Inbox: Tellez Toronto's future first baseman?
Beat reporter Gregor Chisholm answers questions from Blue Jays fans
Rowdy Tellez has given me a reason to be excited about the Blue Jays again. Is he going to be the first baseman next year?
-- Francis K., Sudbury, Ontario
Manager John Gibbons put it best on Sunday when he said that Tellez might be the first baseman of the future, but Justin Smoak is the first baseman of the present, and that's unlikely to change before the start of next season. Smoak is all but officially guaranteed to have his $8 million option picked up for 2019, and there's every reason to believe he will be at first base on Opening Day.
Could that change? Sure. The Blue Jays are in asset-building mode, and if another team makes a competitive offer this winter, it's something Toronto obviously would consider. But the club is not going to force a deal just to make room for Tellez. A more realistic scenario would see Smoak start the year in Toronto and then become a trade candidate midway through the season.
Let's also not forget that Tellez, the Blue Jays' No. 29 prospect, is just 23 years old. There's room for improvement with the .765 OPS he posted in 112 games for Triple-A Buffalo, and repeating that level for another couple of months is not a bad idea. Tellez provides protection if Smoak or Kendrys Morales gets hurt, and he would be in position to take over later in the year if the numbers justify it.
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What do you think the starting rotation is going to look like next season?
-- Pierre C., Gatineau, Quebec
Spring Training is shaping up to be a good old fashioned competition for the back end of Toronto's rotation. Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, and in all likelihood, Ryan Borucki will enter camp with guaranteed jobs, and it's realistic to expect that the Blue Jays will add another starter through trade or free agency this offseason. That would leave one job up for grabs and there will be a whole slew of arms in the mix.
Sean Reid-Foley, Sam Gaviglio, Jacob Waguespack, Thomas Pannone and the soon-to-arrive Julian Merryweather should all get a look in camp. David Paulino seems destined for the bullpen, but he could receive some consideration as well, while other top prospects such as T.J. Zeuch and Jordan Romano should start the year in the Minors and could become options later in the season.
Considering the rebuild, doesn't it make sense to trade Sanchez and Stroman this offseason? Toronto waited too long to trade Josh Donaldson, I hope they don't repeat the same mistake.
-- Will L., Mississauga, Ontario
It seems almost inevitable that Stroman and Sanchez will eventually be dealt. Both starters have two years of control remaining and the front office is on record talking about a three-year pathway to getting back into contention. The timelines don't match up, and unless there is an unexpected extension in the coming months, this situation should eventually result in a trade.
The odds of a deal this winter, though, still aren't great because the Blue Jays have to believe Sanchez and Stroman are worth a lot more than what their current market values might suggest. Stroman and Sanchez have been limited to 19 and 18 starts, respectively, this season because of various injuries and both have ERAs over 5.00. Trading them now would be selling low on a pair of high-ceiling arms, and their stocks could easily rise with a strong first half.
Do you think Jays will keep Yangervis Solarte next season or will they trade him?
The Blue Jays project to have a really crowded infield next season, and it's hard to envision a role for Solarte. Let's assume for a minute that Troy Tulowitzki makes it back next season and begins the year as Toronto's starting shortstop. That would leave Brandon Drury as the Opening Day starter at third, while Aledmys Diaz, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Devon Travis are all candidates for second.
Complicating matters further, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. should take over third by the end of April, which would then move Drury into a super utility role. Even if Tulowitzki isn't healthy, with Diaz, Gurriel and Richard Urena all options at shortstop, there's more than enough depth to go around. The Blue Jays have a $5.5 million club option on Solarte's contract for next year, and if that gets picked up it's likely to facilitate a trade. He's probably not the only player from this group who gets shopped, either.
There's a lot of young talent on this roster. Am I crazy to think the Blue Jays might clear .500 next year?
Finishing at .500 seems a little bit optimistic, but I can understand why you would think that. The Rays weren't supposed to do much of anything this season, but they've battled with a young core and entered play on Monday 14 games above .500. Tampa Bay is known for being a scrappy team that often exceeds expectations, and that's something the Blue Jays could strive to become in 2019.
That's the upside, but more growing pains should be expected. Young talent is exciting to watch, but it also comes with a lot of uncertainty, so next year should be a lot of trial and error. General manager Ross Atkins previously said expectations will rise by 2020 with the hopes of becoming a legitimate contender in '21. Next year is all about development and more veteran players could be dealt midway through the season, so while .500 is possible, it's also a little bit aggressive.