Blue Jays Roundtable Preview 2014

Monday, March 31 2014 @ 12:17 AM EDT

Contributed by: Gerry

It is finally time for some Blue Jays baseball, for real. To get you ready for the season the roster answered some questions about the 2014 version of the Jays.

The Jays offense is expected to be one of the best in the league, other than Ryan Goins, do you have any concerns with the offense?

Magpie: Lots. This was a league average offense last year. Thereís been addition by subtraction with Arencibia gone, but Goins could quite easily be subtraction by addition. Bautista and Reyes do not have impressive health records these last few years, and thatís not something that normally improves as players move into their 30s. And back-to-back good seasons from Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus?

John Northey: LF and DH could be big holes - you expect a lot of offense from both and Lind canít hit LHP while Cabrera was hurt and coming off PEDís. I have high hopes for Cabrera but Lind not so much and can easily see both being nightmares as no real bats are close to the majors (donít see Gose, Sierra or Pillar as being good enough bats to take over LF or DH).

Eephus: Health. The lineup 1-7 looks pretty nice now but it wasn't quite so appealing much of last year when lots of people were hurt. I think a mostly full season of Reyes-Cabrera-Bautista-Encarnacion-Lind-Rasmus-Lawrie would be a lot of fun. The big question is will we see that.

tercet: I dont have many worries about the Jays offense, as I expect the Jays top be among the top 10 runs scored this upcoming season. I expect a full season of Jose Reyes, and a healthy Melky Cabrera to help with the attack.

NFH: I am concerned about Lind's beard. I mean, look at it. Ginger Gandalf is not a good look. And I know, have personally committed heinous crimes against hair -- who remembers my glorious royal blue Tetsuo up-do? -- but somehow I don't feel I ever went this far. He looks like he ate Garfield.

Gerry: Navarro, like many catchers, has had an up and down offensive career. I am probably not concerned but watchful and not 100% sold. The right hand side of the DH is a question as is the bench. So the Jays have 7.5 out of 9 in good shape but then the offense falls off a cliff. Plus we cannot ignore depth, the Jays depth in case of injury is poor.

Thomas: That's a pretty big one to leave alone to begin with, but aside from Goins, my biggest concern is the lack of depth. For a team with a number of players who have suffered injuries in recent years and are on the wrong side of 30, there simply isn't a lot of cover in terms of the expected bench for cover for day-to-day injuries or to mitigate a long-term absence. This will still be an above-average offence, but an extended DL trip by nearly any major contributor will result in a signficiant drop-off.

#2JB: As Eephus says, health is the main concern. Cabrera has had a nice spring for what itís worth but can he regain anything close to his form with the Giants and Royals? Can Bautista play close to 162 games for the first time in three years? Can Edwinís wrists survive the season? His last two years have been cut short due to wrist injuries and heís been plunked in the paws twice already this spring. Brett Lawrieís kamikaze style doesnít lend itself to durability and Jose Reyes is already less than 100 percent with a balky hamstring. Yes, my glass is half-empty!

Speaking of Goins, will he keep the job for the full year and how do you expect him to hit?

John Northey: I think unless a trade happens soon heíll be there for 2014, as to hitting a 250 average with around a 300 OBP and 325 Slg is what Iíd expect if he is to hold it (sub 200 in June heíll lose it).

tercet: I believe that Goins will be given roughly 6 weeks, and that eventually he will split time with Izturis.

Gerry: I believe the plan is to use Izturis as a right handed platoon with Goins. If Izturis hits a bit I can see him getting more starts, particularly when Morrow or McGowan are on the mound.

Magpie: If theyíre above .500 at the end of May and heís playing good defense, theyíll let him hit .190, but if theyíre 22-30, someone else will get a look.

Eephus: The team really seems to think of him as a poor man's Darwin Barney (which is, well... hey look over there!) I can live with Goins everyday if A: his defence is as good as it looked last year and B: Gibbons resists some weird desire to bat him second for any period of time. Again, if this lineup can stay healthy having a Goins at the bottom isn't going to kill you.

Player A: .288/.337/.378 (1724 PA)
Player B: .273/.330/.376 (1931 PA)

A is Barney, B is Goins. Minor league numbers, of course.

Thomas: Not as the everyday (or nearly everyday) starter and at a replacement level rate.

#2JB: I think heíll hit about .220/.260/.295 and last until early June before moving into a utility role. I wonder if Gibby will push for Lawrie to play second again if Goinsí performance really goes sideways.

Who would you take as backup catcher?

John Northey: Kratz without any doubt at this point. He can hit, has been OK with Dickey it seems. Thole needs to hit in AAA like he did last year but over at least 200+ PA to get back up here. Now that it is Thole though I can see why a LH hitter might be nice with the primary having more issues vs RHP than LHP..

tercet: Iím ok with either, but I would probably lean towards Thole on a short leash.

Eephus: I would've taken Kratz, assuming he can handle the knuckleball decently. If Dickey really prefers Thole that much though, that's fine.

Thomas: I'd take Kratz pretty easily at this point, with the caveat that I've not seen him catch the knuckleball. He can't be worse than JP though, but we saw how that worked out.

#2JB: I guess Iím on Team Kratz if I had to choose. This is karmic payback for Thole, who should have been up with the big club last year instead of old man Hank White. Thole had a good year with the bat in Buffalo but it never cleared customs when he was called up. Itís nice to have decent depth at the backstop position. (Update - Kratz has been called up with Casey Janssen going on the DL with back problems).

It looks like Moises Sierra will be the right handed DH. Would you let Adam Lind start against any lefthanders?

Magpie: If heís hitting the right-handers you do what Gibbons did last year. You give him a chance. A little one. Just enough so you can say to Adam, hey we gave it a shot, you canít hit southpaws, so sit down and shut up..

John Northey: If it was Lind or me going up then yes heíd start, but if you have a AAA hitter or better then Lind should sit vs all LHP.

tercet: Lind has had more then enough chances to hit LHP, and at this point he is strictly a platoon player.

Gerry: There are some lefty pitchers who do not have the big sweeping breaking ball. I donít know how Lind has fared against them but if he had done OK I would give him some at-bats in that situation.

Eephus: If it's C.J. Wilson maybe? (Lind is 5-18 with a double, triple and homer career versus Wilson.) Derek Holland? (6-17) C.C. Sabathia? (7-15) Otherwise, no no no no no no. This has Colonel Kurtz whispering "...the horror" all over it. Lind cannot hit left-handed pitchers. No hard hit balls in Spring Training are ever going to change that.

Thomas: Very few and far between. Unfortunately, that situation may arise more often than we'd like with such a short bench if one of the outfielders is nursing a day-to-day injury and the team is trying to also shield Goins from lefthanders.

#2JB: Give the goatee a chance, people! Lind did well with the beard last year and facial hair may be the next market inefficiency to take advantage of given who won last yearís World Series.

Lind has mentioned he has been trying to stay back a bit more when facing lefties this spring and has done alright against them. Letís see if he can carry it over to the regular season.

Dickey and Buehrle are the anchors of the rotation. How do you see them performing in 2014?

John Northey: Better than last year, around a 110 range ERA+ with 200+ IP each. Dickey a touch better than Buehrle.

tercet: I expect Dickey to have a mid-high 3 era, and Buehrle to be the same pitcher he has been for the past 10 years.

Gerry: I see Dickey with an ERA in the threes but close to 4. Dickeyís knucklers have not worked as well in the AL East as they did in the NL East. Buehrle is getting older so I see him with a mid 4 ERA.

Magpie: Pretty much what they did last year. Dickey could be a bit better if heís feeling healthy from Day One.

Eephus: Dickey I really don't know. I don't expect him to be worse than last year but I'd be surprised if he's significantly better. I suspect he'll give the team 200+ good-to-great innings, and generally be fun to watch when his knuckler is in Bugs Bunny mode. 16 wins, 3.80ish ERA.

NFH: Mark Buehrle is a fearless, relentless pitching cyborg. Programmed to carve corners with unimpressive fastballs, Buehrle Bot 2014 will continue his primary directive of consuming innings with immaculate precision. You'll blink and he'll have another solid 200 inning season. Resistance is futile.

NFH: I want to see what happens when Buehrle doesn't have a Ridiculously Handsome Catcher calling the game. Buehrle himself said that he doesn't involve himself in pitch selection, so if Navarro calls a better game we should see a better Buehrle.

Thomas: Pretty much as they did last year. Dickey might be marginally better, Buehrle maybe marginally worse, but I do expect relative consistency.

#2JB: Dickey is reportedly healthier than last year and I could see him with an ERA of around 4.00 with 15-17 wins. As for Buehrle, he had a decent year after a terrible start. Hopefully he can avoid that rough patch at the start of last season. I think heíll win 10-12 with an ERA of 4.50.

Assuming the first four starters are Dickey, Buehrle, Morrow and Hutchison, predict who will get the other 50 starts, as in 32 for #5 and assume 18 for injury replacement?

Magpie: I think youíre more likely to be looking for at least 75 or 80 more starts from #5 and the injury replacements. Iím pretty sure Dickey and Buehrle are the only guys who are going to make 30 starts, and there is no one else on this roster Iím confident will make 20.

John Northey: HmmmÖ McGowan for about 20 (sad that is an optimistic POV), Rogers for 10, Sanchez for 10 (August/September), and a surprise for the rest as I have a feeling Redmond wonít be here much longer.

tercet: McGowan:10, Redmond,10, Stroman:10, Nolin:10, Jenkins:10

Gerry: McGowan - 15; Nolin - 10; Stroman - 17; McGuire - 4; Redmond - 4.

#2JB - My only comment here is I think Aaron Sanchez is going to figure into the mix with about 6-7 starts down the stretch.

Will John Gibbons survive the year as manager?

John Northey: Yes, no doubt in my mind. Unless the Jays do a 1989 (12-24 start or worse) and even then I doubt heíll be gone.

tercet: Gibbons will be here as long as Alex Anthopoulos is the GM.

Magpie: Sure. What the hell.

NFH: If he doesn't, can Cito come back again? Like my mom always says, if you're going to make a crazy decision, make sure it's a batshit-crazy decision.

Gerry: I think Gibbons will survive, he is AAís man and I think the Jays will play well enough to keep him in place.

Eephus: The season? Probably. I think the team has to finish at least at .500, otherwise he's toast after the season for sure.

Thomas: Yes, but I'd probably have a different answer if you asked me whether he'll survive this offseason.

#2JB: I would say no because April just doesnít seem to be a strong suit for this team. Anything like last yearís 10-17 start should grease the skids for Gibbyís removal. AA knows heís on thin ice too so I would expect him to pull the trigger to save face.

What do you see as the most important things that need to happen for the Jays to be over 500 for the year?

John Northey: Rotation to be healthy, Reyes/Lawrie/Bautista to play 120+ games each, and the pen to be close to last years level.

tercet: The rotation has to avoid injuries and just be more consistent than last year. Also I would expect more offense this year from the LF, 2B, and C position in comparison to last year.

Eephus: Did I mention health? Yes? Allow me to mention it again. The offence if healthy should be good enough on its own to keep the team competitive. To be over .500, they're gonna need at least two guys beyond Dickey/Buehrle to step up and provide consistency. Maybe thatís Hutchison/Morrow, maybe thatís Redmond/McGowan. Iím skeptical. But who knows.

Gerry: Health for everyone.

Magpie: Many things that - alas - are more or less magical. Dickey once more becomes a Cy Young contender, Hutchison sets a team record for Ws and IP by a rookie, Bautista plays like Bautista for 150 games, Reyes does likewise, Lawrie finally takes the long-awaited Great Leap ForwardÖ. Thatís all. Yeah, Iíve got a bad feeling about this.

Thomas: Health and one or two of the starting pitchers to step up with an above-average performance over a significant number of innings.

#2JB - Catastrophic injuries to everyone else in the American League.

How do you expect the bullpen to work out - any hidden gems who will claim a spot this year?

John Northey: Stilson will get a shot at some point, not sure if itíll be this year or next but I think we might see Romero do a Cecil/Janssen and move to the pen and be very effective.

tercet: The bullpen will be solid this year as in past years, but its hard to see anyone from the low minors making the jump considering how deep we are currently.

Eephus: This bullpen has so many arms it's hard to imagine someone unheralded breaking out. I think if he's still with the organization that Jeremy Jeffress will surprise some people. John Stilson looks pretty close also. Itíd be nice to adopt the Cardinals approach at some point and use Stroman or Nolin out of the pen later in the season, just to ease them into the majors.

Gerry: The bullpen was great last year but we forget that bullpens have an up and down reputation. On that basis I expect the bullpen to be worse than last year. I assume some of the guys who had excellent years last year will regress this year with Delabar, Janssen, Cecil and Loup as prime candidates. This is also why I think AA should have traded some bullpen assets coming off a strong 2013. Wagner and Jenkins would give you options in the bullpen and get something back for Delabar or Janssen.

Magpie: The bullpen had better be fine. Useful relief pitchers grow on trees, thereís no excuse for having a sub-par bullpen.

#2JB: There are so many bullpen options. Maybe Aaron Sanchez could see some time in relief and if he continues to pitch like he did in the pre-season finale in Montreal, he could make another appearance in Canada this season.

What player on the Jays do you expect to exceed expectations ala Lind last year?

John Northey: Goins - if he just gets a 700 OPS weíd all be shocked, heck a 650 would be more than enough to raise eyebrows. Cabrera is my #2 choice if healthy.

tercet: Based on the spring, Melky appears to be healthy again, and hopefully he can bounce back to somewhere near his Ď12 season.

Eephus: Moises Sierra. I think the bat is good enough to offset the hilarious glove. (And it will be hilarious)

Magpie: UhÖ. Sorry. Older players fighting off Time and matching their previous standards is my idea of exceeding expectations.

Gerry: I agree with Melky. He is heading into a free agent year too. On the pitching side I expect Hutchison to be one of the best starters. I am not sure where expectations are for Brett Lawrie but I expect him to do better than last year.

Thomas: Maicer, on the odds that expectations for him are now so low, any sort of bounce back will be noticeable.

#2JB: I think Joey Bats gets back to the 40 homer level in 2014.

What player on the Jays do you expect to cliff dive this year a la Izturis/Johnson/Bonifacio last year?

John Northey: Adam Lind - last year and his previous peak were both so far away from his norm that I suspect a big drop is coming and the Jays end up regretting keeping him around by mid-season.

tercet: I donít expect any significant dropoffs, but I can see Happ, and Rogers getting passed over by some of the younger arms such as Stilson and Stroman.

Gerry: I think the bullpen will see a drop-off as per my comments above.

Magpie: I donít expect him to actually go off the cliff, but Colby Rasmus is not going to hit .356 on his balls in play again. And if he hits .259 on his balls in play, like he did in 2012, it will look exactly the same as if he had gone off the cliff. Which for all intents and purposes, is what he might as well have done.

#2JB: I agree with Magpie. Rasmus will find out regression to the mean is a bitch!

If the Jays are in the race mid-season do you expect AA to make a deal and if so would you trade Aaron Sanchez for help in that case? What would it take?

John Northey: I wouldnít trade Sanchez unless Iím getting someone under team control for at least 3+ years but few guys will be available like that who arenít making stupid cash. I could see a mid-season trade for an outfielder though, high end from a losing team that needs to clear salary.

tercet: The only mid season trade I could see the Jays doing would be for a significant SP upgrade and I would do such a trade if the player is more than a rental.

Gerry: The playoffs are too much of a luck-fest that I would not trade Aaron Sanchez for a rental.

Magpie: Sure he will. He canít mess around at this point. He doesnít have time to wait for prospects to develop. Not anymore.

Eephus: Depends who's available and depends what we need. If Aaron Sanchez is what it takes to get a Cliff Lee, I'd do it. But it'd have to be that calibre of pitcher/player. I kinda donít think heíll trade him, not Sanchez anyway.

Thomas: I'm not sure I buy the premise of the question, but I don't think AA will trade Sanchez. He won't completely gut the team, although he's tied to this club's playoff push, so I could see him dipping into that next level of prospects (Nay, Tirado, De Jong, Lugo, etc...)

#2JB: I would rather deal Stroman, Norris or Stilson before dealing Sanchez.

Will the Jays have another top 10 pick in 2015?

John Northey: I really, really hope not. Of course, they might by not signing whoever they pick first again.

tercet: I hope not, but if the injuries pile up for a third year in a row, it is possible.

Gerry: I donít think so.

Magpie: No. The organization will do everything possible to win 80 games, in the hope that this will allow everyone to hold their jobs for another year.

Thomas: Can I bet on 11-15?

#2JB: Iíll say 12-15 range.

Will Bautista actually be healthy this year? Will he still be a Jay if the season goes south?

John Northey: Semi-healthy. I suspect a DL trip at some point will occur, but 120-130 games is reasonable to hope for. I donít see him being traded.

Gerry: Jose has been the face of the Jays so there is a bias to keep him. I donít assume he will be healthy for the whole season. I do think that if the Jays are out of contention the team should look to trade him.

Magpie: If another season goes south, Jose will be asking for a trade. In the meantime, he will probably hurt himself and have to go on the DL at some point - heís an older guy and he plays hard. You just have to hope itís minor and only costs him a couple of weeks.

Thomas: I agree with John. About 125 games and he's still a Jay at year end.

#2JB: I think he will be healthy, for a change. As stated earlier, I think heíll hit 40 bombs.

When will we see Stroman, Nolin or Sanchez?

John Northey: Stroman first, around May or June. Nolin in September and Sanchez in August.

Magpie: What John just said.

Eephus: I'm predicting we see Stroman by July, Nolin in August (unless the rotation really goes south) and Sanchez for a few innings in September. Crazy prediction! I think we'll see Drabek again before any of them.

tercet: Nolin first, Stroman second, and we wonít see Sanchez until 2015 if he ever lowers his walk rate.

Gerry: If the Jays need a pitcher before July I think Stroman will get the call. If it is after June I can see Nolin getting the call. Sanchez could get a September call-up.

#2JB: Nolin will be up in June. Stroman, I think, weíll see in July. Sanchez will be up in August.

Is Anthony Gose's time come and gone? Will he be the first to be traded?

John Northey: He has little value in a trade right now, heíll have to tear the cover off the ball in April/May to regain some. Even then I doubt the Jays will trade him unless Rasmus signs a long term deal.

tercet: He has no trade value, and the Jays are going to hold onto him as Rasmus is probably gone at the end of the season.

Gerry: I think he can make some incremental improvements that will get him into the utility, part time category.

Magpie: I donít think his time has come and gone, because I think heís going to be a slow, late bloomer. Iíd like to be patient with him, but itís not my job thatís on the line. And I donít know how patient Anthopoulos thinks he can be at this point. His team needs to accomplish something positive this year.

#2JB: I think itís definitely put up or shut up time for Gose. He has to play much better at Buffalo and with Rasmusí future up in the air, Gose has to realize he can position himself as the next center fielder of this organization. Otherwise, I think the Jays will have to look for their next center fielder in the trade or free agency market. D.J. Davis is too far away to make an impact any time soon.

Should the Jays sign Rasmus to a long term deal? How long and how much? Remember, he will be the class of the free agent outfielders most likely.

John Northey: I think Rasmus wonít sign for less than 7/$140 million pre-offseason unless his season goes south and that would be a big mistake to sign. 7+ year deals are just asking for headaches (see Vernon Wells for a good example here).

Eephus: I'd lock him up, but I'm a Colby fan. I think he's the smartest baserunner on the team and an excellent defensive outfielder. I think the bat is going to come and go most years, but he can help you in other ways when he's not hitting.

tercet: Rasmus will be too pricey for the Jays, and a possible mid season trade candidate if the Jays are struggling.

Gerry: The Jays donít necessarily get to decide how long or how much. A lot depends on how Colby plays this season. If Colby shows by mid-season that he can replicate last years performance I would offer him a 3 or 4 year deal. I am unsure of the dollar amount but I assume it would be between $12 and $15M per season. He does play a premium position and the Jays do not have a ready replacement.

#2JB: I donít think heíll get Ellsbury-type money but anything near that would be ridiculous. I donít think Johnís idea of a 7-year, $140 million dollar deal is not far off the mark if Rasmus puts together a good season. Iím not sold on Gose and Iím not sold on giving that type of deal to Rasmus. I think the next center fielder is someone not in the organization right now.

Thanks to all who contributed.