What do you think makes the most sense for the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista? A) One-year deal with a high salary. B) Multiyear contract with a lower average annual salary. C) Not bring him back at all.
-- Josh, Waterdown, Ontario
The problem is that what makes the most sense for the Blue Jays doesn't make the most sense for Bautista. From Bautista's perspective, it's logical to hold out hope as long as possible for a multiyear deal. At age 36, there's incentive to maximize the guaranteed money and prevent against an injury further diminishing his value. From Toronto's side, it needs to capitalize on the market and limit long-term risk.
There are conflicting interests here, but it's still possible the two sides will reach a compromise. Toronto might want the compensatory Draft pick, and Bautista might want that multiyear deal. But if he's still unsigned in the weeks leading up to Spring Training, can either side really afford not to work something out?
To answer the question, a one-year deal in the range of the $17.2 million qualifying offer might be the best solution for both parties. The Blue Jays would get the middle-of-the-order bat they need, and if the season didn't pan out, the club would look to deal Bautista -- who would have 10/5 no-trade rights (10 years in the Majors, five with the same team) -- to recoup some of the value from the lost compensatory pick.
Do you believe that the Blue Jays ever had any intention to sign Edwin Encarnacion, or was the offer only made because they knew that he would not accept it that early in free agency?
-- James H., Fredericton, New Brunswick
I'm all for a good conspiracy theory, but when you look at the facts, this one doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Encarnacion was offered four years and $80 million just before the start of free agency. Sure, it was impossible to know at the time that it would be the highest bid, but even then, there was no denying it was a hard, competitive offer. Teams don't just put $80 million on the table, cross their fingers and hope the deal gets turned down.
It's certainly fair to criticize the approach each side took during these negotiations. Encarnacion received some heat for being so vocal about wanting to return, only to then turn down a competitive offer in favor of free agency. Toronto has been attacked for not being more patient and moving so quickly to sign Kendrys Morales. Who's really to blame can be debated without going to the extreme and believing this was all a big setup from Day 1.
Are the Blue Jays going to become more of a hit-and-run team next season with the loss of Encarnacion and potentially Bautista?
-- Scott M., Peterborough, Ontario
The long-term plan is to build a more versatile lineup, but whether it can be done in time for 2017 remains to be seen. Toronto still has a lot of high-strikeout players who provide almost all of their value via the home run. The Blue Jays finished fourth in the American League with 1,362 strikeouts, and even though Bautista and Encarnacion were responsible for 241, they were never the real problem.
Manager John Gibbons can't be expected to get overly creative when the bottom half of his lineup is filled with the all-or-nothing approaches from players such as Melvin Upton Jr. and Justin Smoak. A team needs to play to its strengths, and right now, speed isn't one of those for the Blue Jays. They are trying to change that, as evidenced by the pursuit of free agent Dexter Fowler, but it's also clear this transition won't happen overnight -- or even in one offseason.
Could the Blue Jays use some of their top prospects, like Angel Perdomo and Conner Greene, as relievers to strengthen the bullpen?
-- Jesse, Le Mars, Iowa
That's not an approach I would expect to see from the current Blue Jays regime. General manager Ross Atkins seems intent on making sure his prospects have the proper time to develop before breaking into the big leagues, and personally, I think that's a wise stance to take. When it comes to young players, there should be a clearly defined plan, and needs at the big league level shouldn't change that approach. Instead, those holes should be filled by other means.
There's no denying that former GM Alex Anthopoulos enjoyed a lot of success in Toronto. Most of his moves made sense, but the way the Blue Jays handled some of their prospects was, at times, questionable. Rushing Roberto Osuna to the Majors paid off, but it backfired in the cases of Miguel Castro, Sean Nolin and Matt Boyd. Aaron Sanchez panned out, but his constant shuffling between the rotation and bullpen toed a very fine line and played a big role in his 2016 innings limit. Fill the bullpen through free agency or trades and let the prospects develop at their own pace.
Do the Blue Jays really think they can get through a whole season with Aaron Loup as the lefty reliever? I think they need to get Jerry Blevins or Travis Wood.
--- Millan, Grand Manan, New Brunswick
Adding a lefty remains a priority. So no, I don't think Loup will just automatically become the primary option, and no, I don't think the club would be comfortable if that's how all of this played out. Toronto has yet to sign a reliever to a Major League deal this offseason, but I think it's a pretty safe bet to assume one will eventually be handed out to a lefty. Blevins, Wood, Boone Logan and J.P. Howell are among the names to consider, and I would be very surprised if this role wasn't addressed in the coming weeks.
Would it make sense for the Jays to add a starter? Using Francisco Liriano in the 'pen fills a lefty need and it also adds starting depth. Two birds, one stone?
-- Paul L, Moncton, New Brunswick
Atkins ruled out this possibility during the Winter Meetings. Sure, there's a need for someone like Liriano in the 'pen, but there's also a bigger need for him in the rotation on a full-time basis. With a quality arm, using Liriano for 200 innings instead of 60-70 provides more value and upside on a team that will need to win from the mound.
Liriano deserves credit for accepting a relief role late last season, but it's not something he was overly comfortable with. The 33-year-old rightfully views himself as a starter, and with one season to go before free agency, a job in the bullpen probably wouldn't sit too well with him, either. Add in the fact that Toronto doesn't have a viable backup option to start beyond the frequently injured Gavin Floyd, and keeping Liriano in the rotation is an easy call.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the
Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to
his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.