Inspired by a discussion expos&nordiques4ever and I were having on Tom's article on the Gose promotion, I thought it would be fun to do a Fanpost on how the 25 man roster was shaping up for 2014. Well... since this is the Blue Jays we're talking about, maybe "fun" isn't the best word - fascinating is probably better or masochistic perhaps.
Expos and I were debating whether it made sense for the Jays to pickup Adam Lind's option at $5 million. I think we both were in agreement that Lind, since he's about a 1-1.5 WAR player is probably worth the $5 million but that it doesn't make sense for the Jays to have him on next year's team if Melky Cabrera is going to be shifted to DH.
That initial discussion had me run through the projected 2014 roster in the comments and below is my proposal for the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays. Alex Anthopolous, your job has been done for you! Might as well take a one year vacation and come back when my magic bullet solution has your team with a 10.5 game lead on the Rays.
In all seriousness, despite the awfulness of the 2013 season, much of the 2014 roster looks in pretty good shape. The biggest issue for me, is the rotation - which is the part of the roster many level-headed critics pointed out was too big a question mark going into 2013. So my solutions below, treat improving the rotation as the priority, while at other positions we might have to swallow a bitter pill and accept the status quo.
NOTE: My arbitration and free agency estimates are just ballpark guesses so take them with a grain of salt.
This may rile some of you up - it's tough for me to say it - but I think the Jays should stick with Arencibia... for now. As terrible as Arencibia has been in 2013 and as uninspiring as he was in 2011-2012, he's cheap (1st time arb eligible) and under team control for a few more years. Since he's moving into his prime (and catchers have a pattern of emerging more slowly as hitters), there's the possibility that Arencibia can return to his 2011 wRC+ and not be a complete black hole (like he has been in 2013). It's also true, that for whatever reason, the Blue Jays' front office values Arencibia much more than the advanced metrics do.
It makes sense to keep Thole too, since Dickey needs a catcher and Thole is better than Mike "Buffalo Nickel" Nickeas and still cheap ($1.25 million).
AJ Jimenez will likely start the season in Buffalo so he can continue to learn how to become Yadier Molina by the All Star Game... just kidding. But it'd be real nice if Jimenez could hit enough to displace JPA, wouldn't it?
Cost: $2.5 million
The Jays already have a respectable infield under contract for 2014 but Izturis's poor 2013, his advancing age, and his apparent endurance issues lately, mean that he can't be counted on as a starting 2B. It makes sense for the Jays to target a 2B via trade or free agency. Kelly Johnson, Nick Punto, and Omar Infante are all FAs (plus some other guys). Infante is probably out of the Jays price range but KJ, given his power and ability to play LF, may be a good fit for the Jays, once again. He could be paired with DeRosa in a platoon.
* $5 million budgeted for a FA 2B
CF and RF are taken care of for the Jays. LF is a question mark because of Melky's legs and the uncertainty surrounding the ability of Gose and Pillar to perform at the MLB level. The next two months should go a long way toward seeing exactly what the Jays have in Gose and Pillar and help define what happens in LF in 2014.
*If Gose and Pillar fall flat on their faces in the next two months, the Jays should explore re-signing Rajai for $3 Million along with a platoon partner. Given the huge plus Gose is on defense and the basepaths, and considering he's a LHB, putting a platoon of Gose and Davis out in LF, is completely acceptable to me for 2014, even with Gose simply performing at his career 77 wRC+ level.
With all of this though, Moises Sierra is likely left out in the cold.
Cost: $24.5 million
As hard as it is to say goodbye to a homegrown guy like Adam Lind, declining his option probably gives the Jays the most flexibility in improving 2B and SP. Despite a bad 2013, Melky is a hitter, he will hit.
Cost: $8 million
The Jays have four reliable-enough starters under contract for 2014, assuming Morrow and Happ are relatively healthy (a big assumption but one I think the Jays have to make). The Jays also have Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman and Sean Nolin lurking in the wings. It would be nice if one of those four emerged in the next two months to prove they were an acceptable AL East starter but even if that's the case, it still makes sense for the Jays to target a mid-rotation (or better) starter via Trade or Free Agency to improve their depth so they aren't running Ramon Ortiz out there when injuries strike and the young guys struggle.
Given Anthopolous' talk after the Marlins' trade that the Jays could extend Josh Johnson, it may be a safe assumption to believe that the Jays have allotted approximately $14 million for a starter in 2014. They could use that to extend JJ a qualifying offer - which looks unwise now - or they could use it to target a FA like AJ Burnett, Jorge De La Rosa, Tim Lincecum, Ricky Nolasco or Matt Garza.
Burnett and Lincecum may be gettable on one or two year deals but Burnett is a risk because of his age and Lincecum because of his delivery (it's also a strong possibility that he will stay in San Fran). De La Rosa and his ridiculously low HR rate may be an attractive option but he'll probably require an overpay in $/year and years which would not make sense for the Jays. Garza is probably headed for a big market team and the Jays will be hardpressed to sign him without ridiculously overpaying.
The smartest but possibly riskiest option may be for the Jays to decline the QO to JJ but offer him a one or two year deal for much less $/year. I'm pulling this out of thin air but $8 million may be doable, given Edwin Jackson settled for $11 million on a one year pillow contract in 2012 after a strong 2011.
Janssen, Delabar, Cecil, Loup, Lincoln, Rogers, Santos
Thanks to careful planning the Jays' bullpen looks pretty good for 2014 with Neil Wagner, Luis Perez, John Stilson, Joel Carreno, Chad Jenkins, Deck McGuire, Dustin McGowan, Drabek, Hutch, Stroman and Nolin all in-house possibilities/depth that could keep the Jays from rummaging through the failed prospect free agency heap again.
TOTAL PAYROLL: $152.45 Million
That amount puts the Jays in the upper echelon of baseball payrolls for 2014 - probably in-line with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Orange County and other environs. But given the fact that Anthopolous and Rogers have created this contention window for the next few years, I really feel that they have to add that payroll in 2104 to make it worthwhile. The fact that the Jays saw a tremendous increase in attendance - along with the cuts to the scouting department - should help justify that increase. Hopefully, the Jays will put on another run and finish around .500 so attendance doesn't completely collapse by the end of the year.
The other major options the Jays have are to stand pat or two use the rest of their prospect depth to improve the roster through trades, like they did last offseason.
To me, standing pat with a rotation of Dickey, Buehrle, Morrow, Happ and Drabek/Hutch/Nolin/Stroman is not good enough to compete with the Rays and Orioles (who may get better and more well-rounded in the short-term with Kevin Gausman waiting in the wings and Dylan Bundy set to come back from TJ Surgery by mid-season).
Further depleting the farm system also doesn't make sense to me. I could see how Anthopolous, afraid for his job security, might feel pressured to do that if he can't increase payroll but he would do Amaro-like damage to the future that way and I'd like to think Alex is smarter than that. It also seems that with Beeston in charge, Anthopolous is much safer than a GM like Dayton Moore or Ruben Amaro Jr.
So I can understand standing pat if the team can't increase payroll enough to add an above average starter but if that stand-pat team is mediocre by mid-2014, halfway into the contention window, it would make sense to consider blowing up the team and trading away the expensive assets, and plan for the day when Aaron Sanchez emerges to become the greatest pitcher since Cy Young.