It seems that Toronto has a large number of pitchers without options who are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. Will some of them be traded for upgrades elsewhere?
-- Joe, Toronto
The Blue Jays do have a lot of pitchers out of options, but they won't be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. All players on the 40-man roster are protected from the Rule 5 Draft, while others must have spent four or five years -- depending on age -- in the Minor League system before being eligible.
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Toronto does have a lot of players who could be taken in the Rule 5 Draft. Historically, it's mostly relievers or middle infielders that get drafted, and general manager Alex Anthopoulos recently said he didn't think there was any serious danger of losing a valuable player.
In terms of pitchers who are out of options, though, it's true that the Blue Jays are at risk of losing some talent. The club has eight pitchers who can't be sent to the Minor Leagues without going through waivers, and at best only four or five of those will have a chance to make the big league roster. Anthopoulos will either take a risk with waivers or use a pitcher to round out a bigger trade for an upgrade elsewhere.
After the implosion of the starting rotation and the lack of, well, anything from the catching position, what should be taken care of first? And who should the Blue Jays get to catch for them? A.J Jimenez?
-- David B., Calgary, Alberta
Jimenez isn't expected to be a legitimate candidate behind the plate next year. He'll likely begin the season at Triple-A Buffalo and only receive a callup if there's an injury on the big league roster. That could change depending on how the offseason unfolds, but it would be in the best interest of the club to provide Jimenez with more seasoning in the Minor Leagues.
The 23-year-old is currently ranked by MLB.com as the Blue Jays' ninth-best prospect. Jimenez required Tommy John surgery last year, which limited his playing time in 2013 to just 67 games. Only eight of those came at Buffalo, and while his abilities behind the plate are generally regarded as being ready for the Majors, he still has some work to do with the bat.
Toronto does appear to be in the market for a new starting catcher next year, but it won't be Jimenez. Expect another move to be made, otherwise J.P. Arencibia will have another opportunity to lock down the everyday role. Brian McCann likely will command a large contract on the open market, but fellow free agent A.J. Pierzynski would make a lot of sense, while according to a recent report, the club is also looking at the Angels' Chris Iannetta or Hank Conger.
What are the chances that the Blue Jays move Brett Lawrie to second base and Jose Bautista to third? This would allow Anthopoulos to pick up an outfielder via trade or free agency, which may be easier to come by this offseason.
-- Eli H., St. Catharines, Ontario
It's true that a talented outfielder would be easier to find than a skilled second baseman, but that's still not the direction I'd expect the Blue Jays to take this offseason. Lawrie received limited action at second this year, but it seems as though the club prefers his Gold Glove-caliber defense at third rather than experimenting with a new position.
Bautista is already on record saying that his preference is to remain in right field. That doesn't mean he would never change in the future, but it would take an outfielder with an extremely high upside to justify that kind of permanent move. A more likely scenario is that Lawrie remains at third base while the Blue Jays look for an upgrade up the middle.
During the offseason, do players focus on their issues, such as Colby Rasmus on accurate throws to the plate, Anthony Gose on hitting or Arencibia on catching wild pitches?
-- Eileen K., Saint John, New Brunswick
Every player typically goes through at least a month of inactivity to allow enough time for their bodies to recover from the grind of a 162-game season. That period of rest is then usually followed by intense workouts as part of an offseason program to begin preparation for Spring Training.
Pitchers tend to not even pick up a baseball until mid-December, because they need to avoid overworking their arms. Hitters don't have the same concerns, so a lot of their work can continue, and in the case of Gose, he lives in Florida during the offseason and is expected to do a lot of work at the club's Minor League complex in Dunedin.
For Rasmus and Arencibia, there are certainly things that can be improved, but most of the changes will occur in Spring Training. It's not uncommon for coaches to visit players during the offseason, but they only have a limited amount of time to build a strong working relationship. Most of it will wait until the spring, when there's six weeks of preparation before the regular season.
I saw that Drew Hutchison was named the pitcher of the week in the Arizona Fall League. What other Blue Jays are there and how have they been doing?
-- Scott B., Ottawa, Ontario
The Blue Jays have seven players taking part in the AFL: infielder Andy Burns, outfielder Kenny Wilson, outfielder Derrick Chung, right-hander Aaron Sanchez, right-hander Marcus Stroman, right-hander John Stilson and Hutchison.
The four pitchers are the ones to keep an eye on. It's an impressive group of the club's top young arms, and each one of them has unique reasons for being there. Hutchison is attempting to build up his innings after losing almost the entire 2013 campaign recovering from Tommy John surgery. Sanchez is making up for lost time after a blister and a shoulder issue limited him to just 20 starts.
Stroman's 2013 campaign didn't begin until May because of a suspension for using a banned substance. Stilson transitioned to the bullpen this year and continued in that capacity with the Salt River Rafters in Arizona. For each of the pitchers, the work done at the end of the season could go a long way in making sure they are ready for a full workload in 2014.
Hutchison has been the most impressive pitcher to date. He had allowed just one earned run while striking out 14 and walking just two in 15 2/3 innings before his start on Wednesday, when he allowed six earned runs in just two innings. Sanchez has been equally as effective, with only two earned runs in 13 1/3 innings, but he does have eight walks with only 10 strikeouts.
What is the latest update on Bautista and how he's recovering from the hip injury? Is he a candidate to be traded this offseason?
-- John T., Toronto
Bautista appears well on his way to making a full recovery from a deep bone bruise in his left hip and should be ready to go by the start of Spring Training. He was cleared to begin working out in late October and has since been keeping fans appraised of his progress via Twitter (@JoeyBats19).
Unlike Bautista's wrist injury from a year ago, the bone bruise doesn't come with the risk of carrying over into the following year. The cure was an extended period of rest, and Bautista received that by being shut down for the year on Aug. 20. There's no reason to suspect he won't be arriving to camp at 100 percent.
As for being a potential trade candidate, it's impossible to rule anything out at this point, because the Blue Jays have several holes that need to be filled on their roster. Bautista obviously is a valuable commodity and would generate a lot of interest from other teams, but it would seem unlikely that the Blue Jays would be willing to part with their franchise player. Keep in mind, trading Bautista would create a big hole in right field, so a lot of value would have to be coming Toronto's way for a move to make sense.
Who's out of options on the Blue Jays' 40-man roster?
-- Chris D., Waterloo, Ontario
The Blue Jays have nine players on their roster who are out of options: left-handed pitchers Brett Cecil and Luis Perez ; right-handed pitchers Todd Redmond, Esmil Rogers, Sergio Santos, Jeremy Jeffress, Brad Lincoln and Dustin McGowan ; and outfielder Moises Sierra.
Players who are out of options have to pass through waivers before they can be sent to the Minor Leagues. With such a high number of players who fit into this category, Toronto will have some tough decisions to make this offseason and during Spring Training.