Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What's next? A look at the Blue Jays roster PT 1

Now that it seems as though the Blue Jays have shored up their bullpen, what exactly is their next move? Do they stand pat and bring the current squad into 2012? Do they continue to try to upgrade? Are there spare parts that need to be unloaded?

In part 1, I'll break down the Blue Jays’ starting pitching to see where their core pieces lie and where they'll continue to look to upgrade.

Starting Pitching

The Core:

Ricky Romero - Signed through 2015 with a club option for 2016, Ricky fits in the long term plans as a top of the rotation type starter.

Henderson Alvarez - After a great debut in 2011, Hendo's fastball and changeup combo alone will allow him to carve through Major League line ups due to his supreme command of both pitches. His ability to cut his fastball and develop a consistent slider that already looks great when he throws it correctly could vault him into a top of the rotation type pitcher.

Jury is still out on:

Dustin McGowan - Timing is the biggest issue with Dustin. His return in 2011 showed he still has great stuff to get big league hitters out, but being out of options and in his last year of arbitration, 2012 will be the deciding year on whether the Blue Jays decide if he will be in the rotation going forward.

Brandon Morrow - Entering his second year of arbitration, Brandon's clock is ticking. With the best stuff on the staff, 2012 will be the year for him to prove that he belongs in this rotation long term. With a solid 2012 campaign, I could see the Blue Jays attempt to sign him to a 2 year + 2 club option deal around July or August.

Kyle Drabek - Biggest question mark right now. As it stands, he currently sits as the Blue Jays 6th starter. I can't picture the Blue Jays having plans for him to start the year in AAA. One, it doesn't raise his trade stock and two, they need to see what he has right now. He definitely has the stuff to be a top of the rotation guy, but 2012 is the year we need to find that out. As a member of the Blue Jays staff, not in the minors.

Trade Bait:

Brett Cecil - While he'd make a solid starter in most other divisions, his stuff just isn't good enough for the AL East. I'd like to see the Blue Jays place him in the bullpen in hopes of raising his stock like Rzepczynski's did last season.
Luis Perez - I'm not sold on Luis Perez in thebullpen. I'd like to see AA trade off Perez in a Teahen salary dump somehow. I'll throw some suggestions out below.


Drew Hutchison - In my opinion, Hutch is closest to MLB ready compared to the other two listed below listed and quite possibly even Drabek. However, the SPs above will get the opportunity to start ahead of him, but he will definitely be the first prospect looked at if there are injuries. If Romero/Morrow/Alvarez/Drabek/McGowan prove to work out, Hutchison will instantly move into trade bait territory. I think Drew is going to be a solid pitcher in the MLB, but I'll take the upside of the first five any day.

Deck McGuire - Judging by video I saw of Deck in July, he is clearly another year away from the MLB. While the stuff is there, the command clearly isn't. If he puts it all together, look out though. Love his fastball, cutter, slider and changeup. He could be a front line guy down the road.

Chad Jenkins - Another prospect that could probably step into a big league rotation right now, I believe he'll be second in line if there are trades/injuries/inefficiencies. Long term though, I can see him in the backend of a bullpen. He has a hard fastball and slider, slightly reminiscent of Duane Ward's arsenal.

Trade suggestions:

I think there are still pieces out there that could improve the bullpen, even if it's addition by subtraction. I prefer Cecil over Litsch and Perez in the bullpen chart, so if AA is able to unload one or both, I'd be all for it. A couple of pitchers that quickly come to mind are Matt Thornton in Chicago where KW is looking to unload salary, or even K-Rod in Milwaukee. There I could see the Blue Jays finding a taker for Teahen if they included a bullpen arm like Litsch and either Cooper or McDade (both 1B prospects that will be playing in AAA in 2012). These kinds of moves could allow for Cecil to step into the bullpen or be one of the pieces sent in the other direction.

External options:

Where trades don't seem much of an option, a few spots could open up if the Giants decide they don't want to lock up BOTH Cain and Lincecum and will look to trade one or the other. Rangers could look to trade one of their young starting pitchers to land a long term option in CF and keep Hamilton in LF. Then there's always Seattle, but they'd be instantly salivating over Lawrie and D'Arnaud, lacking long term options at both positions.

On the FA front, there doesn't seem too much that AA would be open to acquiring, other than possibly taking a flyer on Roy Oswalt. AA has said time and time again he prefers the trade route, so we shouldn't expect too much out of the FA route anytime soon.

Blue Jays have two planned starters in their long term core, while Jury is still out on Morrow, McGowan, Drabek and Hutchison. While Cecil and Jenkins are future trade or bullpen possibilities.

That being said, the Blue Jays do have a lot of options on the starting pitching front going into 2012. So don't expect a lot of things to change unless a top of the rotation starter with years of control becomes available at the right price.

Tomorrow, I'll look at an easier topic. The Blue Jays infield.

As always, you can follow me on twitter @GCM1979


  1. I have a feeling Cecil will be better this year - Morrow as well. Both are valuable arms... the next calendar year is going to be really interesting. Right now there is a ton of prospects - some are going to have to be traded off while the value is high...

  2. Agreed on all fronts. Cecil had a change in mechanics mid season that resulted in a lot more movement on his pitches. He started bringing his arms over his head from the wind up. Mind you, he wasn't able to do that while pitching from the stretch. If he comes back stronger and in better shape and rediscovers the life on his fastball, it'll be interesting to see if he can still maintain the added movement with more velocity.
    I loved watching Morrow's cutter in his last 3 starts. But he'll still need to command his fastball like he did in last half of 2010. If he can command both, he could have a stellar year.