Inbox: Is a catcher on the 2014 wish list?
Blue Jays beat reporter Gregor Chisholm answers fans' questions
Do the Blue Jays have their sights on a replacement catcher? J.P. Arencibia has had his chance to prove himself.
-- Russ Young, Calgary, Alberta
General manager Alex Anthopoulos certainly seems determined to make an upgrade behind the plate this offseason. Starting pitching remains the top priority, but catcher has surpassed left field -- and possibly even second base -- as the club's most glaring area of need.
A year ago, it didn't seem like that would be the case, but a lot has changed following a disappointing season by Arencibia. The 27-year-old finished with an on-base percentage of just .227, with an equally unimpressive .592 OPS in 138 games.
Despite the lackluster season, a change at catcher is still a long way from guaranteed. Anthopoulos likely will explore every avenue, but free agent Brian McCann is expected to generate a lot of interest this offseason while Texas' A.J. Pierzynski and Boston's Jarrod Saltalamacchia could be equally difficult to lure away from their respective teams.
Washington's Wilson Ramos is known to be of interest to the Blue Jays but would cost a lot through trade. There isn't an easy fix, but expect this situation to remain a hot topic until Anthopoulos either makes a move or comes out and definitively says that Arencibia will be his starting catcher again in 2014.
The one thing that definitely won't happen is Arencibia coming back to Toronto in a backup role. The Tennessee resident is set to earn anywhere from $2 million to $3 million in arbitration this offseason, and that's more than the Blue Jays would be willing to pay for a part-time backstop. There's also some concern about how Arencibia would react to losing his starting job, and it's probably best for both sides to part ways unless the organization is willing to commit significant playing time to the fourth-year catcher.
Has Anthony Gose done enough to become a permanent fixture in the Major Leagues?
-- Michael D., Niagara Falls, Ontario
Gose seems to have positioned himself quite well to crack next year's Opening Day roster. With Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista firmly entrenched in the outfield, there won't be everyday at-bats available, but Gose could slide into the role of fourth outfielder that Rajai Davis assumed this season.
Gose, 23, suffered through an incredibly disappointing season with Triple-A Buffalo this year but began to turn things around when he was recalled to the big leagues in August. He made a series of long overdue changes at the plate with the main goal of eliminating his leg kick and improving his timing.
Gose's adjustments remain a work in progress, but there is plenty of cause for optimism. He is going to spend his offseason in Florida and is expected to work extensively at the club's Spring Training complex to remove the final kinks of his new approach. Sitting on the bench next year wouldn't be ideal, but there should still be enough at-bats with Cabrera needing occasional rest in left field to make the most of the opportunity.
There's also the possibility of a trade this offseason. Gose remains one of the club's top trade chips, so he could eventually be on the move, or if one of the other outfielders gets dealt, then it would open up regular playing time.
I know it's an old story, but I am still curious why the Jays let Emilio Bonifacio go? What's the "real" story? Seems they let a young guy go who was touted as a part of the future in the spring for essentially nothing.
-- Dan Van Houtte
Bonifacio was essentially given away to the Royals in the August because there was no longer much of a future in the Blue Jays' organization. It became clear early on that he was ill-equipped to play second base on a fast AstroTurf surface that exposed his lack of range and poor footwork around the infield.
With second base no longer a realistic option, there was simply no reason to keep him around. The Blue Jays have multiple options in the outfield, and the arbitration-eligible Bonifacio was expected to be non-tendered at the end of the year before he was traded away.
There was a sense in some corners of the Blue Jays' clubhouse that Bonifacio didn't receive a fair opportunity with the organization. But that's also a sentiment I have a hard time agreeing with, considering the Dominican native was handed the reins at second base at the start of the year for an extended period of time and later went on to receive second and third chances to permanently win the job.
Bonifacio may still live up to the hype that he garnered while in Miami, but it wasn't going to happen in Toronto. The 28-year-old is better suited to play the outfield, and if he's going to play the infield anywhere, it should be on a natural-grass surface where the ball reaches second a little slower than it does on turf.
This is a two-part question. 1. Do you think the Blue Jays will do away with their policy of no contracts over five years? 2. Is there a player who is a pending free agent this year or next that would cause the policy change?
-- Jimmy B., Mooers, N.Y.
Anthopoulos has said in the past that the club's policy of not offering more than five years to a free agent isn't necessarily a hard-and-fast rule. There is always the possibility of a unique situation creating an exception, but it's hard to envision that happening in the near future.
Toronto isn't expected to be a major player for any of the top free agents who would be looking for more than five years. Second baseman Robinson Cano isn't a realistic target, and if right-hander Matt Garza gets more than five years on the open market, it certainly won't be with the Blue Jays.
Expect the Blue Jays to stick with a maximum of five years again this offseason. In reality, they probably won't even offer a contract that approaches those terms, as Anthopoulos has never signed a free agent to more than a three-year deal. That will eventually change, but not to the extent where the top player on the market will be coming to Toronto on a massive contract.
There has been a lot of talk about getting a natural-grass surface in Rogers Centre. With the problems of drainage and sufficient sunlight, is it possible to have grass growing under the dome?
-- John D., San Marcos, Calif.
There is still a lot of work needed to examine the costs and technology required to install a natural-grass surface, but the wheels are in motion. The Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts recently signed a five-year lease at Rogers Centre, but it appears as though natural grass will be on its way once that term expires.
A drainage system will need to be installed along with a deep base of dirt before the grass can be put down, but that isn't expected to be a problem. In terms of sunlight, there are certain techniques the Blue Jays can take to make sure that the grass has enough time to grow. The roof likely would remain open as much as possible during the day while special UV lights can also be used to help with growth.
Some of this will require trial and error. Marlins Park in Miami has a natural-grass surface in a dome, and during its first year there were some issues with the grass in both the left- and right-field corners. Those problems have been mostly resolved, and a similar path to success could be taken in Toronto.
Everyone assumes that the Jays will be going after frontline starting pitching in free agency. However, what are the chances they reunite with Roy Halladay as a reclamation project?
-- Sean L., Ottawa, Ontario
This seems to be the most popular question this week, and that hardly comes as a surprise, considering the Toronto fan favorite is likely headed for free agency this offseason. Philadelphia possesses a $20 million option on his contract for 2014, but following an injury-plagued season, there appears to be a slim-to-none chance that it gets picked up.
The problem is that Halladay isn't the same pitcher he was while in Toronto. The former Cy Young Award winner underwent a major surgical procedure on his right shoulder this year, and even when he returned in late August, he was a different pitcher on the mound. By the time he was shutdown in late September, he was struggling to hit even 80 mph on the radar gun, and his typical pinpoint command was nowhere to be seen.
As a result, Halladay will be hard-pressed to get a lucrative contract on the open market, but he's already made a lot of money throughout the course of his career and might be willing to take a low-salary deal to remain in Philadelphia. A return to the hitter-friendly American League East seems unlikely, and the Blue Jays seem intent on going after less of a risk on the mound, but that stance could always change depending on how the offseason unfolds.