TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays have to shift focus to the off-season after being eliminated from the American League Championship Series by the Kansas City Royals in six games.
Here are five things the Blue Jays need to address before spring training:
Re-signing the ace left-hander will be the top priority of Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos this off-season.
Arguably the best starter in baseball, Price is a free agent. His recently expired deal was a one-year agreement with the Detroit Tigers for US$19.75 million.
Toronto assumed $7.23 million of that contract when trading for him in late July.
Aside from youngster Marcus Stroman, all of the Blue Jays’ rotation from 2015 could be departing, with Mark Buehrle possibly retiring, Marco Estrada becoming a free agent and the team holding an option on R.A. Dickey’s contract, so nailing down Price is an important step.
Toronto Blue Jays\’ general manager Alex Anthopoulos speaks at a press conference in Toronto on July 28, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch
Toronto Blue Jays\’ general manager Alex Anthopoulos speaks at a press conference in Toronto on July 28, 2015.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch
Before Anthopoulos can start negotiating with Price or anyone else on this list, he has to settle his own contract with the Blue Jays, which expires in late October.
Anthopoulos will be dealing with Mark Shapiro, the longtime Cleveland Indians executive who is replacing Paul Beeston as team president and CEO in the off-season.
Anthopoulos says he wants to return and Shapiro has said he wants the Montreal-born GM to stay in Toronto, but the deal still must be struck.
The Blue Jays worked first base by committee in 2015 with Edwin Encarnacion, Chris Colabello and Justin Smoak all spending time at the position.
Encarnacion settled in to the designated hitter’s role by the end of the regular season, leaving Colabello and Smoak to share first base in the post-season.
However, Smoak becomes a free agent this winter and the Blue Jays have a team option on Colabello’s deal.
Waiting in the wings is career minor-leaguer Matt Hague, who was named the 2015 most valuable player of the triple-A Independent League.
Lack of depth in Toronto’s bullpen was the Achilles heel of the Blue Jays’ post-season.
Although closer Roberto Osuna and righty Aaron Sanchez were consistent, an injury to Brett Cecil early in the division series against Texas and an ongoing family crisis for Aaron Loup left Toronto without any left-handed options in late innings.
Also, veteran LaTroy Hawkins is retiring, removing a strong leader from the bullpen.
Devon Travis made a strong impression last spring, earning American League rookie of the month honours in April with a .325 average, six home runs, 17 runs and 19 RBIs.
He was sidelined by a shoulder injury in May, made a brief comeback in late June before being put on the disabled list for the rest of the season on July 31.
In his stead, defensive specialist Ryan Goins shone, making several highlight-reel catches and hitting a respectable .250 in the regular season with five homers.