TORONTO- Now that the 2015 season is over for the Toronto Blue Jays, the offseason drama is about to begin once the World Series concluded. From contract options to roster decisions to free agency, the Blue Jays’ front office has plenty of decisions to make in order for the club to contend for the World Series in 2016.
Here’s a breakdown of the club’s off-season-to-do list:
1. Alex Anthopoulos’ contract status
When Mark Shapiro become the club’s next president, his first order of business will involve the future of general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who’s contract expired on Oct. 31. In the past calendar year, Anthopoulos brought in many talented players with high characteristic. Signing Russell Martin and trading for Josh Donaldson during the offseason- and pulled off a very active trade deadline moves with Troy Tulowitzki and David Price. The acquisition paid off as the Blue Jays ended their 22-year playoff drought. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Anthopoulos capture the MLB’s Executive of the Year honors.
It should be a no brainer that Anthopoulos should be back with the Blue Jays for the next couple of years. But keep in mind too that Shapiro may want to run the organization different than Paul Beeston. Anthopoulos may want to have a sense of what kind of working relationship would he like to have with Shapiro before making any commitment to a long term deal. Shapiro was a former GM and the baseball operations for the Cleveland Indians, allowing GM Chris Antonetti to handle trades and all baseball decision-making. But there are no guarantees that Shapiro could afford the same kind of latitude to Anthopoulos. Both Anthopoulos and Shapiro will have act quickly to see if they see eye to eye.
2. Decide on Player Options
Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, R.A Dickey and the forgotten Macier Izturis all have team options for 2016 season. This means that they could all have guaranteed money for at least one more year, making them free agents after the 2016 campaign.
Bautista and Encarnacion both had monster season at the plate. Both options are valued at $14 million and $10 million respectfully, so it is a no brainer that both sluggers’ team-friendly options will be exercised.
R.A. Dickey’s is an intriguing case. This decision may be less of a slam dunk but probably still worth it to pick up the $12-million option Some fans may be inclined to let the 40-year-old knuckleballer walk, especially with his poor performance during the ALCS. But he can guarantee 200 innings, especially if the Blue Jays are to move forward with Marcus Stroman may be the only lock in the rotation next season.
Maicer Izturis also has a club option for 2016 worth $3 million, which will certainly be decline and bought out at a cost of $1 million.
3. Deal With Own Free Agents
David Price will be the most coveted free agent available on the open market. Despite his postseason record, the 2012 Al Cy Young Award winner will likely command a similar contract to what Max Scherzer signed last offseason with the Washington Nationals (7 years worth $210 million). Since Price was traded during the offseason, the Blue Jays aren’t eligible to give Price a qualifying offer, so no draft pick will be attach to him. Anthopoulos said that the Blue Jays have a “strong interest” in resigning Price and will definitely be in the game to bring back their lefty ace. However, Price will be getting a lot of offers from teams eyeing for a frontline starter. Look for the Chicago Cubs, L.A. Dodgers and Boston Red Sox to join the bidding war with the Blue Jays.
Marco Estrada is coming off a career year and may have pick the perfect time for him to be a free agent. Estrada pitched wonderfully during the 2015 season with a 3.13 ERA and performed extremely well in the playoffs. Estrada has been the Blue Jays’ most reliable starter and could look for a multi year deal. The Blue Jays could also make a qualifying offer for Estrada. With the Blue Jays could potentially be without Price, it would be wise to bring Estrada back.
Mark Buehrle, the 36-year-old lefty, is mulling retirement or sign a one-year deal. If he does choose to continue pitching, it will be with a team closer to his home in Missouri, such as the St. Louis Cardinals.
Other pending free agents include reliever Mark Lowe and backup catcher Dioner Navarro. LaTroy Hawkins retired from baseball for good.
4. Other Roster Decisions
The Blue Jays have eight players, including Josh Donaldson, Justin Smoak and Ben Revere, eligible for salary arbitration this off-season. This means that they under control for multiple years but can appeal to an arbitrator to set their salary if they don’t like what the team has offered. The club could also non-tender players if they are having subpar seasons. The Blue Jays could go with Chris Colabello as their full-time first baseman and are expecting Michael Saunders, who missed almost the entire season due to a spring-training knee injury, to be compete for the left field spot. They also have a very young and athletic outfielder Dalton Pompey, who has a tremendous potential.