Fast forward 2012 and Alex is ready to do some holiday shopping (whether he wants to admit it or not). Last Friday AA was asked on TSN Radio what his Christmas Wish List was for the Blue Jays, and he responded with this answer:
"We need to shore up the bullpen, add a front/middle rotation starter, and a middle of the order bat."None of this is earth-shattering news as Anthopoulos has reiterated these needs several times this off-season. It's not new information, but the timing of these needs certainly couldn't be better.
The Blue Jays are in a very unique position because they can cross all three of those things off the list via free agent signings. The only thing it's going to take is money ... and lots of it. And yet the burning question is "are the Blue Jays willing to spend it?"
Alex could very easily fulfill those needs for some bullpen arms, a starting pitcher, and a big bat. The players that fit the bill are still out there, and a crop of this caliber of free agents might not be available again for a long time.
Incredibly, the Blue Jays have not signed one single free agent at all this off-season. Almost all of the player acquisitions have been via trade, with a few arbitration offers sprinkled in for good measure.
So to help out Santopoulos a little bit, I've conducted a list of free agents who fit the criteria the Blue Jays are looking for. If AA wants to do a little last-minute Christmas shopping, he should get on the phone.
Top Tier: Ryan Madson, Francisco Cordero, Dan Wheeler
Middle Tier: David Aardsma, Chad Qualls, Mike Gonzalez, Brad Lidge
The Blue Jays already have their closer in Sergio Santos, but a little more back-end bullpen help couldn't hurt. Madson, Cordero and Wheeler are three of the best options still out there, but they would undoubtedly also command the most money.
Perhaps if the closer market cools off considerably in the next few months and the Blue Jays can get one of them to sign to a similar deal like Kevin Gregg did in February 2010, then it's safe to take a pass.
The market for middle tier relievers is still very saturated with the likes of Qualls, Gonzalez and Sherrill. Chad Qualls might be a good addition for the Blue Jays, but it all boils down to the right price. Anything around $2 million would be reasonable for Qualls.
Front/Middle Rotation Starter
Top Tier: Edwin Jackson, Roy Oswalt, Hiroki Kuroda
Middle Tier: Rich Harden, Jeff Francis, Joe Saunders, Jon Garland
Originally I had Yu Darvish penciled in as the number one free agent target for the Blue Jays, but we all know how that ended. So rather than rehash those memories, let's look at some alternatives.
Edwin Jackson is a perfectly acceptable consolation prize in the Yu Darvish Sweepstakes. In fact, I'm a little surprised a team hasn't signed him already, unless he was just waiting to see what was going to happen with the Darvish posting.
The feature I really like about Jackson is his durability. His past five seasons, Edwin Jackson has averaged 195 innings pitched per season. I wouldn't expect him to have a career year, but one thing Jackson would certainly do is eat up innings.
The rest of the field of free agent starting pitchers doesn't really excite me at all, as most come with a history of injuries. Oswalt, Harden and Francis are three prime candidates, and Saunders and Garland have been mediocre starters who always command top dollar for some reason.
Middle of the Order Bat
Top Tier: Prince Fielder, Carlos Beltran
Middle Tier: Carlos Pena, Casey Kotchman, Vladimir Guerrero
Much like the field for starting pitchers, there is one player here who fits the bill perfectly for what the Blue Jays need: Prince Fielder.
On paper, a middle of the order comprised of Jose Bautista and Prince Fielder would be one of the deadliest in the American League. With Fielder, you're getting a player with a proven track record and he's arguably in the prime of his career right now.
As a Scott Boras client, it would come at a hefty price and a long-term contract. I can't see Fielder wanting anything less than 7-8 years, and as much as I like the prospect of Prince Fielder in a Blue Jays uniform, I'm not certain what a 35 year old Fielder is capable of.
The next best bat on the list is Carlos Beltran, who oddly enough has been connected to the Blue Jays as well. At 34, Beltran would really only be a band-aid solution and would command a shorter-term contract, but likely a higher salary.
Carlos Beltran would be a nice toy to have, but like the bratty kid who's going to get a billion gifts for Christmas, it's a toy the Blue Jays don't really need. Beltran only adds to the logjam in the Blue Jays outfield, and if he were to DH he would then push Edwin Encarnacion to the bench.
As inconsistent as EE was in the first half last season, I'd much prefer his $3.5 million salary to potentially $10 million for Beltran for the same offensive results.
The middle tier hitters is an area where the Blue Jays can afford to take a flyer, as Pena and Kotchman could potentially ink one-year deals. The same problem arises though, as signing one of these guys either pushes Lind or Encarnacion off their position.
By no means am I endorsing the Blue Jays head to the open market to fill all these positions and sign the best players available; that's just not Alex Anthopoulos' style. However, if money suddenly weren't an issue, the team could very easily fill these voids and set up the roster nicely.
With the exception of Prince Fielder, I think the internal candidates to plug these gaps would be much more cost effective and potentially just as good as any other free agent. And they could do it for just above the league minimum salary.
Why sign Chad Qualls when you have Joel Carreno? Why sign Edwin Jackson when you have Kyle Drabek or Henderson Alvarez? Why sign Casey Kotchman when you have Edwin Encarnacion?
If it makes sense to spend they cash to land a free agent, then I don't think the fans will show much resistance. After losing out on Yu Darvish, I think everybody might be a little too anxious to spend the dough just for the sake of spending it.
Here's the catch 22 when it comes to payroll; if the organization goes out and spends a bunch of cash and fails to deliver results, then the naysayers will have a heyday. It's a very fine line that AA has to ride and I definitely don't envy his position.
Regardless of when or even if the Blue Jays sign any free agents at all, here's wishing you all a safe and happy holiday and may Santopoulos be good to you all. I'm wishing for one of the new flashy alternate Blue Jays jerseys myself.
Happy Holi-Jays, everyone!