Inbox: When will club address needs this offseason?
Blue Jays beat reporter Gregor Chisholm responds to fans' questions
I've been patiently waiting for something big to happen this offseason, but so far it has been very quiet. When do you think things will start picking up and when will Alex Anthopoulos start to address the Blue Jays' obvious needs?
--Samantha J., Vancouver, British Columbia
The main reason behind the slow start to the offseason appears to be the amount of money currently available around the league. Lucrative television contracts have increased the ability to spend, across the board, and a lot of teams are waiting to see how the free-agent market unfolds before seriously exploring the trade market.
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There is usually a flurry of activity prior to the American Thanksgiving long weekend, but this year it was a different story. Free agents such as Brian McCann and Ricky Nolasco finalized deals with their new teams, but for the most part, the market remained relatively quiet.
The lack of early activity should lead to a very busy Winter Meetings in December. Several big-name free agents are likely to sign around that time, and it's also when a lot of teams will become more serious in trade talks. It has been quiet so far, but in the near future, Anthopoulos should become very busy as he continues to search for an upgrade in the rotation, a starting catcher and possibly a second baseman.
Do you expect anyone on the Blue Jays to be non-tendered?
-- Jon L., Calgary, Alberta
The Blue Jays have a couple of players that could be non-tendered, but it would seem unlikely in both cases. Right-hander Esmil Rogers and catcher J.P. Arencibia are arbitration eligible for the first time, and though their futures with the Blue Jays are still somewhat up in the air, there should be enough interest around the Majors to avoid this kind of move.
Arencibia should be in line for a contract just north of $2.5 million next season. That would be too pricey for a backup role in Toronto, with veteran Josh Thole already under contract for $1.25 million, but considering the current catching market, the total sum isn't unreasonable. Arencibia has his fair share of critics, but the fact remains he is a durable catcher that has played at least 102 games in each of the past three seasons.
Rogers' salary could approach $1 million next year, and that also seems appropriate for his overall versatility. The Dominican native currently is a candidate for long relief in Toronto, but he also could have value to another team as a potential back-end starter or durable arm out of the bullpen. The expected price tag shouldn't be prohibitive if the Blue Jays decide to work something out through a trade.
Why don't the Blue Jays put Brett Cecil back in the starting rotation?
-- Hunter P., Orlando, Fla.
The possibility of moving Cecil into the rotation was a frequent topic of conversation this past season. Cecil's days as a starter appeared over, but when he made the All-Star team as a reliever, it once again became a talking point. That's not exactly surprising considering Toronto's well-documented struggles in the rotation, but it wouldn't necessarily be the best course of action.
Cecil clearly has found a home in middle relief and has taken over as the club's most reliable left-handed setup man. He posted an impressive 2.82 ERA while striking out 70 batters over the course of 60 2/3 innings and really seemed to find his niche. Cecil's lack of velocity was a major cause for concern in the rotation, but as a reliever, he didn't worry about having to pace himself and once again hit low-90s on the radar gun.
It's cliche, but the phrase "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" probably applies here. Cecil spent two full years in limbo before settling into the role of a reliever, and a future transition would potentially create another setback. For his part, Cecil is on record saying he'd prefer to stay in the bullpen and appears to have relished his resurgence as one of the better setup men in baseball.
Do the Blue Jays have any shot at signing Robinson Cano? I know they need starting pitching, but I think R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow and Mark Buehrle will turn it around next year and will really only need a No. 4 or 5 starter.
-- Dan G., Oakville, Ontario
The Blue Jays seem to always be listed as a potential suitor for Cano, but it seems rather implausible that there could be any truth to the rumors. Toronto has a policy of not signing players to contracts that last more than five guaranteed years, and Cano is in the market for something much longer.
It's certainly possible that at some point Anthopoulos could make a move that goes against that current policy, but it doesn't appear likely to happen with Cano. The free-agent second baseman apparently is seeking more than $300 million on his next deal, and that is far too pricey for an organization that is expected to have a payroll in the range of $150 million next year.
Cano would obviously be a nice fit for just about any team, but he seems to have priced himself out of Toronto's range. The rumors likely will continue, but keep in mind that two years ago the Blue Jays were consistently linked to Prince Fielder, and there wasn't any truth to those reports. Fielder was too expensive for the Blue Jays back then, and it appears as though Cano will be far too expensive for the club this offseason.
With the Rogers Communications ownership group paying $5.2 billion over 12 years for exclusive television rights to the NHL in Canada, will that have an impact on the Blue Jays? Could it mean a lower payroll or possibly a future sale for the team?
-- Jim B., Toronto
The early reports from ownership indicate the massive television contract recently signed with the NHL won't have a direct impact on the Blue Jays. President of Rogers Media Keith Pelley recently made an appearance on the Fan590 radio station and was adamant that it's business as normal for his baseball club.
There was an initial fear that the amount of dollars going to the NHL could lead to a diminished payroll for the Blue Jays. That doesn't appear to be the case, and a big reason to continue supporting the club can be found in the increased attendance from 2013, along with strong ratings on TV. The Blue Jays have proven to be very profitable on their own, and the recent deal with the NHL should be taken as an independent move.
The one potential change from the recent hockey deal is that some Blue Jays games could be seen on either CBC or CityTV in the future. With so many NHL games scheduled for broadcast, it could leave a lack of space on the traditional Sportsnet channels, which might result in a change. Regardless, all 162 games will continue to be shown on TV, and the impact on fans should be rather minimal.
Free agents obviously want to go to a "winner." Are the Blue Jays considered "winners" or even potential "winners" by free agents? How does the rest of MLB see our franchise?
-- Katelyn J., Hamilton, Ontario
It's true that a lot of free agents want to join teams that will contend for the postseason, but more often than not, they'll still take the offer with the most money. All things being equal, a player would almost always join the better team, but an extra year on a contract or more money often plays a big role as well.
Toronto's ability to land free agents this offseason will have a lot more to do with how much money the club has available than its place in the 2013 standings. By all accounts, Toronto was viewed as a team that should have been contending for a spot in the postseason but instead failed to live up to the hype.
There is still more than enough talent on the roster to be enticing for other players from around the Majors. A few changes plus a return to form by the club's core could once again put Toronto in the mix for the playoffs, but there are no guarantees. Money talks more than anything else, and if Toronto is willing to overpay on the competitive free-agent market, it shouldn't have any trouble attracting players.