Do you think Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay will be part of the United States' pitching staff for the 2009 World Baseball Classic?
-- Paul B., Rockford, Ill.
As of right now, it doesn't look like Halladay will be suiting up for the U.S.A. in the upcoming Classic. After his final start of this past season, Halladay was asked about possibly pitching in the tournament, and here's what Toronto's top pitcher had to say about the topic:
"My focus, as of right now, would be on the season. I don't know where that comes into play, as far as Spring Training -- I haven't looked too deep at it. I really believe that I owe my best to the Blue Jays and, if that's something that's going to compromise that, then I probably wouldn't do it. But that's still kind of far away."
Halladay is, obviously, an integral part to any success the Jays will have in 2009. If he leaves the decision up to the club, Toronto would probably prefer that Halladay sits out the World Baseball Classic during the spring and instead prepares for the regular season. That's the most likely scenario.
There are a few other Blue Jays who could be playing in the Classic, though. Right fielder Alex Rios (Puerto Rico), infielder Marco Scutaro (Venezuela) and center fielder Vernon Wells (United States) took part in the tourney in 2006, and all have indicated that they'd be interested in playing again.
There's also a chance that pitcher Scott Richmond could suit up for Canada. His inclusion in the tournament could depend on his status with the Jays. If Richmond is realistically in the mix for a rotation job with Toronto, the club might prefer to keep him in camp, rather than have him pitching in the Classic.
With the offseason now here for Toronto, do you think the Jays will shop Rios? I know they signed him to an extension this year, but I don't think he's consistent enough.
-- Braydon G., Toronto
Sure, there's a chance that the Blue Jays will see what they might be able to get via trade for Rios, as well as other regulars on their roster. Toronto is in the market for starting pitching -- who isn't? -- and might also look for upgrades at first and third base. The Jays may also dangle outfielder Adam Lind to see what's out there.
When this past season ended, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi indicated that he'd be looking to the trade market this winter in an effort to obtain pitching. Opposing teams would probably covet Toronto's arms, but Ricciardi didn't rule out using his regular players as bait as well.
Of Toronto's starters, Rios might bring the most in return in a trade. Despite his drop in power production, Rios was still arguably the best all-around offensive performer for the Jays in 2008. Last winter, the Jays nearly pulled the trigger on a one-for-one trade that would've sent Rios to the Giants for pitcher Tim Lincecum.
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Now, with Rios signed to a long-term contract and coming off an inconsistent season, it's unlikely that the Jays could net an ace like Lincecum in a straight-up trade for the right fielder. Rios could certainly be tempting as part of a package, though. If Toronto did deal Rios, Jays top prospect Travis Snider has the tools to play right field.
Is third baseman Scott Rolen going to opt out of his contract? Everyone knows that A.J. Burnett is able to opt out of his, but Rolen can also do the same thing this winter. What are the chances he will?
-- Ryan M., Alcona, Ontario
While Rolen does have that option, it would be stunning if he decided to opt out of his contract. Rolen has the right to either demand a trade or opt out of his contract in order to become a free agent because he signed his current contract in 2002 -- well before the new Collective Bargaining Agreement went into effect in October 2006.
Under the new CBA, players who have five years of Major League service time and are traded in the middle of a multiyear contract can no longer demand to be traded after spending one season with their new team. Players who fall into that category but signed prior to the new rule still maintain that right.
Given the subpar, injury-riddled season Rolen just endured, he'd undoubtedly be in for a pay cut if he opted for free agency now. Under his current contract, Rolen is owed $11 million in each of the 2009-10 seasons. If he opted out, Rolen wouldn't be able to become a free agent until March 15 -- midway through Spring Training.
It's just as unlikely that Rolen would demand a trade after spending one season with the Jays. In doing so, he'd only be able to provide Toronto with a no-trade list of six teams and he'd also lose three years of free agency. So, it's more beneficial for Rolen to remain with the Jays, considering the circumstances.
With Jake Peavy on the trading block in San Diego, do you think the Blue Jays will make a serious offer, considering he is under contract until 2012 and has a club option for 2013?
-- Scott C., Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
The Padres have reportedly identified the Red Sox, Yankees, Angels and Rangers as potential American League trading partners in the Peavy sweepstakes. Those clubs have the ability to take on Peavy's contract, as well as the type of prospects San Diego is looking to receive for the ace pitcher.
The Blue Jays seem unlikely to land the talented pitcher. Beyond what the Padres are looking for, Peavy has a strong preference for the National League and would want an AL club to sweeten his deal in order to convince him to OK a trade out of the NL. That would include guaranteeing the $22 million option for '13 and reworking his no-trade clause.
I read that the Blue Jays may have an interest in signing Manny Ramirez. Do they have the ability to make a serious offer for his services?
-- Kieron D., Bryan, Ohio
Ramirez will likely be seeking at least a four-year deal, and possibly seeing if he can get a five- or six-year pact out of any deep-pocketed suitors. The Blue Jays are in the market for a power bat this winter, but the cost of acquiring Ramirez might be too steep for Toronto to be a serious bidder.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.