The Blue Jays continue to accumulate talent, and an extended period of contention could begin in 2012. It doesn't hurt that an additional playoff team will be added to each league next year. Let's speculate on who the Blue Jays might pursue during the 2011-12 offseason to help take their team to the next level.
I discussed Toronto's 2012 payroll issues on Tuesday. I'll speculate that they exercise options on Jason Frasor and Jon Rauch and decline on Aaron Hill and Edwin Encarnacion, putting commitments in the ballpark of $54MM.
Back in January, Blue Jays president Paul Beeston said, "We should be a city that can have $140 million, $150 million in the way of salaries. We could support that, and that's the direction that we're headed." GM Alex Anthopoulos talked about a "very fluid" budget, which "has the ability to rise with the right opportunity."
Should we expect the Blue Jays to immediately add $85MM in 2012 salaries during the offseason? Of course not. Anthopoulos said he's not going to "spend for the sake of spending." However, it is fair to say that there is no free agent the Blue Jays can't afford if they deem him a worthwhile investment. There's a lot of baseball to be played in 2011, but here are my guesses at the spots Anthopoulos could try to upgrade during the offseason:
- Second base: Hill has five months to prove his options are worth exercising. If he fails, the free agent market offers little beyond Kelly Johnson. I don't see anything in the way of exciting trade candidates.
- First base: Adam Lind is the man right now and could be in 2012 as well if he resumes hitting. He's also a candidate to be used at DH. I still believe the Blue Jays could be legitimate suitors for the two big-name first basemen: Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols. Fielder is more likely to make it to the free agent market. The question is whether Anthopoulos will view a seven or eight-year, $125MM+ investment in Fielder as a sound one.
- Designated hitter: There are plenty of options at DH each year on the free agent market. Even if they sign a first baseman, the Jays could add a DH as well if they're unhappy with Lind. The biggest name out there could be David Ortiz, but it's a flexible position and about a dozen free agents could be slotted in.
- Left field: A major acquisition here seems unlikely, with Travis Snider holding the spot and prospect Eric Thames behind him. Still, the Jays could consider a veteran on a one-year deal depending on where Snider and Thames stand.
- Bullpen: Depending on whether they exercise their relievers' options, the Blue Jays could have a decent pen in place for 2012. I wouldn't anticipate a big free agent contract from Toronto for the likes of Jonathan Papelbon or someone like that.
- Rotation: The Jays have some question marks beyond Ricky Romero. They've certainly got plenty of talent beyond the lefty, though, and it makes sense to wait to see how everyone comes along in 2011. The free agent market is weak after C.C. Sabathia, so maybe Anthopoulos will lean toward a trade here if he does anything.