I've heard some talk that the Blue Jays still have a shot at signing a starting pitcher because of the Draft pick compensation system. Can you explain what that is and how it impacts the Jays?
-- Joel B., Toronto
The pitchers impacted the most by free agent compensation are Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. Both pitchers declined qualifying offers at the end of the season and as a result interested teams have to forfeit a top Draft pick in order to sign them. That penalty always seems to have a negative influence on the player's value on the open market as evidenced last year when Kyle Lohse waited until March before signing with Milwaukee.
A similar delay has occurred with Jimenez and Santana this year and it's very possible their negotiations could drag into late January or early February. The system is potentially beneficial for the Blue Jays because they are one team that wouldn't hesitate as much to forfeit a pick. The Blue Jays have two selections in the first round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft that are protected and as a result the club would only have to part with a second round pick if they signed that type of free agent.
A recent report by FOX Sports indicated that the Blue Jays are still in the mix for either Jimenez or Santana. General manager Alex Anthopoulos has yet to make a move to address the glaring holes in the rotation, but it's possible that his patience will pay off if the asking prices for either pitcher becomes more feasible for Toronto's budget in 2014.
Why haven't the Blue Jays made any moves to address their starting rotation. Are the prices for free agents or trades really that high?
-- Bryn B., Calgary, Alberta
The biggest rumor surrounding the Blue Jays' search for starting pitching this offseason has centered around Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija but Chicago's reported asking price is a good indication of just how expensive the current market is. According to several reports, the Cubs have asked for not just one, but two, of the Blue Jays' top pitching prospects.
According to those rumors, the Blue Jays would have to trade both Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez for Samardzija. There's no question that Toronto still needs starting pitching, but it seems extremely unlikely that the club would pay that high of a price. Even trading just one of Stroman or Sanchez seems like a stretch for an organization that needs to preserve some of its pitching depth.
It appears that the Blue Jays are content to wait the market out and see what type of pitchers are still available later this month. That could be the time when the asking prices for free agents become a little more reasonable and also when other teams will be more realistic in their trade talks. Samardzija would be a nice upgrade, but he does come with some question marks with only two years of starting experience under his belt.
What's the latest on the Blue Jays' Spring Training facility being moved from Dunedin to Palm Beach County?
--Bill D., Ottawa, Ontario
The writing appeared to be on the wall for Toronto's departure from Dunedin, Fla., when the organization signed a letter of intent for a shared Spring Training complex with the Astros. The proposed site was located in Palm Beach Gardens and was tentatively scheduled to open in 2017, but there has been a snag in those initial plans.
The move is being reconsidered after the city allowed Palm Beach County officials to investigate whether another location would better suit the city, county and teams. According to Astros general counsel Giles Kibbe the project is still moving forward, but the city wanted to give the county an opportunity to explore whether another location would work instead.
The deal has been in the works for several months, but it's not immediately clear what the city's decision will mean for the proposed site. Houston continues to prefer its original location which is along Interstate 95 and would be close to the Marlins, Cardinals and the Mets.
I was listening to a radio interview with Roy Halladay last month and he mentioned about maybe being at Spring Training with the Blue Jays. What would his role be?
--Mike B., Toronto
Halladay could become a visible figure during next year's Spring Training. He lives in Clearwater, Fla., which is a very short drive from Toronto's Minor League complex in nearby Dunedin. There has been some talk that Halladay could take on some type of coaching role and he seems to be very interested in learning more about the inner workings of a front office.
It's a natural transition for Halladay because it will still give him plenty of time to be with his family. After spending the past 18 years in professional baseball, Halladay made the decision to retire based on both his overall health and a desire to not always be on the road.
Anthopoulos recently said the Blue Jays would be open to Halladay joining the organization in just about any capacity. It likely will be limited at first, but as the years progress, Halladay could become even more of a contributing factor to the organization.
It seems like the Blue Jays might not be doing much of anything this offseason. If they stick with the status quo are there any internal candidates that could take them to the next level?
-- Connie B., Thunder Bay, Ontario
It's impossible to put an entire organization's hopes on just one player, but the biggest wild card for next year is probably Brandon Morrow. Toronto has been searching for a bona fide frontline starter all offseason, but so far it hasn't liked the asking prices either through trade or free agency.
Morrow has the potential to become that pitcher despite an injury plagued 2013 season. He has the best pure stuff of anyone in the current starting five and it's still not a stretch to believe that he could become a legitimate ace in the American League. But, in order to do that, he'll have to prove some skeptics wrong and even more importantly he has to stay healthy.
The native of California turned a corner two years ago with a breakthrough season. His 2.96 ERA was an indicator of just how effective he can be and Morrow will have to regain that previous form for the Blue Jays to realistically be considered contenders in the AL East.
What do you think is going to be one of the most interesting story lines during Spring Training?
-- Cameron H., Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
The biggest competition to watch during the spring will definitely be for the final spot in the starting rotation. Manager John Gibbons and pitching coach Pete Walker will face a rather difficult challenge in making sure all of the contenders receive a sufficient amount of innings to get ready for the start of the year.
There's a very long list of pitchers who could be in the mix for the fifth spot: Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek, Todd Redmond, Esmil Rogers and possibly even Marcus Stroman and Sean Nolin. There also has been some talk that Jeremy Jeffress and Dustin McGowan could be stretched out during Spring Training so there will be a lot of names to consider.
All of that could change if the Blue Jays manage to find another starting pitcher on the open market. Left-hander J.A. Happ currently projects as the fifth starter but could drop down an additional spot if an upgrade can be found elsewhere. That would take away from the competition but either way there are a lot of options to consider.
When does Spring Training officially begin?
-- Douglas D., Ottawa, Ontario
The first official workout for pitchers and catchers will take place on Feb. 17 with the first full-squad workout scheduled for Feb. 21. The club will then have a five days of practices and possibly an intrasquad game before the Grapefruit League season gets underway on Feb. 27.
The real treat for Canadian baseball fans won't come until a month later when the Blue Jays are scheduled to play a pair of exhibition games against the Mets in Montreal. The two-game series will be played at the Olympic Stadium and reportedly a very large number of tickets have already been sold for the event.