12/04/08 10:00 AM EST
Finances could limit Jays' options
Economy, Canadian dollar might make for quiet Winter Meetings
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
STARTING PITCHING -- The Blue Jays plan on trying to re-sign free agent A.J. Burnett, who also has suitors in the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Braves and Phillies. If the Jays strike out on Burnett, they probably won't be in the mix for any other free agents, but the trade route remains a possibility.
A POWER BAT -- Right now, the Jays plan on using young outfielders Travis Snider and Adam Lind between the left-field and designated-hitter spots. Even so, Toronto could use an upgrade at DH. Unfortunately, the Jays' financial situation (a sinking Canadian dollar in what's already been a poor economic climate) seems to rule out bringing any top-tier free agents north of the border.
VETERAN BACKUP CATCHER -- This is not a big priority, and the Jays might decide to fill this hole internally with one of their catching prospects. That would make for a considerable lack of experience behind starter Rod Barajas, though. That being the case, Toronto will probably look for an inexpensive veteran to improve the depth behind the plate.
Who the Jays can or need to trade
CL B.J. Ryan: The Blue Jays had the top bullpen in baseball last season and used an inconsistent Ryan in the closer's role. Ryan was effective, but was inconsistent with his command after returning from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery. The closer is owed $10 million in each of the 2009-10 seasons.
1B Lyle Overbay: Overbay is owed $7 million in each of '09-10 and is coming off another inconsistent showing at the plate. The first baseman broke his left hand during the 2007 season and hasn't been the same with the bat since. The Jays would probably move Overbay if they could find an upgrade for first base.
3B Scott Rolen: The Jays would also likely move Rolen and the $26 million he's owed through 2010, given the opportunity. Similar to Overbay's situation, though, Toronto would need to subsequently find a replacement at third base. Rolen has battled left shoulder issues since 2005 and had the problem come up again late last season.
LF Lind: Lind is still a year or two away from arbitration and boasts a talented left-handed bat. He's a decent left fielder, but is known more for his ability on offense. When it comes to its young position players, Toronto would likely move him over top prospect Snider. Lind has become more expendable given Snider's rapid climb to the big leagues.
RF Alex Rios: Last winter, the Jays shopped Rios around in an effort to reel in some pitching help. He's arguably Toronto's top offensive player and he still has some upside. Rios, who had an inconsistent showing in '08, could be more difficult to move this time around, considering he's now signed to a seven-year, $69 million deal through 2014, with a $13.5 million club option for '15.
OF/DH Snider: Snider joined the Jays at age 20 in late August and instantly showed he could hit in the big leagues. Snider can play left or right field, though he's an average defender. He has a stocky build, but has good power potential. In any trade talks, Snider would probably be the first player teams would ask about.
LHP Brett Cecil: Cecil is a left-handed pitching prospect who was drafted as a closer, but is now one of a handful of young arms being considered for a starting role with the Jays. Some forecasters have predicted that Cecil has more potential as a reliever in the big leagues. He is arguably Toronto's top pitching prospect at the moment.
LHP David Purcey: Purcey, who was selected in the first round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, received his first call to the Jays last season and had an up-and-down showing. The big lefty has a strong curve and can overpower hitters with his fastball. At the moment, Purcey is in line to be Toronto's third or fourth starter in 2009.
LHP Ricky Romero: Romero was the top pitcher taken in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, but he's had a inconsistent showing throughout his Minor League career so far. The left-hander showed some progress last season and is now a dark horse for a rotation job with the Jays if the club doesn't find some starting help this winter.
C J.P. Arencibia: Arencibia is Toronto's top catching prospect and was a first-round pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. He's a candidate for the backup job with the Jays this year, but the club would probably prefer to keep him playing every day at Triple-A. He's being groomed for the No. 1 job in 2010. Arencibia's best tool is his bat. He's a good defender, but needs more work in that area.
Big contracts the Jays might unload
Ryan (owed $20 million through 2010); Rolen (owed $26 million through 2010); Overbay (owed $14 million through 2010); Rios (signed through 2014 on a $69 million deal); CF Vernon Wells (signed through 2014 on $126 million deal)
INF Jose Bautista; RHP Brandon League; LHP Brian Tallet (non-tender candidate); RHP Jason Frasor (non-tender candidate)
The Blue Jays have roughly $70 million, including signing bonuses, committed in payroll to 11 players who are in the fold for 2009. That figure doesn't include the few arbitration-eligible players or the controlled players due for a raise. Toronto won't have an excess of cash to spend this winter and its payroll might wind up being slimmer than the $97 million it used in 2008.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.