It sure was an exciting week last week, between the blockbuster trade and the signing of Melky Cabrera. You've seen already two different responses to the blockbuster trade, and I do also share the positive feelings about the Melky signing (although I have to respectfully disagree with the lineup configuration described in the previous post and the idea that Kinsler might be available to us is just... well... not gonna happen). That being said, let's take stock of what the Jays have accomplished so far this offseason, and maybe provide some thoughts for what could/should be in store for the rest of the winter.
Referring back to my "Intro to the Offseason" posts, the Jays had holes at 2B, DH, LF and needed two SPs. They've certainly filled the LF hole with a guy who could end up being here and being productive after his current two year contract expires, if things work out that way. If not, well, we're set for two years anyways, and by 2015 things could be completely different (with Rasmus eligible for free agency if he's not extended, or if he is perhaps he's been shifted over to LF to make room for Gose, or maybe other new LF options become available).
The Jays have also filled their 2 SP spots with Johnson and Buehrle, with one of them (Buehrle) being under contract for several years and the other (Johnson) being under contract for only one year. Although I did originally say the Jays should acquire one long term and one short term SP, that was under the assumption that Alvarez would be ready to return to the rotation in 2014. Now that he's gone though, I don't really see any exciting pitching prospects that look to be ready for the big league rotation before 2015, and by then Happ would be a free agent (unless he's extended), so perhaps two long-term options would have been better. It would have also been nicer if the positions were flipped, where Johnson was the one we had long term and Buehrle was only here for the short term. That being said, it's still possible they extend Johnson (maybe they've already even begun these discussions- hopefully). For now anyways, the rotation has been filled out.
What is lacking now though is pitching depth. Right now Chad Jenkins and Deck McGuire are their 6th and 7th starters. That's not a great situation. It is rumored that the Jays are still seeking another starter, but I think it's more likely, given their budget, that they'll pursue some depth guys to be numbers 6 and 7, rather than someone who is going to slot in somewhere in the top 5.
The 2B hole now has Izturis and Bonifacio as potential fillers. The bad news is that both of them are really seen as great bench/utility guys, but as below average starting 2Bs. But still, to have one position that can be filled in by two serviceable guys who are not expected to produce much anyways is not the worst thing in the world. Bonifacio has also never really had a full season to show what he can do, so if he has the upper hand on the starting job right now (which I'm not sure he does. It's pretty much a toss-up), then it might be worthwhile to see if he can run with it before handing over the job to Izturis. The Jays will likely take the approach here of upgrading if something falls into their lap, but otherwise being satisfied with who they have.
the DH spot is still filled by Adam Lind. Hopefully this changes before April. Enough said.
What I also wrote about back then was the trade chips the Jays had. Let's update that as well. The Jays still have an important surplus at catcher, even moreso now with the addition of John Buck. Well unloading Buck's $6M salary might seem like the best option, he unfortunately has negative trade value, so losing him would just mean a salary dump. Which is fine, but I suspect the Jays will use his presence to their advantage by trading JPA for good value, and using Buck to fill in as the starter (with Bobby Wilson backing up) until D'Arnaud is ready to take over the starting role a few months into the season.
At CF the Jays still have Rasmus and Gose, but now that they are without Marsnick, I doubt the Jays part with Gose anymore, because they need him as insurance in case Rasmus doesn't pan out this year. You don't want to go from having good depth to having no depth at an important position like CF when your current starting CF is a big question mark.
In terms of pitching prospects the Jays still have several good ones, but I suspect they might be pretty close to done dealing from that depth as well. The farm system was deep enough that it survived the blockbuster deal, but I don't think it could take too many more hits at this point.
In terms of SS depth, the Jays gave away both of theirs in exchange for Reyes, so the depth doesn't exist there anymore. But Reyes should hold down the fort himself anyways for a long time, and either Izturis or Bonifacio are both capable backups in case of injury.
In terms of money, the Jays appear to be up to about $120M now, and I would think that that's pretty much as high as they're able to go for this year. I wouldn't expect them to take on much salary from this point on, unless they dump salary from somewhere else.
So in summary, the Jays have probably pretty much reached their spending limit, though they still have a catcher to shop around, are still in need of a DH (or at least someone to platoon with Lind) and pitching depth, and will take an upgrade at 2B if one comes to them.
And now a brief word about what I think they might/should do over the next few months. The good thing about their needs is that they can all come cheap, which is good because they don't have much money left, I don't think. I'll try to write a separate post in the near future about DH options out there, but for now I'll just throw out one name who probably has the most upside on the market and might come for just a few million dollars on a one-year contract. Lance Berkman. In my opinion, he's the guy the Jays should be after. I'll break him down, as well as some other options, in a future post.
In terms of pitching depth, I'll try to write a post in the future about these options as well, but I think the goal would be to get a couple of guys from the following list: Francisco Liriano, Eric Bedard, Rich Harden, Dallas Braden, Scott Feldman. Each of them could either be signed to minor league deals, or be stuck in the bullpen as a long relief option until they are needed in the rotation. They should all come on cheap one-year deals, but serve as huge upgrades to Jenkins and McGuire.
Even though these options are cheap, by the time you get a few pitchers and a DH, it does add up, and it could end up costing close to $10M by the time you're done. Maybe Rogers will let them spend that money, but if they're at their max already, the money has to come from somewhere. And here is where I go out on a limb. I think the best move they can possibly make this offseason is actually to trade Mark Buehrle. Yes, I know we just got him, and I know he's great and reliable and 200 innings and everything, but the fact is he's just not worth the money that he'll be making over the next few years, especially starting in 2014 when he's making almost $20M. In fact, his contract is so backloaded that I think his trade value is pretty minimal, if he has any trade value at all. I believe this so strongly, that I still am in a bit of disbelief of how much AA had to give up in order to get the package of players he got from the Marlins. And because of that, and because I think AA is a smart guy, I have to wonder if whether AA might already even have a deal in place, involving sending Buehrle somewhere else. Kinda like he did with Edwin Jackson when he traded for Rasmus. For all we know, Buehrle could be already heading somewhere else, it just can't be announced until the MLB approves of the Jays/Marlins trade, which should happen today. We'll see if my hunch is right.
But even if it's not and the Jays have Buehrle for now, I still think that the Jays should be shopping him this winter if they can replace him with a cheaper, better starter. And one great way I think they could do that would be to package him with JPA, and trade them both for a starting pitcher. For me, the ideal trade of this winter right now would be something like JPA and Buehrle to the Mets for Jon Niese. I would even be willing to send cash over to the Mets to help cover some of Buehrle's salary in a deal like this. Not only would the Jays get a better and younger pitcher, they would also free up some money that they need to fill in the little holes they have this winter, and also to have some financial flexibility at the July trade deadline. Or perhaps more importantly, to have extra financial flexibility a year from now when Buehrle's contract really goes up.
Now, I'm not sure that package is enough to get the Mets to part with Niese, and I'm not sure they're interested in Buehrle's contract any more than I am, but I can dream, can't I? Oh, and they also happen to have someone named RA Dicky.