Do you expect Mark Buehrle or R.A. Dickey to be traded this winter?
-- Ryan E., Barrie, Ontario
There has been a lot of speculation about this over the past several months, but I have a hard time envisioning a scenario where both pitchers don't return in 2015. Teams will inquire and the Blue Jays will probably listen, but an awful lot would have to fall in place for a deal to get done.
Buehrle likely is the most available of the two, but he's owed $19 million next season and that's going to be a huge obstacle in any trade talks. Toronto likely would have to absorb some of that contract, and depending on the total amount, an argument could be made that the organization would be better off holding onto him.
Dickey is more affordable at $12 million next year, with another $12 million possibly coming in 2016 as part of a team option. There will be some interest, but there's also a strong case for holding onto a guy that has a good track record with his health and seems to be a lock for 200 innings. The 2012 Cy Young Award-winning season is now a distant memory, but in a lot of ways, Dickey is an ideal complement to an otherwise young staff.
If the Blue Jays are really concerned about payroll, then one possibility would be exploring a deal for J.A. Happ. The veteran lefty pitched well enough to justify his $6.7 million option getting picked up, and there should be some interested teams out there. If the Blue Jays feel that a starter should be moved, Happ might be the more realistic option.
What are the chances that Dalton Pompey makes the big club next season? Has he emerged as a frontrunner for the vacant center-field job over [Anthony] Gose and [Kevin] Pillar?
-- Jemel J., N.Y.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos said at the end of the season that Pompey will have an opportunity to compete for the job, and that stance is unlikely to change any time soon. The only real obstacle would be if the organization went out and added another center fielder, but with so many other holes to fill on the roster, that doesn't seem to be at the top of the priority list.
The Blue Jays are closely monitoring Pompey in the Arizona Fall League to see just how far he has come over the past several months. The way he looks in Spring Training likely will be even more important, as this might be the one spot on the roster where numbers put up in the Grapefruit League impact which direction the club will take.
Gose was once viewed as the center fielder of the future, but his inability to hit at the big league level has put that into question. Even in a small sample size, Pompey showed superior knowledge of the strike zone and generated fewer swing-and-misses. Toronto still hopes that Gose turns things around -- and his defense speaks for itself -- but unless something clicks over the winter, both players will go to camp with a shot at the top job.
What's the plan for Aaron Sanchez? Is he going to start next year, or will he be the closer with Casey Janssen on his way out?
-- Michael W., Kitchener, Ontario
The Blue Jays' brass debated this very topic during their year-end meetings, and it seems like the group was split on which role would best suit the promising right-hander. The hope all along was that Sanchez would develop into a frontline starting pitcher, but his success out of the bullpen in 2014 has at least caused the organzation to take a long look at how he fits into the current core.
There will some temptations -- maybe even some pressure -- to use Sanchez as a reliever. Toronto's bullpen was a major disappointment this season, and there won't be any easy fixes for a team that lacks a powerful righty out of the bullpen. Not only do the Blue Jays need to find a closer, but they also have to add a reliable right-handed setup man to pair with Aaron Loup and Brett Cecil.
All of that said, I think it would be a mistake to use Sanchez out of the 'pen. He's still in the process of increasing his innings limit, and if his workload takes a hit next year, it's going to set him back in future seasons as well. Whether or not Sanchez can make the starting five out of camp is irrelevant, because teams never make it through an entire season with the same five starters. It's not the end of the world if Sanchez has to start in the Minors and then become the first line of defense when a starter gets hurt or struggles.
I'm a Blue Jays fan who has lost all hope when it comes to this team. They have some talented players and young pitchers, but over the past twenty years, they've been unable to turn any of that into a contending team. So why should we believe now?
-- Matthew E., Ottawa, Ontario
The frustration is understandable, considering the Blue Jays haven't made the postseason since 1993, which is the longest drought in all of the major professional sports leagues. That's not something any organization would want to be associated with, but when comparing the past with the present, it's important to note that one era doesn't really have anything to do with the next.
The inability of Gord Ash and J.P. Ricciardi to make the postseason during their tenures as GM doesn't mean Anthopoulos won't be able to. If Anthopoulos comes up short, then that doesn't mean the next guy won't be able to take the next step. Each can be judged on his own merits, and it's really only the current regime that is worth discussing when it comes to "hope."
I've said before that I think this will be Anthopoulos' most challenging offseason to date, and there's a number of holes on the roster that need to be filled in order to have a realistic shot at the postseason. Yes, young pitchers have come and gone here, but there are plenty of reasons to be excited about Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison, Daniel Norris and Sanchez. That doesn't mean it will work out, but nothing is ever guaranteed in this sport.
It seems like the Blue Jays have a lot of guys with team options coming up. Who will be back and who won't be?
-- James T., Halifax, Nova Scotia
The Blue Jays currently have six players with club options: Brandon Morrow ($10 million/$1-million buyout), Adam Lind ($7.5M/$1M), Happ ($6.7M/$0.2M), Dustin McGowan ($4M/$0.5M), Josh Thole ($1.25M/$0) and Sergio Santos ($6M/$0.75M). Toronto has until five days after the end of the World Series to either pick up the option or buy it out and send the player into free agency.
Morrow is pretty much guaranteed to be let go because of his high salary. There would be some interest in bringing him back as a reliever, but he's expected to seek a starting job elsewhere, and there's a good chance another team will view him as a buy-low candidate. Santos also is on his way out of town, while Happ should have done enough to guarantee his deal.
That leaves Lind, McGowan and Thole as the only ones up in the air. Lind's salary might be somewhat expensive, but there's still a lot of value, considering his ability to hit right-handed pitching at an elite level. I'd expect the Blue Jays to at least pick up that option, and then either keep him in the fold or deal him this winter. McGowan's $4 million seems on the high end, while the Blue Jays also could look to upgrade over the backup Thole.
Are there any signs of disagreement in the Blue Jays' front office that manager John Gibbons is/isn't the right guy to be the manager?
-- Harry B., Toronto, Ontario
Gibbons has the support of Anthopoulos and, at least when it comes to his immediate job security, that's all that matters. Team president Paul Beeston has admitted in the past that he actually had to be talked into the idea of hiring Gibbons prior to the 2013 season, but ultimately, it was Anthopoulos' decision to make and Beeston signed off on the deal.
Very little has changed in that regard. Anthopoulos would appear to have full authority to hire -- or ultimately fire -- his coaching staff, while Beeston mostly sticks to the business side of operations. The bigger question here is how long Beeston will remain in the organization, but he recently told Toronto's Fan 590 sports radio station that "I'm here as long as Rogers wants me here."
It's a stretch to suggest that the Blue Jays didn't make the postseason in 2014 because of internal issues, but it's clear that some players inside the clubhouse felt there was a lack of communication at times. That falls not only on Gibbons, but also Anthopoulos, and is something that will have to be improved upon in 2015.
Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB.