12/07/08 9:00 PM EST
Jays to fly under radar at Meetings
In transition, Toronto not expected to make much, if any, noise
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
On Monday, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi will be arriving at the Bellagio in Las Vegas for the opening of Major League Baseball's annual Winter Meetings. Toronto has a number of needs, but the organization isn't in a position to dole out any lucrative contract to the many free agents still available on the open market.
That being the case, the Blue Jays don't figure to be major players throughout these Meetings, during which the club will probably explore potential trades more than anything else. Toronto is in the market for starting pitching and is preparing for the realistic possibility that its attempts at re-signing A.J. Burnett will fall short.
Burnett already has an offer on the table from the Braves, and his future will be a hot topic during the Meetings. Given the current state of the economy, which has affected Toronto's winter plans, the Jays are leaning toward saving the money they would've spent on Burnett, if he does indeed sign elsewhere.
The Blue Jays' stance is a result of a sinking Canadian dollar and a decrease in team sponsorship. If Burnett heads to another team -- along with the Braves, the 18-game winner also has suitors in the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles and Phillies -- the club may drop its payroll to around $84 million after having roughly $97 million on the books in 2008.
Considering Toronto has nearly $70 million currently tied into contracts for 11 players for the '09 season, the club doesn't have an excess of money to spend. The Blue Jays are also experiencing a transition period at the highest level, with the recent passing of team owner Ted Rogers and the club looking for a new president and CEO.
Under the circumstances, the Jays will probably look at internal options to solve most of their roster holes. Toronto might be in the market for a veteran backup catcher, but adding a power bat or a new shortstop don't appear to be high on the agenda anymore. That could change if Ricciardi is able to get creative and can possibly shed some payroll via trades.
Fine-tuning the roster is only one aspect of these Meetings for the Blue Jays.
On Tuesday, the winner of this year's Ford C. Frick Award -- an honor recognizing contributions to broadcasting -- will be revealed. The late Tom Cheek, a longtime play-by-play announcer for the Jays, is one of the 10 finalists up for the annual award. On Wednesday, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun could take home the Baseball Writers' Association of America's J.G. Taylor Spink Award.
Also on Wednesday, there will be an announcement from MLB regarding the upcoming World Baseball Classic, which takes place in March and includes first-round games at Rogers Centre in Toronto. On Thursday, teams will take part in the Rule 5 Draft.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.