms gains. I really hope the Blue Jays hold on to both potential studs but I guess that all depends on the type of offer that gets put on the table.
4) Will we see another blockbuster by the Blue Jays?
We all know that the 2012 Winter Meetings set the stage for the Blue Jays-Miami Marlins blockbuster, which set fans from both franchises into a frenzy. Anthopoulos has set the bar high if we expect a similar franchise-altering move this off-season but with fewer holes to fill this time around it seems his needs seem to be more focused on adding starting pitching and maybe a second baseman. However could we bear witness to a Twitter-breaking move that changes the face of the franchise again this off-season? I tend to doubt it but you never really know what Anthopoulos may have up his sleeve. There’s been rumours of him kicking tires on the availability of Matt Kemp from the Los Angeles Dodgers, which was probably just due diligence but maybe served a reminder that anything is possible. And of course there’s always the chance, however remote, that the Blue Jays choose to move Jose Bautista and his team-friendly contract if the right package was made available.
5) How much value is there in the Blue Jays bullpen depth?
After needing a reliever and getting one in Esmil Rogers last off-season the Blue Jays now find themselves dealing with a position of strength from the bullpen. Casey Janssen, Brett Cecil, Steve Delabar, Sergio Santos, Aaron Loup, Dustin McGowan, Jeremy Jeffress, Rogers, Neil Wagner and Thad Weber all had varying degrees of successful in 2013 and could provide nice options for teams that are looking to add bullpen help. The Blue Jays may not get much in return but even if they could flip a reliever or two for a complementary middle infielder that could compete for the starting second base position would be a small victory for Toronto.