The Blue Jays' starting rotation has been the biggest disappointment this year. What can general manager Alex Anthopoulos do to fix this situation during the offseason?
-- Dustin B., Moncton, New Brunswick
The success of next year's rotation could very well be tied to the health of Brandon Morrow. The right-hander arguably has the highest ceiling of anyone on Toronto's staff, but he has yet to pitch a full season in the rotation following a variety of injuries over the past few years.
Morrow appeared to turn a corner in 2012, when he posted a 2.96 ERA in 124 2/3 innings during a season that was sidetracked in June because of a torn oblique muscle. The success didn't carry over, though, as Morrow battled an upper-back injury and later soreness in his forearm en route to making just 10 starts this season.
Anthopoulos is already on record as saying one of his main goals is to upgrade next year's rotation. That will be easier said than done, considering a weak free-agent market and the fact that the Blue Jays dealt away a lot of their top prospects last offseason in major trades with the Marlins and Mets.
That will put even more pressure on Morrow, who won't begin the year as the club's No. 1 starter but still has the potential to become a bona fide ace. If Morrow can return to form, he can be complemented by the likes of R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle, while J.A. Happ, Ricky Romero and Drew Hutchison compete for the final two spots alongside any pitchers Toronto might add this offseason.
Will Rajai Davis be back with the Blue Jays next season?
-- Sam L., Kamloops, British Columbia
The Blue Jays would love to have Davis back in the fold, but ultimately that decision will have to be made by the veteran outfielder. The pending free agent has carved out a nice role in Toronto over the past three seasons as a starter against left-handed pitching while also making an impact as a reserve outfielder and a late-game pinch-runner.
But Davis understandably would like to find a situation that could lead to more playing time. A starting job with the Blue Jays isn't possible with Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista signed through at least 2014, while prospects Kevin Pillar and Anthony Gose are also pushing for more opportunities.
That could force Davis to explore the open market, and while a full-time role seems somewhat unlikely, it's possible a smaller-market team would be able to provide that opportunity. Either way, Davis should be in line for a nice raise on the $2.5 million he is earning this season in Toronto.
What are the chances of Munenori Kawasaki being brought back up next year to play second? From what I could see, he did a good job at second, as well as being good motivation for the club.
-- Rolly A., Ingersoll, Ontario
Kawasaki definitely won't be brought back as a starting second baseman, but it's certainly possible he will still have some sort of role in the organization next year. His future likely will be closely tied to what types of moves the Blue Jays are able to make during the offseason.
Anthopoulos would like to find an upgrade at second base, and if that goal is accomplished, it would relegate Maicer Izturis into a backup role. That likely would be enough to prevent Kawasaki from making the roster out of Spring Training, but he has another option on his contract and could be sent to the Minor Leagues.
Kawasaki clearly has become a fan favorite in Toronto, and his ability to play both infield positions up the middle and draw a lot of walks holds some value. The problem is that he's still just a .201 career hitter, and even though he's popular, there will be much better options for the Blue Jays to explore.
I read that the whole roster is going to go on waivers in August, just like Mark DeRosa. What is the purpose of this?
-- Luckster, Caesarea, Ontario
Anthopoulos makes a habit every season of putting his entire roster through revocable waivers in August. Most of the time, this is barely even worth a footnote. But in some cases, it does open the door for a potential trade -- just like the one that saw Emilio Bonifacio go to the Royals in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations.
There's really no downside to taking this type of approach. If a player is claimed, the Blue Jays can decide to take that individual off waivers unless the club is blown away by some sort of trade offer. Another option would be to let that player go free of charge in order to clear salary for future seasons. Toronto took this approach when it dumped Alex Rios' salary back in 2009 when he still had more than four years remaining on an expensive contract.
There's a public-relations element to this type of strategy as well. The waiver process is supposed to be confidential, but often the names of players on the wire get leaked by other teams. If the Blue Jays were actively trying to move a player and his name became public, they can still dismiss those reports by saying all of their players go through waivers, as per club policy. It helps ease potential distractions and in some ways works as damage control.
Why doesn't management consider making Brett Cecil a starting pitcher again? He was a starter to begin with, and the way the pitchers have been on this team and considering how excellent he has been in the bullpen, why not give him another chance?
-- Eleanor K., Kingston, Ontario
Cecil said earlier this year that he had no desire to transition into a starting role during the middle of the season. He trained during the offseason to work as a reliever and felt there would be too much wasted time attempting to build up endurance in order to take over a spot in the rotation.
The 27-year-old did say that he would be open to the idea of returning to a starting job next year, but even that seems extremely unlikely. Cecil has carved out a very nice niche in the bullpen, and he seems to be better suited to a short outing when he can throw close to maximum velocity without having to worry about saving some of his pitches for later in the ballgame.
The old cliche, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," would seem to apply here. Cecil spent the past several years trying to establish himself as a starter, but with the exception of a 15-win season in 2010, he experienced only limited success. This year, though, he became an All-Star and is ideally suited for a setup role where he can also draw on the previous closing experience he had while at the University of Maryland.
How do you evaluate a guy like Anthony Gose? Is this a guy you want to give consistent playing time to when Rasmus returns from the DL? Should the Jays look to showcase him and maybe deal him in a package for a rotation pitcher in the offseason?
-- Jon H., Toronto
Gose is extremely tough to evaluate, because while it appears he has all of the tools required to become a potential impact player, he has yet to put it all together. He was expected to force the Blue Jays' hand this season but had a disappointing year with Triple-A Buffalo and is still trying to get things back on track.
The 23-year-old likely will find himself in the same role next season. Gose should begin the year at Triple-A and wait for an injury to open up some playing time at the big league level. That will undoubtedly come as a disappointment to the promising prospect, but he still needs to cut down on his high number of strikeouts while also refining his skills on the basepaths.
The immediate future for Gose is a bit brighter. He should continue to receive regular playing time while Rasmus is on the disabled list, and even when Toronto's starting center fielder returns, Gose will be able to start some games in left field with Cabrera's season still up in the air because of a knee injury. A trade could also present itself during the offseason, but the Blue Jays aren't going to sell low on Gose and he'll need to finish the year strong to regain his status as a can't-miss prospect.
When can we expect to see Hutchison back with the Blue Jays?
-- Tim C., Edmonton, Alberta
Hutchison will likely be one of the Blue Jays' September callups, but it's clear he still needs a little bit more time to recover from last year's Tommy John surgery. He has made two appearances with Buffalo this month but has allowed eight runs on 10 hits and two walks over just 6 2/3 innings.
The current results take a back seat to how Hutchison is feeling, and all reports indicate he has come out of each outing feeling no ill effects from his previous elbow injury. He'll continue to build up endurance over the next two to three weeks with the Bisons and then could be in line to join Toronto.
The same could be said of right-hander Kyle Drabek, who is facing a similar rehab and timetable. Both pitchers should join the Blue Jays at some point in September, and they could be in line for starts, as the club could eventually decide to remove Esmil Rogers and Todd Redmond from the rotation.
Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.