TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have one new piece in place after acquiring Aledmys Diaz from the Cardinals last week, but plenty of work remains, and the upcoming Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., might be where a lot of it gets done.The annual Meetings officially open Monday at
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have one new piece in place after acquiring Aledmys Diaz from the Cardinals last week, but plenty of work remains, and the upcoming Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., might be where a lot of it gets done.
The annual Meetings officially open Monday at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort. Toronto can check versatile middle infielder off its to-do list, but several holes remain, and this should prove to be just the start of what needs to be a couple of busy months.
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Toronto spent only one day higher than fourth place in the American League East in 2017, but there's no rebuild happening this winter. Instead the Blue Jays are pinning their hopes of contention on a return to health and several upgrades before the start of Spring Training. Here's a closer look at where things stand leading into next week's Meetings.
The Blue Jays have Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada in the rotation, but there's room for one more. Joe Biagini remains an internal possibility, but at the very least, Toronto is expected to bring in someone else to compete for the job. Former Rays righty Alex Cobb might be a stretch here, but he's on the Blue Jays' radar, and other possible fits include Andrew Cashner, Mike Fiers or a reclamation project like Clay Buchholz. Jacob Arrieta and Yu Darvish are expected to be out of Toronto's reach.
Kevin Pillar is the lone outfielder with a seemingly guaranteed job for 2018. Beyond the Gold Glove Award finalist, the Blue Jays have a lot of options but lack clear starters in the corners. Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera, Teoscar Hernandez and prospect Anthony Alford are depth pieces, but expect the Blue Jays to add at least one outfielder. Lorenzo Cain has been frequently mentioned as a possibility, but he will come at a high cost, and Toronto has been linked to Jay Bruce for years. This spot also could be filled through trade.
Toronto's bullpen was an area of strength this year, but the club lacked a reliable lefty for most of the season. Aaron Loup was tendered a contract by the Blue Jays last week, but ideally he would return as a second lefty out of the 'pen. Free agency likely would be the preferred method to fill this spot, with possible candidates including Jake McGee, Robbie Ross Jr., Boone Logan and Fernando Abad.
Who they can trade if necessary
1B/OF Steve Pearce
After a slow start, Pearce performed as expected in 2017. He hit 13 home runs and posted a .757 OPS, but he once again had trouble staying healthy and was limited to 92 games. Pearce has the ability to play first base and left field, but his best position is designated hitter, and that's something the Blue Jays can't offer him with Kendrys Morales under contract for two more years. Pearce is the type of player most contending teams love to have, but he's not a great fit on this current roster and for that reason he might be shopped.
OF Teoscar Hernandez
Hernandez is ready for an extended audition at the big league level, but whether that happens in Toronto remains to be seen. The 25-year-old hit eight home runs in September to make his case for a starting job. He has the inside track for one of the corner-outfield spots, but ultimately his playing time will be limited by a potential offseason addition. If Toronto adds a prominent outfielder, it could mean Hernandez is made available to fill a hole elsewhere.
The Blue Jays are expected add, not subtract, to the bullpen, but with the cost of relief arms at a near all-time high, the club will have to at least listen to inquiries from other teams. Dennis Tepera, Danny Barnes and Dominic Leone were reliable setup men this year, and they should all be back again next year unless the Blue Jays are able to leverage the arms into a surprising deal.
Per MLBPipeline.com, the Blue Jays' top 10 prospects are 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr., SS/2B Bo Bichette, Alford, SS Logan Warmoth, RHP T.J. Zeuch, RHP Sean Reid-Foley, RHP Nate Pearson, C Max Pentecost, C Hagen Danner and SS Richard Urena.
Alford and Urena made their big league debuts in 2017 and could become factors again at some point next year. Alford has an outside chance to win a job during Spring Training while Urena will open the year for Triple-A Buffalo and serve as organizational depth behind Troy Tulowitzki and Diaz. The other prospects on this list likely won't become factors until at least 2019.
Rule 5 Draft
There are 38 players on the 40-man roster, which means the Blue Jays have an open spot to make a selection in the Rule 5 Draft if they so desire. Toronto made a pick in the Draft each of the past two years to varying degrees of success. The 2015 selection, Biagini, turned into a regular contributor, while '16 selection Glenn Sparkman was a non-factor and eventually returned to Kansas City.
Toronto has not lost a player in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft since infielder Brad Emaus in 2010, but the streak might end this year. Jordan Romano, Andrew Case and Angel Perdomo are three of the intriguing arms while Pentecost was left exposed because of his checkered history of health.
Big contracts they might unload
Toronto has a lot of big contracts on the books, but none of them are expected to be dealt this offseason. Tulowitzki and Russell Martin are guaranteed a combined $98 million over the next three years, while Josh Donaldson is one season away from free agency and will earn a raise on his $17 million salary through arbitration. The Blue Jays likely wouldn't mind moving Morales, but he has two years and $23 million remaining on his deal so that doesn't seem very realistic, either. Expect all of the big names to stick around, but if the season does not go as expected then a sell-off could follow.
Toronto spent approximately $170 million on 2017 payroll and is expected to be working in a similar range next year. The Blue Jays currently have approximately $90 million in guaranteed salaries for next season, but that figure jumps to $140-145 million once arbitration and pre-arbitration players are factored in. That leaves upwards of $25-$30 million to spend on a starter, an outfielder and another piece for the bullpen.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.