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Looking forward to 2016

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Just pretend these are Jays fans, not Royal fans.
Just pretend these are Jays fans, not Royal fans.
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

When the Blue Jays got screwed were eliminated last Friday (author's note: still bitter), it marked the effective beginning of the offseason. Sure, there's still the World Series, but if you're at all like me then you really can't be bothered. And in any event, sometime between Saturday night and a week from now it will be over, and five days after that players declare free agency and the offseason will be fully underway.

So, it's time to start looking forward to 2016. That means speculation about budgets, potential trades and free agent targets; and rightly so in due course. But to me, that puts the apple before the cart, because the first step is assessing what you have. So today I'm going to break down the current 40-man roster by various criteria, and then look at how my opening day roster would look just with what's in the system today.

There are currently 43 players on the 40-man roster (players on the 60-day disabled list aren't counted, but that disappears in the offseason anyway). I've divided them into six groups according to three criteria: control, service time, and whether they are locks to remain on the 25- or 40-man rosters as the case may be:

FA Contract Arb NTC Renew Bubble
Buehrle Martin Cecil Delabar Colabello Carrera
Estrada Tulowitski Donaldson Smoak Goins Diaz
Francis Hutchison Thole Hendriks Dominguez
Hawkins Options Loup Osuna Hague
Izturis Bautista Revere Pillar Jenkins
Lowe Dickey Saunders Pompey AJ Jimenez
Navarro Encarnacion Sanchez Kawasaki
Pennington Schultz Rowen
Price Stroman Venditte
Tepera
Travis

Starting from the right left, the first column "FA" are the nine impending free agents as they have at least six years service time and are not under contract for 2016. Technically, the Jays have an option on Maicer Izturis but it's a lock to be declined and I'm not making a separate group for Izturis*. This includes three-fifths of the starting rotation, a couple relievers, Navarro...you know, no big deal or anything. And Jeff Francis. Don't forget Jeff Francis.In total, these nine totalled about $57-million in salary, though the Jays only paid about $39-million of that (there's also the already departed Ricky Romero's money coming off the books).

*unless it was "Players who have under 50 PA the last two years and were still a 2 WAR upgrade".

The next group column is really two subgroups, the two players actually under contract for 2016 right now, as well as three with options which appear to be certain to be picked up. In total, these five will make $71-million in 2016, compared to about $66-million in 2015, so just the status quo sets the Jays back about $5-million.

The next two columns ("Arb" and "NTC") are players who are still under control since they have less than than six years service, but are eligible for salary arbitration since they have more than three years service. Because they will make more than the minimum and can't be paid less if they're in the minors, it only makes sense to tender contracts to players who are likely to be on a 25-man roster in 2015.

There are six players I'm very confident will be tendered contracts. Cecil and Donaldson are total locks by virtue of being huge bargains, and extension candidates. My guess is only one of Revere and Saunders is on the 2016 roster, but both should have enough expected 2016 value to be tendered. The Jays are definitely not going to cut bait on Hutch, which leaves Loup is perhaps the least likely to be tendered. He should only be used against lefties, which limits his value, but his MLBTR projected salary of $900K is not much above the minimum.

That leaves three that I view as non-tender candidates, though that's not to say they're guaranteed to be non-tendered. Delabar is only projected at 700K, but just hasn't been effective for 2.5 years. The major problem is for 2015 he'll be out of options, so he's got to stick on the roster. They could tender him, bring him to spring training, and if they released him before spring training it would only have to pay at most 25% of the amount. I could see that.

I'll have more to say on Justin Smoak soon, but given his value and other options I just don't see the case to set aside a roster spot, even at a relatively modest $2.0-million. That leaves Josh Thole, who could certainly be kept around primarily as Dickey's designated catcher and a few other day games after night games. But there's got to be backup catchers out there who can do that and hit a little, I'd prefer they move on from Thole. Both are out of options

The final set of columns ("Renew" and "Bubble" are the biggest, and those are players with less than three years of service whose contracts can be renewed i 2016 at (or near) the minimum. The first column is 11 players who by virtue of performance or promise are locks to remain on the 40-man through the winter (unless traded). Those that aren't locks for the major league roster can be optioned in 2016; in fact the the only one who can't is Liam Hendriks and he's easily earned his MLB spot.

That leaves nine players I've got on the bubble, who may end up DFA's and either outrighted, lost in waivers, or released. Four of these - Carrera, Hague, Jenkins, Jimenez - are out of options, and none are locks to stick on the big league roster, though the Jays in recent years tend to try and find a spot for guys they like in these situations. There's a log jam in the outfield, so my guess is Carrera will be gone. Jimenez hasn't be able to stay healthy, I can't see them keeping him or anyone else claiming him to do the same unless it's to try and sneak him through themselves. Chad Jenkins I think probably makes the opening day roster at least. Hague is harder see, but maybe as a bench bat who can backup 1B and 3B. I'd probably prefer a more established option, but we'll see.

The other five have options, which may be enough to keep them on the 40-man. Kawasaki, Dominguez and Diaz could compete for a second backup infield position, or otherwise anchor Buffalo's infield. Rowen and Venditte are new additions off waivers, probably will be joined with others.

With that in mind, let's put together a 25-man roster with what's currently there. For this purpose, of the non-tender candidates only Delabar is assumed to get tendered given his past performance and since it's a trivial raise. Priority is given to out of options players.

2016

(Blue for out-of-options in 2016, green for those who will have an option year)

They're going to need at one and probably two established starting pitchers, and it'll be interesting to see what happens who gets bumped and where they go, since Osuna and Sanchez and even Hutchison could reinforce the bullpen but are hopefully starters longer term.