Do you see the Blue Jays changing their offensive approach? I think team batting average and on-base percentage are two areas the Jays could improve on in 2011.
--Kyle H., Denver
In his season's-end sit-down with the local media, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos cited on-base percentage as an area that was in definite need of improvement. Anthopoulos believes Toronto's offense can benefit from being more balanced up and down the lineup.
The only problem is that a team needs the right personnel in order to boast a well-balanced attack. Anthopoulos inherited a club that was built with a high slugging percentage as its primary attribute, and it is going to take time for him to change the makeup of the roster.
You saw a step in a new direction with the acquisition of shortstop Yunel Escobar from the Braves during the season. Escobar has shown decent on-base ability in the past and will be counted on at the front of Toronto's lineup in 2011. It will take additional moves like that one to create a more balanced offense.
Over time, through the First-Year Player Draft and trades, I believe you will see Anthopoulos aim for more-athletic players who possibly bring more speed or on-base ability. Those are two areas in which the Blue Jays lacked in 2010, when the club lived and died with the home run en route to a club record for long balls in one season.
The home runs were great -- Toronto tied the 1996 Orioles for the third-highest single-season total (257) in history -- but the Blue Jays would have benefited from having more baserunners along the way. The makeup of the offense might not be completely different in 2011, but Anthopoulos will put his mark on it over time.
With his incredible Major League debut aside, how does J.P. Arencibia's less-than-inspiring performance impact the direction of the team with regards to the catching situation for 2011?
--Trevor P., Mississauga, Ontario
To be honest, Arencibia's production down the stretch this season probably will not impact Toronto's plans too much. He received very little playing time over the final month of the season, making it difficult for him to show much in the batter's box or behind the plate.
Beyond that, the fact remains that Arencibia has nothing left to prove in the Minor Leagues. It is time for the Blue Jays to give him a shot in the Majors. Whether that means he will be the starting catcher or part of a tandem when 2011 opens is the big question.
All-Star John Buck can be a free agent and he has earned a full-time job as well as a long-term contract. Veteran backup Jose Molina's contract with the Jays includes a $1 million club option for 2011. Exercising that option would appear to make more sense if Arencibia is in the plans as the starter or if a shared role is in the young catcher's immediate future.
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Given that Aaron Hill is willing to move from second base to third base, who do you see up the middle? Escobar showed some skill at shortstop, but do the Jays see him moving to second with Adeiny Hechavarria at short? If Hechavarria is not ready for the start of the year (which he likely won't be), might John McDonald get the start at short?
For starters, just because Hill is willing to move to third base does not mean that it is going to happen. The only way I see Hill moving from second base is if the Blue Jays find a second baseman via trade or free agency who can double as a leadoff man. Right now, Hill is in the plans to be Toronto's second baseman.
If and when Hechavarria is deemed ready for the big leagues -- something not necessarily in the works for 2011 -- he will be the shortstop. As you mentioned, that could mean Escobar has a future at second base, which is probably where Hill's willingness to move comes into play.
As for McDonald, I still see him serving as a veteran backup off the bench. He is valuable in the role he is in and I don't see that changing in 2011. I believe the Blue Jays will open next season with Escobar at shortstop, Hill at second and a new addition at third base.
There has been a lot of talk about the Blue Jays non-tendering Edwin Encarnacion this offseason. Can you explain what that means?
--Ryan F., Toronto
Encarnacion is under contractual control but is eligible for salary arbitration this winter. The Blue Jays paid him $4.75 million in 2010. Toronto can either tender him a contract offer and sign him for one season, or non-tender him and send him into the free-agent pool.
It seems most likely that the Blue Jays will non-tender Encarnacion, considering the arbitration process typically results in a raise for a player. Given the third baseman's inconsistent season at the plate and in the field, Toronto's value for Encarnacion will likely fall below that of his camp.
If Encarnacion is back with the Jays in 2011, it might be a situation in which he signs after being non-tendered. Toronto did something similar with veteran catcher Raul Chavez last winter. In all likelihood, though, Encarnacion will either be at another position or in a different uniform next season.
Will pitcher Brian Tallet be showcasing any kind of awesome facial hair next year, regardless of where he plays?
--Donnie G., Ottawa, Ontario
Definitely. Whether it's a gigantic beard, huge mutton chops or a thick mustache, it seems like a sure bet that Tallet will arrive to Spring Training rocking some serious facial hair. Will he be doing so with the Jays? He is eligible for arbitration, but his struggles in 2010 make him a non-tender candidate.