Inbox: How much left to spend after Martin deal?
Beat reporter Gregor Chisholm fields questions from Blue Jays fans
How much money do the Blue Jays realistically have to spend after signing Russell Martin? Alex Anthopoulos still has a lot of work to do.
-- Michael L., London, Ontario
The Blue Jays are notoriously tight-lipped about payroll, but the one thing we know is that Anthopoulos and president Paul Beeston are both on record saying it will be increased in 2015. Toronto spent approximately $137 million this season and currently has 11 players under guaranteed contracts next year for $108.95 million. An additional seven players will hit arbitration, and according to MLBTradeRumors, they are projected to earn approximately $17 million.
Add in other players who will be working on pre-arbitration contracts and the current Blue Jays payroll is slightly under $130 million. Additionally, players like J.A. Happ ($6.5 million) and Dioner Navarro ($5 million) could be traded to open up additional funds. At the very least, Toronto should be able to take on $20 million and possibly even upward of $30 million based on projections.
I've heard many times that it's harder for the Blue Jays to recruit players because they're in Canada. Tax rates in both countries should be around 50 percent with the kind of money they sign for. Is it just because it's Canada or is there no stigma at all?
-- Todd A., Grande Prairie, Alberta
Anthopoulos talked about the tax issue during the news conference to introduce Martin. He said the Blue Jays did a study that compared tax rates for all of the Major League teams and Toronto finished middle of the pack. The stigma still might exist but it's not as prevalent as it once was, and the specifics can easily be explained during negotiations, so I don't think taxes are the issue.
There could be a stigma from a select group of American players who have never lived in another country, but it's rare that guys join the Blue Jays and don't enjoy the city. In most cases, it's a misconception that Canada has any impact at all during negotiations. The vast majority of the time, the team that makes the highest bid comes away with the player. That's exactly how Toronto ended up with Martin.
Why do so many players put the Blue Jays on their no-trade list? Would a grass field change this?
-- Grant T., Sackville, New Brunswick
There are a lot of reasons why players include the Blue Jays on their no-trade list, and artificial turf is definitely one of them. It plays a role and will continue to be a factor until the Blue Jays are able to finalize plans for the installation of natural grass.
But no-trade clauses can be included for more reasons than that. It's not uncommon for players to put American League East teams on that list, because the reality of the situation is that the division has a lot of money to spend. Just because a player has a team on his list doesn't mean he wouldn't accept a deal, but it does provide leverage in negotiations. Also, as mentioned above, some players might not want to deal with moving to another country.
Out of the best available free agents, who do you think would be the best fit for the Blue Jays?
-- Marshall Haim, Buffalo, N.Y.
The top priority for the Blue Jays has to be figuring out what's going on in left field. Melky Cabrera obviously is a great fit and his return would provide a lot more balance to a batting order that needs some production from the left side. On paper alone, Cabrera seems like the best option, but the production has to be weighed against what he'll get through free agency.
Nick Markakis would be another great fit but that would require the veteran right fielder to switch positions, and ultimately he could end up re-signing with Baltimore. In the bullpen, left-hander Andrew Miller would be a big addition, but his price tag seems to be increasing every week. Luke Gregerson and Jason Motte are two guys who could provide a decent return on a much smaller commitment.
With Adam Lind gone where does Justin Smoak fit in? Is he a bench player or will he get a chance to start?
-- Jemel J., New York
Smoak's situation is really up in the air, but at the very least, he should have an opportunity to compete for a considerable number of at-bats at DH. Navarro technically projects as the current starter, but it seems like a foregone conclusion that the veteran catcher will be traded in the coming weeks.
Toronto still has to add several relievers, a left fielder and possibly even a second baseman this winter. All of those spots would seem to be a bigger pressing concern, which means Smoak could end up with the DH job. If that happens, I'd expect the Blue Jays to rotate a lot of players through DH while also giving Smoak semi-regular at-bats. Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes would be well served with at least one day off a week from the field.
Any market brewing for Brandon Morrow? I see him as an ideal candidate for a late-inning bullpen role. I know the Blue Jays turned down his $10 million option and he wants to start, but as time goes on, any chance the Jays can convince him to go back to the bullpen?
-- Seth P., Las Vegas
There really haven't been many rumors at all about Morrow, but that shouldn't be particularly surprising. He's the type of pitcher who often will have to wait until relatively late to sign while the rest of the market plays out. Once a couple of the top tier of free-agent pitchers are off the board, teams will start looking more closely at guys like Morrow.
A lot of people in the Blue Jays organization also really like the idea of putting Morrow in a late-inning role, but that doesn't seem like a realistic scenario for now. Morrow has the type of arm that teams love, and though he's never really been able to put it altogether, there's always someone out there willing to take a chance. He'll be an attractive buy-low candidate for someone's rotation, it just won't be Toronto.
Is Brett Cecil the best pitcher on staff to fit the closer role?
-- David Stewart
Cecil is arguably the top internal candidate for the job, but considering Spring Training is a few months away, that doesn't mean a whole lot. Anthopoulos has repeatedly stated his desire to upgrade the bullpen and a logical assumption is that the Blue Jays will either sign a closer or add at least a couple of relievers to compete for the job.
When it became rather obvious at the end of the year that Casey Janssen was on his way out, Cecil expressed some interest. He was a closer in college and would like to give the role a shot at the big league level. If the season were to begin tomorrow, Cecil and Aaron Sanchez likely would compete for the job. In the long run, though, Sanchez is best utilized in the starting rotation while Cecil has a lot of value in his current late-inning setup role.