Inbox: How does Toronto reflect on its trades?
Beat reporter Gregor Chisholm answers fans' questions
If the Blue Jays and Brewers were allowed to redo the Brett Lawrie for Shaun Marcum trade, do you think both teams would agree to it?
-- Alson L.
This question would have been a lot easier to answer about a month ago, before Marcum's season began to unravel. The Brewers knew all along that they were trading a highly touted prospect in Lawrie, but the club had the pieces in place to make a serious run at the playoffs and were in need of another elite-level starting pitcher.
Marcum came in and met expectations by going 13-7 with a 3.54 ERA in 33 starts during the regular season. He settled into the No. 3 spot of the rotation and was a major contributor for a club that ended up winning the National League Central.
The problems for Marcum began late in the year, when he allowed at least five runs in three of his final four appearances. Marcum then went 0-3 with a 14.90 ERA in the playoffs, including a tough loss in the decisive NLCS Game 6, which put an end to the Brewers' World Series aspirations.
There is no doubt that the Blue Jays don't have any regrets surrounding the offseason deal. General manager Alex Anthopoulos was ecstatic to acquire a player he long coveted, and he has to feel even better after watching Lawrie hit .293 with nine home runs and 25 RBIs in 43 big league games.
The Brewers can't feel as confident about the deal as they once did, but the fact remains that Marcum played a big role in getting his club to the playoffs, and that was the main goal when the trade was made at least year's Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla.
Would the Blue Jays and Cardinals still make the blockbuster trade that brought Colby Rasmus to Toronto if they could do it all over again?
-- Keith B., Victoria, British Columbia
St. Louis came under heavy criticism for trading Rasmus to Toronto in July for what appeared to be a bunch of spare parts. The trade will continue to be heavily debated in future years, but it's clear that the Cardinals would not be competing in the World Series if they didn't make that type of move.
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Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski have assumed key roles in a bullpen that has been the Cardinals' biggest strength so far in October. Both relievers helped remake a bullpen that was in desperate need of an upgrade and have helped overshadow an underwhelming performance by the starting pitchers.
Right-hander Edwin Jackson has been one of those underwhelming performers in the rotation, but he was the main component in the trade. The veteran has struggled so far in the postseason, but improved the depth of the rotation and helped the Cardinals in their late-season surge to overtake the Braves for the NL Wild Card berth.
It's clear that, at least for the moment, St. Louis has no regrets over the deal, and the same can be said for Toronto. Rasmus hit just .173 with three home runs and 13 RBIs in 35 games with the Blue Jays, but that doesn't change his overall potential in future years.
The 25-year-old Rasmus will be the 2012 Opening Day center fielder and will look to regain some of the form that saw him hit .276 with an .859 OPS in '10.
Now that Aaron Hill and John McDonald have tasted postseason baseball, do you think that either one -- or both -- will really come back to the Blue Jays next season?
-- Joe I., Toronto, Ontario
Both players expressed a desire to return to the Blue Jays during their news conference immediately following a trade with Arizona in August. A lot has changed since then, but there's no reason to think both players wouldn't at least be open to the idea of returning.
In Hill's case, the decision might not be his to make because the D-backs can exercise a one-year, $8 million option or a two-year, $16 million option on his contract. That seemed unlikely a couple of months ago, but Hill hit .315 with two home runs and 16 RBIs in 33 games for Arizona.
The D-backs could lock him up or try to negotiate a lower-based salary that would see Hill return for another run at the playoffs. If not, then Hill will hit free agency, and since Toronto does not have a starting second baseman under contract, there's still a possibility something could be worked out.
McDonald spent most of his time with Arizona in a reserve role. A similar opportunity would be available for McDonald in Toronto -- a city he embraced during seven seasons with the club. He would appear to be the more likely of the two candidates to be back in Canada next season.
When healthy, Casey Janssen has proven to be one of the most reliable bullpen pitchers in the American League. Why isn't he being given any consideration as the closer for the 2012 Blue Jays?
-- Geoff M., Kitchener, Ontario
Janssen showed a lot of improvement in Toronto this season. He went from someone who didn't know if he would make the team out of Spring Training to a guy who was the club's most valuable reliever.
Toronto has indicated multiple times that it expects to go outside the organization for a closer if Frank Francisco does not return. Manager John Farrell said at the end of the year that Janssen would be considered for the role depending on who was brought in to pitch next year, but it appears the club would prefer pitching him in middle relief.
That shouldn't be considered a slant against Janssen. The 30-year-old often found himself pitching in high-leverage situations that were just as important as the ones Francisco faced later in the game. Janssen's ability to attack left-handers, who hit just .216 against him this year, also make him an ideal candidate for a full inning of work as opposed to situational pitching.
Janssen can expect a similar role in 2011, but it's pretty unlikely to turn into the ninth inning unless an injury requires his presence at the back end of the bullpen.
Has there been any thought to having Lawrie move back to second base?
-- Bob S., Toronto
Farrell didn't exactly rule out a possible switch to second base for Lawrie at the end of the year, but he also didn't seem too keen about the idea. Toronto just spent almost a full year being patient with Lawrie's transition to third, and it's doubtful it'd want to alter course now.
The stability should serve Lawrie well. The 21-year-old was drafted as a catcher but came up through Milwaukee's system as a second baseman. He's now at third, and the ability to focus on one position for an extended period of time should only help his preparation for the offensive side of the game.
Lawrie's body type would also appear more suited to play the corner infield position, as opposed to being up the middle. Lawrie is very quick and athletic, but he also possesses well-above-average muscle mass, and having less range to cover at third will allow him to continue getting bigger without worrying about how it impacts him in the field.
Given that J.P. Arencibia has established himself as a big league hitter, is there any thought given to moving him to another position to avoid a career-threatening injury, as in the case of Buster Posey?
-- Kevin N., Ottawa
The easy answer to that question is no. The Blue Jays put an added emphasis on having players up the middle of the field that have the potential to post impressive numbers at the plate. That's what made Yunel Escobar and Rasmus so attractive to the club, and it's also why the Blue Jays are very content with Arencibia and top prospect Travis d'Arnaud at catcher.
Toronto will eventually have to decide whether Arencibia or d'Arnaud is the long-term solution, but that time is not now. The latter is expected to spend a full year at Triple-A Las Vegas in 2012, while Arencibia will look to build on a successful rookie campaign.
The power numbers were there for Arencibia this season. He posted 23 home runs and 78 RBIs in 129 games, and that type of production is much more valuable at catcher, as opposed to first base or designated hitter. Arencibia also will look to improve on his .219 batting average and .282 on-base percentage -- something he was able to do during his second full season in Triple-A in 2010.
Do you think Jose Molina will re-sign with the Blue Jays for the 2012 season?
-- Ryan F., Pickering, Ontario
Toronto likely will offer arbitration to Jose Molina, who is expected to be a Type-B free agent. That would either provide the veteran catcher with an increase on his $1 million salary from 2011 or would net the Blue Jays a compensation pick in next year's First-Year Player Draft if he departs for another team.
Anthopoulos places a high importance on compensation picks, so it's hard to envision him matching an offer from another team for Molina. If Molina cannot find a suitable free-agent contract, then he likely would accept arbitration and find himself back in Toronto next year.
Molina's regular starting days are behind him, but he does provide a lot of value as a backup. He can be a calming influence for a pitching staff and exceeded expectations in the batter's box by hitting .281 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 55 games.
With starting pitching being the main concern, especially one that consistently eats up innings, why don't the Blue Jays make a run at trading for Felix Hernandez?
-- Vince P., Hamilton, Ontario
I'm sure if Hernandez gets put on the market, Anthopoulos will be one of the first people to make an inquiry, but that's still a pretty big if. Seattle won't be forced into a deal, and Hernandez is still under club control for the next three years at a total of $58 million.
President Paul Beeston recently said the Blue Jays now possess the type of farm system to make a Roy Halladay-type trade, if a pitcher of that caliber became available. Hernandez certainly fits that mold and would command at least three top young players in return, but nothing happens until Seattle decides what it wants to do with the ace.