Mailbag: Who will be the fifth starter?

Mailbag: Who will get the last rotation spot?

The back end of the rotation is finally starting to have some promise. The problem is picking the best guy to round out the rotation. Who do you think could be the No. 5 starter in 2007: Josh Towers, Shaun Marcum, Casey Janssen or Dustin McGowan?
-- Paul D., Toronto

The final spot of the rotation is dependant on what Toronto does this winter. If the Blue Jays re-sign Ted Lilly and also pick up another starter, Gustavo Chacin would probably be the No. 5 starter. Even if Lilly signs elsewhere, there is an outside chance that Toronto could attempt to add two pitchers. One is more likely, though.

It's realistic to think that last spot could be up for grabs, though. Lilly's asking price might be too high for Toronto and the club might only be able to bring in one starter to replace him. That would bump Chacin up to the No. 4 job and leave guys like Marcum, Towers, McGowan and Janssen all in the running for the fifth spot.

Towers has the most Major League experience of the four pitchers in question. He won 13 games in 2005, and he's signed for $2.9 million in '07. After he went 1-9 with a 9.11 ERA in 12 starts last year, though, the Jays aren't about to hand the job over to him. Earlier this month, Toronto outrighted Towers to Triple-A, which is where he'll probably start in '07 unless he shows drastic improvement this spring.

Marcum probably has an edge over Janssen and McGowan at this point. He finished the season in the rotation and looked more comfortable as he progressed through his 14 starts. Janssen had an impressive stretch with Toronto last year, but he began the '05 season at Class A. He could contend for the No. 5 spot, but he'll more likely start at Triple-A and serve as an emergency option.

Toronto would like to see some improvement from McGowan, who is currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League. He's bounced between relieving and starting, but the Jays hope he can emerge as a candidate for a rotation spot in the spring. McGowan wants to start and Toronto has given him plenty of chances to prove himself.

Is there potential to see Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi do what he did last year this time around in the free-agent market? Or have we seen the last big-name signing for a few years?
-- Alec H., Kentville, Nova Scotia

Toronto plans to be a buyer this winter, but not to the extent that it was last offseason. Before the 2006 season, the Blue Jays had needs to address up and down their roster. The club needed pitching help in the rotation and in the bullpen, and it had to stengthen its lineup. Now the main pieces are in place and Toronto just has to fill in the gaps.

The Blue Jays will look to add pitching, but they'll be searching for a No. 3 or 4 starter. Toronto will also need to address its middle-infield situation -- probably by acquiring a shortstop. Other than that, the team might look to add another bat -- maybe someone to help at designated hitter or as a part-time outfielder.

Have a question about the Blue Jays?
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Question:

Adam Lind was a spectacular callup and I believe he could be a force to be reckoned with in the near future. My question is, will he still qualify as a rookie next season?
-- Larry D., Ottawa

According to Major League Baseball: "A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit."

So Lind will still qualify as a rookie in 2007. He was with Toronto for a month, but that was in September, when rosters expand to 40 players. He also had only 60 at-bats, which falls well short of the 130 at-bat limit.

Who do you think would be a better designated hitter for the Jays: Frank Catalanotto or Lind?
-- Joseph N., Toronto

Just based on experience, Catalanotto seems like he would be a better fit to be Toronto's DH. One problem is that Catalanotto would prefer not to be a full-time DH -- he would rather have more playing time in the outfield. If Toronto doesn't re-sign Catalanotto, Lind could get a shot at being the DH, but it's rare to see a young player placed in that role. The Jays could also look for DH help this winter through free agency or possibly through a trade.

Why did the Jays let Kevin Barker walk after the outstanding year he had in Syracuse?
-- David P., Milton, Ontario

It wasn't so much that the Blue Jays let Barker walk. The 31-year-old Barker chose to see what his other options were. Earlier this month, Toronto attempted to outright Barker to Triple-A, which was a move that he had the right to decline. That's what he did, making him a free agent. Toronto first baseman Lyle Overbay was blocking Barker's route to the Majors.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.