With the regular season winding down the Toronto Blue Jays will once again finish the season without a playoff berth. However, there is more optimism surrounding this team than there has been in a long time. Blue Jays fans are eager to know what Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopolus has up his sleeve going into the offseason. With that being said, I thought I'd take a look at the Jays four biggest priorities going into the 2011/12 offseason: A 2nd baseman, A #2-#3 Starter, A middle of the lineup bat, and decent relief pitching.
Finding A Solid 2nd Baseman:
It's know secret, this years class of 2nd baseman has been very frusturating to watch this year. We started the year with Aaron Hill, hoping he could rebound from a dissapointing 2010 and get back to being the All Star he was in 2009. However, Hill struggled throughout this year and after posting a .225 BA with 6 HR and 45 RBI he was traded to the Dimondbacks along with John MacDonald in exchange for Kelly Johnson. In 59 AB at 2nd base Johnson has posted less than impressive stats with a .237 BA 2 HR and 4 RBI. Here are some of the options the Blue Jays have at 2nd base going into the 2012 season.
Even though Kelly has struggled a bit with the Jays, he has had very productive seasons in the past. We may even be stuck with Kelly Johnson if he accepts arbitration
AA has made it know that bringing Aaron Hill back in 2012 is a possibility. Since traded Hill has taken off with Arizona hitting .365 with 1 HR and 9 RBI
Getting Cano or Phillips would be huge but I only put them on here in case their respective clubs decline Cano or Phillips option. I could see Brandon Phillips as a trade target as well. Phillips has stated that if the Reds don't come to him with an extension that is good enough, he will test free agency in 2013.
I can't really see this happening because the Blue Jays would have to move Yunel Escobar or Jose Reyes out of their normal postions. It would also block rising prospect Adeiny Hechavarria from making any impact on the Blue Jays roster for a couple of years.
As you can see, there aren't very many options at second base this offseason. A guy like Mark Ellis could also be targeted by the Blue Jays
Finding A #2 or #3 starter:
Pitching has been one of our weak points this season. There was so much promise at the start of the 2011 campaign, with the likes of Kyle Drabek, Jo-Jo Reyes, and Brett Cecil looking to take the next step to becoming very good pitchers. Drabek and Cecil each had their issues and were sent down to AAA Las Vegas and Reyes was placed on waivers and picked up by the O's. With Rickey Romero as the only reliable Blue Jays starter, AA will be searching for a starting pitcher this offseason. Here are some options.
C.J. Wilson has done a great job leading the Rangers staff to a successfull 2011 season. The AL West leading Rangers looked poised to make another deep playoff run. Wilson becomes a free agent at the end of this year and may comand a $100 million dollar contract.
Although I can't see Sabathia pitching for anybody but the Yankees next year, C.C. will most likely opt out of his contract this year and comand even more money than he is making. It would be cool to see Sabathia pitching for the Blue Jays and beating his old team this Yanks, but like I said, I just don't see it happening
When you think about Yu Darvish you think about high risk, high reward. The Japanese star looks like he will be making the move overseas this year and the Blue Jays and AA have had their eye on him. Darvish will be a very expensive player to get though, and it may scare the Jays away after getting Wells' brutal contract of the books just last offseason
Finding a middle of the lineup bat:
This is a very intriguing topic. There are a couple big name players available for the the Blue Jays to make an offer to. I believe getting another very good middle of the lineup bat will be huge for the Blue Jays going forward. Not only will their offence have little to zero holes in it, but it will more importantly give star Slugger Jose Bautista some protection. Here are some of the better options out there.
The Prince and Fat Albert are the two biggest free agents entering the offseason. To get one of these guys would add a huge presence in our lineup and would make it one of the best in the MLB. Fielder and Pujols will be looking for huge money however, and Toronto would have to out bid more than a couple of teams. They are both 1st basemen but Fielder has announced that he would be fine with playing DH
The aging slugger will probably resign with the Sox but Big Papi has said the he has been dissapionted with the fact there has been zero talk of an extension. Ortiz is already 36 and you have to wonder how much longer that bat of his will continue to produce at a high level.
It's a long shot, but I think its possible. Last years NL MVP is in the midst of another great season. AA would have to offer up a huge deal for him to bring to the Blue Jays, and after so much hard work building the farm system, he may be reluctant to give some of it away. Oh ya, Votto is canadian which means he will be a fan favourite instantly if he becomes a Blue Jay.
Finding good relief pitching:
Relief pitching has been the most frusturating aspect of the Blue Jays 2011 season in my opinion. That doesn't mean that it is our biggest need but it does mean that it needs to improve. With that being said here are some good free agent relief pitchers on the market:
There are also a couple of good relievers with player or club options:
The one thing I hate about getting relief pitching in free agency is that the good ones are usually type A's. I hate giving up good picks for good relievers who pitch one inning of a game. In saying that, there could be a couple of minor leaguers who step into the bullpen role in 2012.