Thursday, 1 November 2012

The 2012-2013 Offseason: An Introduction

As you might have read in the addendum to the previous post, I'm the new guy around here. I just wanted to say that I'm very excited to have the opportunity to be a writer for this blog and I look forward to sharing ideas and opinions with Blue Jays fans worldwide. Of course, discussion is always more fun than monologues, so comments are always welcome and encouraged. Below you'll find my first post, which is the first of a short 2-part series. Enjoy!

-Martin Klayman

Since a nice chunk of what I hope to do around here is d what kind of discuss roster moves the Jays should or shouldn't try to do and analyze the performances of the relevant players, I figure it would be helpful if I just opened up with a general introduction to the offseason. Specifically, what exactly should the Jays be looking for, and what resources do they have to go out and get those things? This should give context to future posts.

What Do the Jays Need?

AA has discussed "entrenched" players on record, so this shouldn't be too hard. It's also glaringly obvious what the needs of this team are. But here's a numbered list for you:

1) 2B: With Kelly Johnson hitting the open market, the Jays don't have a starting 2B on the roster for next year. What they do have, though, are three potential shortstops in Escobar, Aviles and Hechavarria. If necessary, one of them could slide over to 2B and fill that hole. However, putting Hech at 2B would seem to be a waste of his tremendous defense, which is really all he would bring to the table at this point. If the Jays are to hang on to him, he would ideally stay in the minors for one more year. Aviles could do an okay job filling in here, especially in a platoon role, but ideally he opens the season as your utility INF.

2) 1B/DH: Encarnacion is set at one of these two positions, but the other one is up for grabs. AA has said pretty explicitly that he does not want to go forward with Adam Lind in his starting lineup. He will likely find himself either traded or on the bench in 2013. Thus, there is a hole here.

3) LF: Travis Snider was the LF of the future for a long time, but now he's gone, and so far he hasn't done anything to make us miss him (at least on the field- that interview was pretty awesome though). AA has also said he sees Rajai Davis as more of a 4th OF, and ideally Gose should spend one more year in the minors. Plus, like with Hech, having Gose in LF is also a bit of a waste of defensive talent, which is really what his game is all about right now.

4) SP: The Jays have Romero and Morrow entrenched at the front end of the rotation, and they have to be pretty HAPPy with what the saw from Happ this year. He should have a job at the back end of the rotation. There are plenty of other internal options to fill out the rotation, such as Alvarez, Lincoln, Jenkins, McGuire, McGown, etc. But it would be pretty disastrous if any of them were actually given the job to start the season. Alvarez is the only legit candidate here, but AA has said he won't be afraid to option him to the minors in 2013. Personally, I wish he'd be a little stronger about that, because if it was up to me I would definitely send Alvarez to the minors at least to start off the season, and keep him there until he's finished developing an out pitch. Hopefully AA understands that too (as everyone with half a brain seems to realize Alvarez needs another pitch), and just isn't being so explicit about it. Either way, with Romero, Morrow and Happ, there are two more spots open in the rotation that need to be filled from outside the organization. AA has said he doesn't care about labels on pitchers, so I'm not gonna say the Jays need a "number 3" and "number 4" pitcher. Because they don't. They just need the two best pitchers they can get, for an appropriate value, with the resources they have.

The goal of the offseason is to fill as many of these holes as possible, with the best players available under the circumstances.

What do the Jays have to Offer?

If the Jays try to fill any of their holes via trade, or more importantly, if I want to speculate about trades they could make, then we have to know what assets they have to offer to other teams. The Jays seem to have a surplus in 4 areas:

1) Pitching prospects: No big ones that are really major league ready, but there are a pretty good number of them who are a year or two away, and more lower than that. The thing with prospects is that the really exciting ones you want to keep, and the less exciting ones are hard to get value for, especially when they're not major league ready. But AA has expressed a willingness to part with prospects, and to get something good you have to give something good. AA has made clear that his priority is now the major league team, rather than building the farm system, so if he finds the only way he's able to fill the holes on the MLB roster is by giving up one or two of our big pitching prospects, I have to think he'll be inclined to pull the trigger this year.

2) CF: The Jays have Rasmus through 2014 and are handing him the starting job for the 2013 season. However, they do have Anthony Gose waiting in the wings, who projects to be back in the minors to start the season (unless he is needed in LF- which he shouldn't be). Another year in the minors should do good things for Gose, and it also would give them the opportunity to keep Gose as the potential CF of the future if Rasmus can't turn things around in 2013. So it's not as if the Jays need to trade one of their two CFs. On the other hand, Gose is close to major league ready (even though his bat still needs help), and there are a lot of teams out there looking for a CF. So despite the advantages of keeping both Gose and Rasmus around for another year, Gose is a very nice trade chip and may need to be flipped to fill an area of need on the roster. Plus, keeping Gose in the minors this year has its disadvantages whatever the outcome. If he has a down year, he loses serious trade value, and might not be seen as a solution here locally either. If he has a good year and is deemed major league ready, then AA loses a bit of leverage in trade talks because he will be under more pressure to trade one of them (unless he ends up slotting one of them in LF, which could be a possibility, I guess).

3) SS: Despite all the rumblings about Escobar maybe not being so "entrenched" anymore, I think he probably still is, and certainly should be. But Hechavarria is waiting in the wings and Aviles is around too. Again, if they choose to slide one of these two over to 2B, and put the other in the minors (for Hech) or on the bench (for Aviles) then there's no more surplus. But assuming they look elsewhere for 2B help, which I hope they do, there will be several SSs on the roster. As was the case with Gose in CF, Hech could use another year in AAA, so keeping him down there for 2013 is an option. But that comes with the same disadvantages that doing so with Gose came with, and I'm less confident about Hech figuring out how to hit than I am about Gose. He might be at the height of his trade value now, and if you have a chance to get a lot of value out of someone who might end up just being Johnny Mac 2.0, then you might want to take that opportunity while you have it. There are many teams out there looking for a SS.

4) Catcher: The Jays have JP Arencibia "entrenched" for now, but have Travis D'Arnaud who has been deemed major league ready. JPA has experience in the big leagues, so he's more of a known commodity and has been pretty durable. D'Arnaud is still a prospect and has seemed quite injury prone, though he projects to be the better overall player of the two. Assuming AA isn't dumb enough to have both of these guys in the starting lineup, with one of them getting at bats at 1B/DH as so many fans seem to be wishing for, one of them is gonna have to go. My personal preference would be to keep D'Arnaud. 4 years of control on JPA could bring back a nice piece in a trade.

Well, there you have it. Now, the name of the game is to match up teams with the Jays who have what the Jays want, and/or need what the Jays have. I hope you're as excited as I am. But before we get to that, we must not forget about the open market. It's an avenue the Jays will surely explore this winter to fill some of their holes. So let's look at what kind of money they might have to throw around this year.

Payroll Expectations

The payroll in 2012 was around $83.7M, and AA has vowed that it will go up. Although he didn't give any specific numbers, I think it's safe to say it can potentially go up to at least $100M. Now, with several players coming off the books, the Jays have committed something around $65M already to next year. Factoring in what they'll have to pay to the arbitration eligibles, let's set the amount committed to 2013 at around $70-75M. I'm not bothering to work this out down to the dollar, because AA has implied that the payroll is a general area that he is asked to stay around, not an exact number set in stone. Plus, this post is too long already.

Putting this all together, I would think the Jays should have at least $25-$30M to play with this winter. If the payroll can go up to the range of $120M as Beeston has said in the past, and I have a sneaking suspicion (read: desperate hope) that it will, then the Jays may have as much as $40-$50M to spend this winter.

The truth is, as cheap as Rogers has been with the Jays recently, I really do think it must be the better business move to invest an extra $10-$20M in this year's team (and increase payroll to $120M now) if that will put the team over the top (which I think it will). Spending a bit more to get a contending team will lead to greatly increased revenue. Spending more than last year but not quite enough to contend will just anger an already frustrated fan base, and probably lead to lower revenues than what they got in 2012. So say what you will about Rogers, but my money is on a payroll approaching $120M this year.

Now, although $40-$50M sounds like a lot, it's really not as much as it sounds. Needing a 2B, LF, 1B/DH and 2 SPs means at most they have an average of $10M to spend to fill each of these positions. So even with an increased payroll if you're one of those fans crossing your fingers for Greinke, then you better be okay with settling for pretty cheap options everywhere else.


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