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Jays Listed – Top 5 Blue Jays offseason needs

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Instead of looking back we’re going to look forward for this week’s Jays Listed. All way to 2013. After a disappointing 2012 season that failed to live up to some lofty expectations Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays brass have a lot of work to do. This is a list of where they might start.

 

5. Who’s calling the shots?

Right now John Farrell is the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. Will that be the case when spring training begins in February? Depending which report you want to believe Farrell will still be the Blue Jays bench boss next season or he’ll be in Boston. That seems to change on a week-by-week basis.

If by some chance the Blue Jays do trade Farrell to the Red Sox who takes his place? Would someone from the existing coaching staff, like Brian Butterfield or Don Wakamatsu get the top job? Or, would the Jays bring someone else in? I’ve seen names like Ozzie Guillen (please God no!),Sandy Alomar Jr. and Jim Tracy thrown out as possible replacements if Farrell heads to Beantown.

Alex Anthopoulos and the Jays top brass need to either deal Farrell to Boston or squash the rumors once and for so everyone can just get past it. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to hear how Farrell to Boston is becoming more and more of a reality on a weekly basis all winter long.

4. Who’s on first?

The easy answer to this question is obviously Edwin Encarnacion. This season EE payed 68 games at first base and put up very similar numbers to the 82 games he was DH. Even so, personally I’d rather Encarnacion continue to see the majority of his playing time at DH than at first.

If Encarnacion does continue to split time at first and DH the most likely person to share the split with him is Adam Lind. The 2012 season was another disappointing one for Lind who spent some time at AAA and was once again sidelined by a reoccurring back injury. Lind’s massive 2009 season is getting further and further in the rear view mirror and AA has already said that if someone more productive than Lind could be found a move would be made.

Lind may also have to worry about losing playing time to David Cooper if he can get healthy and be more consistent at the plate. Both Lind and Cooper could be out of luck if the Jays find someone else to play DH and Encarnacion takes over the first base role full time.

3. Second base is open

One thing is for sure this offseason. Kelly Johnson will not be back. It’s hard to believe that Johnson was being touted as the Blue Jays best player early on in the season after his horrid second half. Johnson was a strikeout machine in 2012, tying the franchise record with 159 strikeouts in 507 at bats. His average plummeted to .225  and his OBP was a putrid .313. After the All-Star break this season Johnson his only .195 with a .284 OBP, six home runs and a 66 strikeouts in 62 games.

If Johnson’s gone (and he is), who will be the Jays new starting second baseman for 2013? One of the more popular answers is Adeiny Hechavarria. The big question is if Hechavarria is ready or not? Defensively Hech is good to go either at second or shortstop. Does Hech still need some seasoning with the bat in the minors? When Hech first got the call this season he started slow at the plate, hitting .204 with a .228 OBP in his first 54 at bats. In the final month of the season Hech started to show improvement, hitting .295 with a .328 OBP and a .754 OPS in September. If the Blue Jays find a taker for Yunel Escobar Hech could even end up at short to start the season.

The  free agent market at second is pretty thin this season with Jeff Keppinger and Marco Scutaro topping the list. Keppinger doesn’t have much power, but he does get on base with a .325 average and a .367 OBP this season with the Rays. In 2012 Keppinger had 11 more hits than Johnson in 27 fewer games. I’d take that right now.

Scutaro was a Blue Jay from 2008 to 2009 and would be more than an adequate filler at second base if the Jays can lure him back. After a great late-season run with the Giants Scuataro may be on more team’s wanted list than just Toronto.

2. Left field again?

In 2012  the Jays entered spring training with Eric Thames and Travis Snider battling for the starting sport in left field. Thames ultimately won, but the real winner was Rajai Davis who spent the majority of the season in left while Thames and Snider were in the minors before being traded. Does that earn Davis the starting job for 2013?

In the running for left field in spring training 2013 will likely be Davis, Moises Sierra and possibly Anthony Gose. Davis’ biggest weapon is his speed, as he stole a team-high 46 bases in 2012. He doesn’t get on base as much as you would like and, despite a few shining plays in the outfield his defense is suspect overall. Sierra was a pleasant surprise after his call-up this season showing plenty of power potential 49 games. He started to look over matched at times later in the season and may need some more time at AAA to consistently hit Major League pitching. Someone also needs to teach Sierra how to play the outfield when it’s sunny out. Gose, like Sierra could also benefit from some more time at AAA. Gose looked lost at time against veteran pitching and even though he put together some strong at bats late in the season he may not be ready yet to be a full-time Major Leaguer.

What if the Jays went after a free agent to fill the void in left field? Some free agent outfielders available include Josh Hamilton, Shane Victorino, Torii Hunter, Michael Bourn, Angel Pagan, Grady Sizemore and B.J. Upton. Josh Hamilton likely isn’t returning to Texas, but coming to Toronto seems even more unlikely. A lineup with Hamilton, Encarnacion and Bautista sounds fierce but Hamilton may not be worth the consistent injuries and slumps that come with him. If the Jays were to go after someone to plug into left field who would be you choice?

1. Pitching, pitching, pitching

Starting pitching is by far the Blue Jays biggest need during the offseason. If the Blue Jays were not to make a single roster move in the offseason the 2013 starting rotation would likely look something like this:

Brandon Morrow
Ricky Romero
Henderson Alvarez
J.A. Happ
??Chad Jenkins/Dustin McGowan/Brett Cecil??

With Carlos Villanueva a free agent and both Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchinson out for 2013 the Blue Jays don’t even have five go-to starters for the 2013 season right now. With most of the Blue Jays top pitching prospects at AA or lower reinforcements aren’t ready yet either.

So, the free agent market and trades are likely a must if the Jays are going to fill out the rotation for 2013. The top free agent pitchers this offseason include the likes of Ryan Dempster, Zack Greinke, Dan Haren, Edwin Jackson, Francisco Liriano, Kyle Lohse, Shaun Marcum, Brandon McCarthy, Jake Peavy and Anibal Sanchez.

Let’s get this out of the way right now. Greinke is not coming to Toronto. It will not happen so don’t even bother thinking about it. For the money he’ll probably demand I’m not sure I would want him anyway. One name that seems to come up repeatedly as a realistic target for the Jays is McCarthy. He finished the season on the DL for Oakland, but he was a solid 8-6 with a 3.24 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP in 18 starts. The latest reports on McCarthy are saying he is expected to re-sign with Oakland so he may not be available after all.

If I had my pick from the names listed above I’d go after Anibal Sanchez. He’s still only 28 years old and could be entering his prime with six Major League seasons under his belt. Slotting Sanchez is as a No. 3 starter after Morrow and Romero would look pretty good to me. What pitchers would you like the Jays to go after in the offseason?

Get the conversation going in the comments section below.

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