Offseason Outlook: Toronto Blue Jays

Next up in our Offseason Outlook series, the Blue Jays.  Here’s the roster:

C – Rod Barajas – $2.5MM (club option)
C – Curtis Thigpen – $400K
1B – Lyle Overbay – $7MM
2B – Aaron Hill – $2.59MM (cleared for physical activity in October?)
SS – Marco Scutaro – $1.1MM
3B – Scott Rolen – $11MM
IF – John McDonald – $1.9MM
IF – Jose Bautista – $1.8MM+
IF/OF – Joe Inglett – $400K
LF – Travis Snider – $400K
CF – Vernon Wells – $10MM
RF – Alex Rios – $5.9MM
DH – Adam Lind – $400K

SP – Roy Halladay – $14.25MM
SP – Jesse Litsch – $400K
SP – Dustin McGowan – $404K (shoulder surgery July ’08)
SP – Casey Janssen – $404K (shoulder surgery March ’08)
SP – David Purcey – $400K

RP – B.J. Ryan – $10MM
RP/SP – Scott Downs – $3.75MM
RP – Jesse Carlson – $400K
RP – Jason Frasor – $1.125MM+
RP – Brian Tallet – $640K+
RP – Jeremy Accardo – $400K
RP – Brandon League – $400K+

Other bullpen candidates: Brian Wolfe – $400K, Shawn Camp – $412K+

Other rotation candidates: Scott Downs, Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil

I have the Jays with about $80MM committed plus arbitration raises to Bautista, Frasor, and League.  After that they’ll still be under $85MM.  The Blue Jays entered ’08 with a $98MM payroll, so they should have over $13MM+ to spend.  ’09 payroll will apparently be "appropriate, but not significantly higher" than in ’08.

Let’s start with the rotation.  Looks shaky, which shows you how quickly starting pitching depth can evaporate.  The Jays will need one of McGowan and Janssen to return successfully from shoulder surgery, or for Downs to convert successfully back to starting.  They’d look a lot better with another veteran starter.  But do the math – if payroll stays the same the Jays will barely be able to squeeze in A.J. Burnett at $15-18MM.  I don’t see Burnett remaining with the Jays.

The Blue Jays had a below-average offense in 2008.  Maybe full seasons of Wells, Lind, Hill, and Snider can remedy that.  The clearest position to upgrade via free agency is shortstop, where Rafael Furcal is tempting.  A DH type like Milton Bradley, Jason Giambi, or Raul Ibanez could work if the Jays don’t mind sitting Snider or Lind.

Toronto seems to have a surplus in the bullpen, though not as much if Downs goes to the rotation.  If he stays in the pen, J.P. Ricciardi should aggressively shop Ryan.  Ryan at two years, $20MM looks decent in a weak closer market.  That’d free up $10MM in ’09 payroll without weakening the team much.  With that the Jays might be able to afford Furcal plus a free agent starter.  Even then they’d need a lot of things to go right to snag a playoff spot in 2009.

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