Is it the right time for the Blue Jays to sign Prince Fielder? There will probably never be an instance in the future where you receive a 27-year-old player of his caliber for this value given the circumstances.
-- Kris D., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
The Fielder-to-Toronto rumors seemed to take on a life of their own at last week's Winter Meetings in Dallas. General manager Alex Anthopoulos went out of his way on multiple occasions to talk about payroll parameters and a reluctance to guarantee a lot of years to one player as a way to distance his club from the speculation.
As things stand, it does not appear the Blue Jays are among the suitors for Fielder. The All-Star first baseman reportedly is seeking an eight- to 10-year contract, which is well above and beyond what Toronto would be comfortable with.
Blue Jays president Paul Beeston has spoken out for years about his reluctance to sign players to contracts that exceed five guaranteed years. Anthopoulos appears to follow the same line of thinking, so unless Fielder's demands drastically drop in the coming weeks, it does not appear the Blue Jays will be among the finalists for his services.
I was wondering if any of the current players on the 40-man roster are out of options for the 2012 season. -- Neil S., Guelph, Ontario
The Blue Jays have six players on their 40-man roster who are out of options. The list includes right-handers Dustin McGowan and Sergio Santos, left-hander Luis Perez, outfielder Rajai Davis, infielder Luis Valbuena and catcher Jeff Mathis.
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Those six players cannot be sent to the Minor Leagues without first being exposed to waivers. It's a similar situation to the one Toronto faced earlier this year with left-handers Jo-Jo Reyes and David Purcey, as both pitchers made the Opening Day roster as a way for the Blue Jays to maintain their rights.
McGowan, Santos, Perez, Mathis and Davis all appear to have secure jobs with the club next season. That leaves Valbuena as the only player at risk of being exposed to waivers when Spring Training opens in February.
When players sign contracts during arbitration, are they guaranteed deals? -- Jason S., Kitchener, Ontario
There is no rule in place that dictates whether contracts negotiated during the arbitration process are guaranteed or non-guaranteed deals. The team and player are allowed to negotiate either scenario, and there aren't any mandated guidelines to follow.
If the two sides are unable to reach an agreement and it goes all the way to an arbitration hearing, then an independent arbitrator sets the salary and it is automatically a non-guaranteed contract. Teams would then be permitted to release the player before the start of the year and only be forced to pay one-sixth of the salary for 2012.
That was the final outcome in 2008 with outfielder Reed Johnson. The Blue Jays opted to release the veteran shortly after signing Shannon Stewart, and Johnson became a free agent. At the time of writing this Inbox, it wasn't immediately clear whether the Blue Jays gave guaranteed or non-guaranteed contracts to Mathis, McGowan and right-hander Jesse Litsch when they avoided arbitration earlier this week by signing one-year contracts.
Who did the Blue Jays send to the Cardinals as the players to be named later in the Colby Rasmus trade?
-- Michael K., Ottawa, Ontario
When the Blue Jays traded for Rasmus in July, there were three players to be named later or cash considerations going to the Cardinals as part of the deal.
Anthopoulos confirmed to MLB.com earlier this week that cash considerations were sent to St. Louis to complete the trade. There will not be any players to be named going to the Cardinals as part of the transaction.
As is customary with this type of move, the amount of cash sent to St. Louis was not disclosed. The final trade with the Cardinals will go down as Rasmus, Brian Tallet, Trever Miller and P.J. Walters for Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel, Corey Patterson and an undisclosed amount of cash.
When will we find out what team is getting Yu Darvish?
-- Melinda M., Halifax, Nova Scotia
The deadline to submit a bid for Darvish was Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET. The Nippon Ham Fighters now have until Tuesday to decide whether to accept the top bid or keep Darvish's rights for next season. Multiple online reports have suggested the top bid exceeded expectations, and there appears to be very little doubt that Nippon will accept the offer before next week's deadline.
The club which submitted the winning bid would then have 30 days to negotiate a contract with the Japanese sensation. Toronto was rumored to be one of the teams involved, and Anthopoulos joined Texas' Jon Daniels as the only two general managers who traveled to Japan to watch Darvish pitch.
Darvish posted a 1.44 ERA in 232 innings this season and he hasn't posted an ERA above 2.00 since 2007 in the Nippon Professional Baseball League. The scouting reports are varied, but most project him anywhere from having a No. 1 skill set to that of a No. 3 starter.
How does the television rights work for MLB teams? Do the Blue Jays own the rights to their games, thus making them able to sell the rights to stream games to Japan?
-- Mitchell H.
The Blue Jays do not own the rights to their games in Japan. Since Japan is an international market, a deal has to be worked out with Major League Baseball and would not equate to an increase in revenue for the Blue Jays.
The advantage to having a player with the type of international star power as Darvish can be found in other promotional areas. Advertisements within Rogers Centre could be sold to Japanese companies looking for exposure on television, while merchandise and ticket sales could also see a spike in sales.
With Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco officially gone, how is the Jays' bullpen shaping up? Alex A. has addressed the closer question with Sergio Santos, but what are other possible working parts?
-- Scott W., Waterloo, Ontario
Upgrading the bullpen remains one of Anthopoulos' top priorities for the remainder of the offseason. The Blue Jays are in the market for a left-handed reliever and also a righty that has the potential to set up for Santos.
Perez is the only left-hander on the Blue Jays' roster that is expected to make the team out of Spring Training. Anthopoulos ideally would add a lefty specialist, and as a result, has been linked to free agents Darren Oliver and George Sherrill.
Toronto already has right-hander Casey Janssen in position to be a main component of bridging the gap from the rotation to Santos. But Anthopoulos indicated during the Winter Meetings that Janssen could be even more valuable if he was shifted to a seventh-inning role.
Anthopoulos is expected to explore all options in free agency, but said the solution for middle relief might be found via trade. The Blue Jays have the type of Minor League system that would allow them to make that sort of move without sacrificing a major piece of the future.
What was your take on Kelly Johnson telling the media he had no intention of playing the outfield next year?
-- Darrell H., Vancouver, British Columbia
Johnson did seem rather confused during a recent radio interview in Toronto when he was asked if he would be open to the idea of playing left field. During the Winter Meetings, Anthopoulos mentioned the possibility of using Johnson in the outfield, but the news apparently didn't make its way back to the veteran until he spoke with the media.
All of that likely is a moot point, though, as it does not appear Johnson would be a serious outfield candidate. The 29-year-old is the only legitimate possibility to start at second base, and he will be looking to rebuild his overall value at the position following a somewhat disappointing 2011 campaign.
Toronto already has Eric Thames, Travis Snider, Rajai Davis and Ben Francisco competing for time in left field. There won't be enough innings to go around, and at least one of these players will be sent to the Minor Leagues, while the remaining two will likely assume roles on the bench. It's an area of depth for the Blue Jays and one they don't need to add any more players to, unless it's to set up a trade with another organization.