With the winter meetings starting this week in Dallas, for many teams and General Managers, this is when the shopping season for trades and free agents begins. The Blue Jays have a few areas that they will be focusing on so below is who they may be looking at to fill those needs. They already replaced the departed Jose Molina with Jeff Mathis to back up starting catcher J.P. Arencibia so that is one need crossed off the list.
The first hole the Jays will be looking to fill is second base, where Kelly Johnson, who came over in the Aaron Hill trade, is a free agent. There is a strong feeling he will return, as he liked Toronto and the organization was pleased with his play in his limited time here. Unless General Manager Alex Anthopoulos is thinking trade, Johnson is the best player available. Look for him to return.
Left field was a weak point for the Jays last year, as it was a revolving door of Travis Snider, Corey Patterson, and Eric Thames. Thames looked like the best of the bunch; however the club still hopes Snider can put together a full season of consistency. Next year may be his last spot, as him and Thames will battle for the starting spot.
A starting pitcher, like Doug Davis, Aaron Harang, Kevin Millwood, or Jason Marquis, guys who can provide a veteran presence and about 180-200 innings a year would help the rotation. Ricky Romero is the “ace” by default. Behind him, Brandon Morrow and Henderson Alvarez seemed to have a lock on spots. That leaves the inconsistent Brett Cecil, Kyle Drabek, Dustin McGowan, and Carlos Villanueva battling for the last spot should the Jays sign a veteran.
The most glaring hole for this team is the bullpen. Casey Janssen is the only lock for a spot after a great season. Jesse Litsch was great adapting from starter to reliever. The Jays lost a lot of their bullpen in the Colby Rasmus trade and let last year’s closer Jon Rausch go to free agency. The Jays tried to get Jonathan Papelbon, who eventually signed with Philadelphia. The strongest rumours have the Jays after either closer Andrew Bailey from Oakland or Huston Street from Colorado, two closers who have cap-friendly contracts and are young, criteria which Anthopoulos likes. I think he ends up getting one of them, perhaps trading a prospect or two, as the farm system is very deep in talent.
The above are the main areas of improvement that the Blue Jays are going to focus on, but that does not mean AA doesn’t have other ideas. He keeps his plans close to the vest so you never know what he is going to do. The Jays have been linked to high-profile free agents like Ryan Madson, David Ortiz, and Prince Fielder, any one of which would look good in a Blue Jays uniform. Being in a division with the high-spending New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, the Blue Jays have to spend wisely and hope to find the right pieces to the puzzle.
I expect this team to have several new faces come Opening Day 2012 against the Boston Red Sox.