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Inbox: Biggest issue with new additions?

Beat reporter Gregor Chisholm answers questions from Blue Jays fans
February 8, 2018

Toronto had the eighth-most strikeouts in the American League last year and added high strikeout guys in Curtis Granderson and Randal Grichuk. Do you see this as being as big of a problem as I do? -- Glen J., Kamloops, British ColumbiaStrikeouts should be a concern, but the bigger issue

Toronto had the eighth-most strikeouts in the American League last year and added high strikeout guys in Curtis Granderson and Randal Grichuk. Do you see this as being as big of a problem as I do?
-- Glen J., Kamloops, British Columbia

Strikeouts should be a concern, but the bigger issue is on-base percentage. Toronto projects to start five players who finished last season with an OBP below the Major League average of .324: Kendrys Morales (.308), Troy Tulowitzki (.300), Grichuk (.285), Granderson (.323) and Kevin Pillar (.300). Then there's Justin Smoak who finished last season with a .355 OBP but is below average for his career at .317.
Toronto's lineup has more pop following the additions of Grichuk and Granderson, but neither player solves the issue of baserunners. For the extra home runs to really matter, the Blue Jays will need better numbers from Morales and Tulowitzki while Devon Travis will have to consistently reach base to provide run-scoring opportunities for the heart of the order.
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How much money do the Blue Jays have left to spend? I've seen different figures being used by different media organizations.
-- Finlay K., Guelph, Ontario

The Blue Jays typically don't reveal too many specifics about payroll, but internal talk indicated the 2018 total would be very similar to the one used last year. Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro appeared to confirm that during a recent appearance at a youth baseball coaches clinic in Toronto when he stated that Toronto's payroll will "stay the same" this season.
According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, Toronto had a 2017 Opening Day payroll of $163,381,937 for its 25-man roster and a year-end total of $166,152,534 for the 40-man roster. Once Marcus Stroman's situation is settled, the Blue Jays' current estimated payroll will be slightly under $152 million. That leaves Toronto with a low end of $10 million to spend and possibly upwards of $13 million to $14 million. General manager Ross Atkins isn't saying how much Toronto has left, but he did publicly confirm that it was more than $10 million following the addition of Grichuk.
What left-handed reliever outside of Aaron Loup is likely to take a spot in the Opening Day bullpen?
-- @Panikkar37

At this point, I would not be surprised if Loup is the only lefty to head north. Tim Mayza and Matt Dermody should be expected to make regular appearances, but with options remaining on their contracts, a safe bet is for both to open the year in Triple-A Buffalo. Toronto's priority in the bullpen appears to be adding a righty to replace Dominic Leone but some of the lefties still available include Tony Watson, Robbie Ross Jr., Oliver Perez and Fernando Abad.
I have a non-Hot Stove question: Last year, we kept hearing buzz about Rowdy Tellez. And this year, I barely see his name anywhere. Any predictions where he starts the season or what his year could look like?
-- Myrod N., Yarmouth, Nova Scotia

Tellez will return as the starting first baseman for Buffalo, but the lack of hype is natural after he posted a disappointing .628 OPS with six home runs in 122 games. Tellez has since opened up about the off-the-field adversity he faced throughout a trying season as his mother battled cancer.
The family issues understandably took a toll, but Tellez should have a clear head this season and will be looking to put himself back on the radar. The opportunity is there, but this really is shaping up to be a make-or-break season for the 22-year-old, who's ranked as the Blue Jays' No. 11 prospect. Tellez hit 22 home runs in 2016 and will need to rediscover that stroke before any talk of a promotion is entertained.
Anybody else notice that five of the Blue Jays' Top 30 Prospects are catchers? Are there discussions being had about dealing from that depth to acquire a Major League-level backup for Russell Martin?
-- Matthew M., Winooski, Vt.

There is no active plan to move any of the catching prospects. The first issue with Minor League catchers is that so few of them actually pan out. A quick walk down memory lane finds the names of A.J. Jimenez, Guillermo Quiroz, Robinzon Diaz, Carlos Perez, J.P. Arencibia and Travis d'Arnaud as the supposed "catcher of the future." All of the players on that list eventually cracked the big leagues, but most of them didn't last and it shows how fickle the position can be with long-term projections.
MLB Pipeline's ranking of Toronto prospects includes No. 8 Max Pentecost, No. 9 Hagen Danner, No. 15 Riley Adams. No. 16 Danny Jansen and No. 21 Reese McGuire. The depth is a positive, and another positive is that all of the catchers are at different stages of development. Danner and Adams are just starting their pro careers, Pentecost is still trying to put together his first full season as a pro, while Jansen and Reese are closer to the big stage. For the foreseeable future, there is no need to pick one catcher over the other.
Modest trade proposal: Outfielders Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera, and Teoscar Hernandez for Carlos Carrasco.
-- Caleb H., Anaheim, Calif.

The Blue Jays are using their surplus of outfielders to explore the trade market, but yeah, this one isn't happening. A more realistic scenario would see Toronto move an outfielder for a fringe bullpen candidate or a pitcher with options who can open the year in the Minors and increase depth.