Now that we've clarified what the holes are on the Jays' roster, what surplus they have to parlay and what kind of financial resources they should have available to them, I just wanted to quickly discuss the type of players they should be looking for to fill each of their holes. Which positions could do fine with short term fillers, and which warrant a more long term approach, and how should the Jays look to divide up their financial resources.
SP: Since pitching is the team's number one priority, we'll start there. I noted in part 1 that two starting pitchers should be added for 2013, and ideally both would be middle of the rotation caliber. Hopefully this would allow Alvarez to get back to AAA Buffalo, and it would mean the Jays will not be relying on any of their younger guys coming back from injury (Drabek, McGowan, Hutchinson) or down seasons (Jenkins, McGuire).
However, all of these guys will be back eventually, and if Alvarez does successfully develop a 3rd pitch in AAA in 2013, you'd like to see him back in the rotation for 2014. Getting two SPs long term might block that from Happening.
On the other hand, Alvarez would only be blocked if a lot of things go right in 2013. IF he develops a 3rd pitch, and IF Romero bounces back and shows he's worthy of remaining in the rotation, and IF Happ has a strong year as the #5 starter and the Jays want to keep him there for 2014, and IF the two new SPs plus Morrow, Romero and Happ stay healthy, then yes, Alvarez will be blocked in 2014.
While I think it might be naive to think all of that will go right in 2013, it's not really so crazy either. I think the odds are in Romero's favour to bounce back and at least be a mid-rotation guy. I think by losing the curveball, the Jays might have cured what ailed Happ in Houston. He certainly had excellent peripherals in his brief stint in Toronto. Health is always up in the air, but on the other hand the even if there are some injuries, the Jays will still have Drabek, McGuire, Jenkins, and Hutchinson all waiting in the wings to fill in temporarily in 2014 if necessary. Or even better, maybe one of them turns a corner in 2013 and becomes a real full-time rotation option themselves. And on top of all of that, the so-called "big three" pitching prospects will probably be up in AAA at least by 2014, and can serve as depth to the MLB roster themselves if the need should arise.
For all of those reasons, I think it might be a waste of resources for the Jays to go out and sign two expensive pitchers to long term deals this winter. Instead, I'd rather see them sign one pitcher long term (I'm crossing my fingers for Anibal Sanchez, but the options out there and my thoughts on them will have to be subject for a later post). The other SP spot should be filled with a one year contract, perhaps with a team option for a second year. There are several older pitchers on the FA market this winter who might end up signing short term that the Jays could look at (again, to be discussed in future post), but the best case scenario would be to land someone in a trade with one year left on his contract (again, future post for these options).
These moves would end up costing between $25-30M in 2013, eating up more than half of the money they have for this offseason. But that's okay, because it's being spent on two pitchers rather than one and the short term contract will allow for a bit of money to come off the books for 2014.
LF: Justin Upton is of course the prize here, and if he is available and the Jays are able to get him, then you do it and don't worry about who you're blocking. However, I'm pretty sure Upton will be staying put in Arizona. That being the case, the issue here is what the Jays' plans are with Anthony Gose and Colby Rasmus. If the Jays plan to keep both of them, keeping Gose in the minors and then moving either him or Rasmus to LF for 2014, then you'd only look for someone with one year of control this winter. However, if they trade Gose this winter (which I hope they do), or they aren't high enough on his bat to see him as our CF/LF of the future, then a bit of a longer term solution would be best. However, with Jake Marsnick likely to be ready by 2015 at the latest (and potentially for 2014 if he's needed), then a one or two year solution might be ideal regardless of what they think of Gose. Fortunately, one and two year options are most of what is out there this winter if Upton isn't on the market (see future post for LF options)
1B/DH: With the only in-house option being Adam Lind, and the lack of any "1Bs of the future" in the minors that are anywhere near MLB ready, the Jays really could use a long term solution here. However, there are only so many Joey Vottos, Prince Fielders and Adrian Gonzaleses to go around. Given that EE can play 1B, acquiring a pure DH is also an option here. DH's for the most part are older players who by nature receive short term contracts. One of the reasons AA never worried much about the DH position is that he always maintained it was an easy one to fill when the time was right (i.e. when the Jays are ready to contend there are always short term solid DH options available). That notion probably does hold up, and I expect the Jays plug this hole with somebody on a 1-2 year contract. It's likely that in 3 years or so Bautista might need to shift over to 1B anyways, and even if not, there will always be new options available in 1-2 years again. See future post about 1B/DH options this winter.
2B: Jays Journal recently put out a great review on the Jays' middle infield prospects. Unfortunately, the picture is pretty grim. The Jays could really use a long term solution here, and there aren't any prospects to come save them. Unlike 1B/DH, 2B is more of a premium position, and it's probably not in the team's best interests to keep plugging the hole with mediocre players on short term contracts. Because even players like Kelly Johnson aren't always readily available. That being said, since there do happen to be some cheap short term options this winter who could do a pretty solid job, and since they might run out of money after spending on pitching, LF and 1B/DH, they might need to settle for one of those cheap options (or just use Aviles). It's not like there are any all-star 2Bs available anyways.