The Jays have needs. Players are available. Free agency’s starting and the Winter Meetings aren’t far off. What do the Jays need? Here are some possibilities. The focus will be on free agents (trading to meet needs is another angle). After last season, the Jays may be a little more open to testing the FA market.
Pitching, pitching, pitching
The Jays need a top-end starter (a career #1), or two high-end #2s to replace injured starters and compete for a playoff spot. Someone like Josh Johnson will require a king’s ransom and he has injury issues. I’m also not very fond of emptying the minors to pick up one arm, especially if that arm is made of glass.
The Giants just demonstrated that a team can win without an established #1, while the Phillies have demonstrated that a team won’t necessarily win with two clear-cut #1s.
I like guys like Anibal Sanchez and Edwin Jackson. Both are free agents, both fit the #2/#3 mold well, and both would improve the Jays staff considerably. They won’t come cheap and, for several reasons, the Jays might need to overpay, but they allow the Jays to improve without mortgaging the future.
Around the Horn
I really like Adam LaRoche. He’s a lefty power bat, is good defensively, and he creates runs. He just finished the best season of his career, then opted out of $10MM for next season. I think he’d do well in Rogers and 32 isn’t old for 1B. Signing LaRoche would answer several questions for the Jays.
If they focus on pitching and 1B, then new acquisition Mike Aviles and Adeiny Hechavarria are good enough for 2B. I’d prefer to start Hech and have Aviles as a super-sub, with his experienced at 2B, 3B, and SS.
Yunel Escobar is a headcase and his value is low. Unless someone makes an offer they can’t refuse, I’d keep him at SS. He’s a good player who had a down year with the bat. A return to form would increase his value and help the team.
Brett Lawrie is establishing himself as the everyday 3B. His defense is very good even though the error count was high, and his offense will develop with patience. His base running blunders are a matter of coaching, experience, and maturity.
Patrolling the Outfield
Jose Bautista, provided he’s healthy, and Colby Rasmus are two-thirds of an above-average outfield. Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra could use more AAA seasoning, and Buffalo is right around the corner. They have a taste of big league play, which should make them more hungry. I like Rajai Davis as a fourth OF, but would not hesitate to use him if LaRoche was signed.
Failing a LaRoche signing, I’d take a flyer on Melky Cabrera. He’d be cheap and it would only be unpopular until he began to hit.
With the Stick
It’s hard to imagine a better DH than Edwin Encarnacion. He blossomed, was effective at 1B, and was their most consistent threat at the plate all season. If he duplicates 2012, he will establish himself as the best DH in club history. Should the Jays make a play for LaRoche, a tandem of EE and LaRoche would be effective at 1B and DH.
On the Bench
This may be the most important move the Jays will make this off season. The loss of John Farrell, while irritating, is not a big one. As a strategist, tactician, and leader, he left a lot to be desired.
Some accounts say the Jays are looking for a bench boss with experience. This is good, but they need to choose wisely: the Red Sox’ choice of Bobby Valentine is a cautionary tale. A no-nonsense guy who preaches fundamentals is appealing. I’d love to see someone in the “Williams mold” get the nod. Dick Williams, that is, not Jimy Williams.
The rotation: Morrow, Sanchez, EJax, Romero, Happ. The line-up: Lawrie, Rasmus, Bautista, Encarnacion, LaRoche, Arencibia, Escobar, Davis, and Hechavarria. It’s sustainable and maintains depth in the majors and minors. Would they be a World Series contender? Not likely, but I believe they’d challenge for the playoffs.