Hot Stove Time

Monday, October 31 2011 @ 02:35 PM EDT

Contributed by: Gerry

The World Series is done and we are officially in hot stove league time.  Free agents are filing, trades and signings are starting, so let the speculation begin.

Latest News: The Jays have announced they will be picking up Edwin Encarnacion's 2012 option and have declined the 2012 option on Jon Rauch's contract.

What is coming up?

From November 14 through November 22 the award winners for the 2011 season will be announced.

On November 14 and 15 the General managers will be meeting in Milwaukee.  This meeting will set the groundwork for trades at the winter meetings.

By November 23rd teams have to offer arbitration to their free agents.  If arbitration is not offered it will make those free agents more attractive to signing teams.  The player has until December 7th to accept the arbitration offer.

Rosters for the rule 5 draft have to be set by December 5th.

From December 5th to the 8th the winter meetings take place in Dallas.  The rule 5 draft is on the last day.

Sometime in the middle of all this the Union and MLB should announce a new labour agreement.  There may be changes to the wild card system, divisional alignment and the draft.

What will the Jays be doing?

The Jays have just completed organizational meetings to set their off-season agenda.  Gregor Chisholm has the scoop.  Both the headline and the first paragraph of the story say the Jays will be aggressive in improving the roster.  That improvement has to come in several areas of the roster, AA believes the Jays are more than one player away.

I don't believe that we're one player away, that's probably the best way to put it, Anthopoulos said at his year-end news conference. But I still think there is value out there and maybe things change if there are trades that develop.

The story identifies second base, a front-line starting pitcher and a closer as off-season priorities.  But AA's position on free-agents is ambivalent, at best.

A lot of times when you're looking at contracts, you're debating, Anthopoulos said. If it's a five-year contract or a three-year contract, you feel like you're going to get value for all five years? Four years? Two years?

Most times in free agency you're probably going to find that you're not going to see a lot of value in it. There is the odd time that you will, but you're going to have to feel that it's there, especially for the prime, premium guys.

The money quote to me is "most times... you are not going to see a lot of value in it".  Don't expect the Jays to sign free-agents who are looking for long term deals.  If the Jays pattern of recent seasons continues they will sign free agents to one year deals.  If the deal works, great, if not the Jays can try to flip the player at the deadline.

AA has repeatedly said he will look to trade his way to success.

Free agency will be an option for the Blue Jays to explore, but Anthopoulos prefers making his major moves through trades. The third-year GM has added the likes of Yunel Escobar, Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie that way while limiting the amount of multiyear contracts handed out via free agency.

It's a way for the Blue Jays to control costs and maintain flexibility with their payroll as they look to move from a rebuilding phase into a hopeful contender for the postseason.

Who do the Jays have to trade? 

Remember that it is players in AA or AAA who have the most value, single A players are usually thrown into a deal, not the cornerstone.  The Jays do have surplus pitching in the upper minors.  At AA and higher the Jays have Romero, Morrow, Alvarez, Cecil, Litsch, Drabek, McGowan, McGuire, Jenkins, Molina and Hutchison.  So why do the Jays need a starting pitcher?  They want a better starting pitcher who can start now in the AL East.  Cecil, Litsch and some of the minor league guys don't appear to be ideally suited for the AL East.

The most likely trade is a 2 for 1 deal, for example the Jays could acquire a #2 starting pitcher in exchange for Brett Cecil, Kyle Drabek and Nestor Molina.  With the Jays having so many possible starters the trade will be a mix and match effort.  This type of trade is similar to this years trade between the Jays and St. Louis in that the players traded are short term for the long term, quality for quantity.  The Jays will look to acquire a win now pitcher in exchange for more players who are still developing.  In addition the Jays could take on a larger salary while trading low cost players back.

Among position players who could be available we have the Travis Snider, Eric Thames log-jam.  Also available could be Adam Lind and Anthony Gose.  While Gose could be a big talent he is blocked by Rasmus.

The three major targets for the Jays are second base, closer and starter.  A closer can be found in free agency.  Kelly Johnson is a type A free agent and given his track record that might make it difficult for another team to commit a draft pick to a player whose performance is as variable as Johnson's is.  Toronto would be the favourite to sign Johnson.

If the Jays are to improve by trade their number one trading priority would be a starting pitcher.  

I mentioned above the Jays organizational meetings held recently.  One of the biggest objectives of those meetings is to prioritize players in the Jays system.  Who would we rather trade, Drew Hutchison or Nestor Molina?, Eric Thames or Travis Snider?  What value do we put on each of our players?  The scouting staff and the major league coaching staff will each have their opinions on these issues and AA has to distill it down to a value.

The other major part of the recent meetings has been to identify trade targets.  It takes two to tango so identifying players who are likely to be available is an important part of the process.  Does a team have too much payroll?  Is a player about to get too expensive for a team?  Is a team about to start rebuilding?  Is there a hot shot rookie ready to take a veterans place?  Is a player heading to free agency and the team needs to get value for them today?  All of these questions help the Jays to develop their target list.

Now the Jays could be bluffing and they could go after a free agent pitcher,  The Jays were rumoured to have seen a lot of CJ Wilson's starts this season.  However there is nothing in AA's history or statements that suggest this is likely.

So which starting pitchers, other than the always mentioned Felix Hernandez, could be available?  who would you have the Jays trade away?  How different will the roster be in 2012?  It should be an interesting winter.


In other Blue Jay news the Elias rankings are out according to MLB Trade Rumors.  Kelly Johnson is a type A.  Frank Francisco, Shawn Camp, Jose Molina and Jon Rauch are type B's.