11/29/12 8:28 PM ET
Anthopoulos has the tools he needs to upgrade
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
General manager Alex Anthopoulos received permission at the end of the 2012 campaign to elevate his payroll north of $120 million. It's a drastic increase over the approximately $80 million the Blue Jays had this past season, and the end result is that Toronto is once again becoming a baseball town in a hockey-dominated market.
Anthopoulos used the extra funds to put into motion a 12-player deal with Miami that, in a matter of hours, filled holes in the rotation and at the top of the batting order.
New Blue Jays Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes will go a long way in helping the team become relevant again in the American League East, with Emilio Bonifacio and free-agent signees Maicer Izturis and Melky Cabrera rounding out the roster.
But that doesn't mean Anthopoulos is going to lay low for the rest of the offseason. There are still some issues with organizational depth, and he has plenty of trade chips at his disposal to provide the necessary upgrades.
Following is a quick glance at Toronto's situation heading into next week's Winter Meetings, which begin on Monday in Nashville, Tenn.
Right-handed bat: The Blue Jays have one open spot on the bench, and a good use of resources would be finding someone to platoon with Adam Lind. The first baseman/designated hitter hit just .202 with a .553 OPS in 89 at-bats against lefties last season.
Those numbers fall in line with what Lind has accomplished for most of his career, with a .220 lifetime batting average against southpaws. Outfielder Rajai Davis could platoon at DH, but the club would be better served getting another right-handed power bat for the bench.
Starting pitching: The Blue Jays have a formidable starting five in Johnson, Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero and J.A. Happ. It's a high-ceiling group that could establish itself as one of the best rotations in baseball, but there is little depth. Prospect Chad Jenkins provides some insurance, but there is a clear need for more options in Triple-A Buffalo in case there's a repeat of the 2012 injuries.
Bullpen: Right-hander Sergio Santos is the big wild card when it comes to the relief corps. Santos appeared in just six games at the big league level in 2012 because of an injured right shoulder. He's expected to be ready for Spring Training, but it remains to be seen whether he can regain the form that projected him to become one of the top relievers in the AL. If Santos is not ready to go, Toronto will need help in middle relief.
There's also an issue with Darren Oliver. The veteran left-hander is pondering retirement, and if he does not come back, it will create a big void in the bullpen. The club likely would prefer an upgrade over fellow lefties Aaron Loup and Brett Cecil.
Who they can or need to trade
J.P. Arencibia: The Blue Jays certainly don't need to trade Arencibia, but there's sufficient depth behind the plate if an enticing offer surfaces. Arencibia has a lot of trade value around the league because of his ability to hit the 20-homer mark from a position that produces little power. With top prospect Travis d'Arnaud waiting in the wings, the Blue Jays will eventually have to pick between the two, and it's possible that will happen as early as this offseason.
John Buck: Toronto already has informed Buck that he likely will spend next season in a backup role to Arencibia. That could change if Arencibia is dealt, but for now, there doesn't appear to be a whole lot of playing time available. With Buck set to make $6 million in 2013, it's possible the club could explore the trade market, with Bobby Wilson also on the 40-man roster and a possibility to serve as backup catcher.
Despite dealing three of their top 20 prospects in the blockbuster trade with the Marlins, the Blue Jays still possess a relatively strong Minor League system. The only problem is that the vast majority of the talent can be found in the lower levels and will not be ready to contribute in the big leagues for some time.
The only exceptions are d'Arnaud and outfielder Anthony Gose. Both could use a little more seasoning in the Minors, but both might be ready for the next step in the relatively near future. After those two, the impact players include Noah Sydergaard, Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris, Roberto Osuna and D.J. Davis -- none of whom played above Class A last season.
Rule 5 Draft
Toronto is at capacity, with no vacancies on its 40-man roster. So unless there is a roster move in the near future, the Blue Jays will take a pass on the Major League portion of next week's Rule 5 Draft.
There aren't a lot of attractive Blue Jays prospects exposed for the Draft, but it's possible that some club could take a chance on outfielder Michael Crouse. That still seems unlikely, though, as Crouse did not advance beyond Class A Dunedin last season.
Big contracts they might unload
Lind: Lind is set to earn $5 million in 2013, with a club option in '14 that can be bought out for an additional $2 million. That means it's unlikely Lind will be on the move, especially after a 2012 season in which he was outrighted to the Minors and could have been claimed on waivers by any team.
Buck: Buck is owed $6 million next season, and although Miami is footing some of that, it's possible Toronto would look to move him. A lot of teams are looking for help behind the plate, and the Blue Jays' depth at the position makes them ideal trading partners.
Wilson ($487,500 in 2012), Bonifacio ($2.2 million in 2012), Colby Rasmus ($2.7 million in 2012)
The Blue Jays haven't revealed exactly how much money they are willing to spend in 2013, but it's very likely they've already approached the acceptable threshold. Toronto ranked in the bottom third of the league in 2012, with a payroll of approximately $80 million, but that number will exceed $120 million, following the trade and the signings of Cabrera and Izturis.
Anthopoulos likely still has some flexibility, but it's doubtful he has enough resources to make another major splash on the open market. Further upgrades would likely come via trade as opposed to free agency, in order to maintain cost certainty.