Blue Jays fans and media have been speculating on the futures of several Toronto Blue Jays players, now that the Jays have fallen comfortably out of a wild card playoff spot and the gaze goes beyond this season. Brian Cafardo of the Boston Globe speculated recently on several Blue Jays including Melky Cabrera, Casey Janssen, Brandon Morrow and Jose Bautista. Today, I want to take a different approach with some of the Blue Jays: Will they or won’t they be back?
In this article, I’m looking at players whose contracts are running out or on whom the team has options. I won’t be talking about hypothetical trades.
1. Melky Cabrera – Melky is making less money than he’s worth right now although, arguably, the total value of his two-year, $16-million contract is about the right amount for what he’s done over the past two years. Cafardo thinks he’ll be looking in the four-to-five-year range and can probably get about $15 million per year. Are the Blue Jays willing to pay that much for that long of a deal? Are the Jays willing to pay another outfielder (and a somewhat less productive one) more than Jose Bautista?
I think Melky has been excellent this year and, when not slowed down by a tumour on his spine, is a really good player. The other question to ask is whether or not he can be replaced easily. Do the Blue Jays have a switch-hitting, major-league ready left fielder in the minors ready to go? Nope. The closest thing would be Kevin Pillar (who doesn’t switch hit) and there’s a chance that the stretch between now and the end of the season is where he really demonstrates that he can hit big league pitching consistently.
Verdict: Re-sign Melky
2. Colby Rasmus – Colby is the epitome of the hot and cold player. When he’s going well, he can be one of the best hitters in the game. When he’s not, he looks useless at the plate. With a potential price tag of upwards of $10 million next year as a free agent, Colby is definitely on the outs with the Blue Jays. Anthony Gose has looked stellar in the field and decent enough at the plate to make up for the regressed year that Rasmus has been putting together. The emergence of Dalton Pompey in the minors this year gives the Jays another option (with a better bat and almost-as-good glove) in case Gose doesn’t work out in 2015.
Verdict: Let him Go(se).
3. Casey Janssen – As great as Casey has been as a Blue Jay, his injury history, combined with the likelihood of a ballooning paycheque and his ineffectiveness lately are enough to let Janssen go. There has been talk on sports radio about who might be the heir to the closer’s role and Mike Wilner has repeatedly stated that the inside track belongs to Brett Cecil or Dustin McGowan. Personally, I’m more comfortable with McGowan as a closer but anyone who thinks that Aaron Sanchez will be the team’s closer to start 2015 is nuts. Like most closers, both he and Stroman will have to fail as a starter before either of them are moved to the bullpen. Sanchez will be given every opportunity to start.
Verdict: Let him go.
4. Brandon Morrow – Everyone says that the Blue Jays will let Morrow go at the end of the season. I’m not 100% convinced that it’s going to be that simple. Morrow has a $10 million option on his contract (with a $1 million buyout) and the Jays are almost certainly going to buy him out after the season. After that, however, the question is going to be what the Blue Jays are willing to do and whether they feel that Morrow can still be a useful pitcher out of the bullpen. Cafardo speculates that the Red Sox (and John Farrell) would love Morrow as a “secondary starter.” If he gets sufficiently lucrative offers to be a “secondary starter” (I think that means that he won’t be in a team’s starting five but will be available in case of injury . . . haha), the Blue Jays are unlikely to match that but if the Jays could buy out his option and renegotiate a further contract in the $4-5 million range, there’s a chance he could be back in the bullpen. Ultimately, the decision will be Morrow’s and will depend on what type of interest there is on him in the free agent market. Remember that Brandon League got almost $20 million for three years (and a vesting option that could be worth as much as $9 million in 2016) to be a non-closer; the market could very quickly price the Jays out of the game for Morrow’s services.
Verdict: Buy out the option and try to renegotiate a contract that would be reasonable for a bullpen pitcher.
5. Adam Lind – Lind has a club option for $7.5 million for 2015. Given what he’s done this year against righties, the contract is a useful one for the Blue Jays in 2015. If he stays healthy (a big “if”), he earns his money.
Verdict: Bring him back.
6. J.A. Happ – Happ has a club option on his contract for $6.7 million for 2015 and has shown this year that he’s capable of some really good things when he takes the ball. He also has games in which he sucks but most fifth starters don’t have the flashes of dominance that Happ has had. As a fifth starter, he’s actually been very good and for $6.7 million, he’s going to be a very solid addition to the rotation. With a projected rotation (barring a trade or injury) of Dickey, Buehrle, Stroman, Sanchez and Hutchison, Happ will likely be a swing man but having the insurance at a price that is well below the going rate for a guy who’s done what he’s done this year has value in itself.
Verdict: Happ(y) to have him back.
7. Dustin McGowan – He’s got a $4 million option. The decision here is simple: his overall numbers aren’t great but a lot of that is coloured by his poor outings as a starter.
Verdict: Bring him back.
8: Josh Thole – This one’s tough. Is A.J. Jimenez ready to be the backup catcher? Do you keep Thole around to keep R.A. Dickey happy? As nice of a guy as Thole is, I honestly think that you either bring up A.J. Jimenez or try to find a backup who might have some move offensive value.
Verdict: Cut him loose.
9. Sergio Santos – Santos has a $6 million club option and isn’t even on the 40-man roster. Unlike Ricky Romero (who has one more guaranteed year on his contract), the Jays are able to cut Santos loose after the season. Still, I would certainly try to renegotiate something on a smaller deal and maybe not guarantee the deal unless he makes the opening day roster. That said, I’m sure there are other teams who would give him a couple of million (or more) in the belief that they can turn him around.
Verdict: Buy him out but see if you can get him back for about $2 million. Otherwise, let him go.
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