Is Ricky Romero even considered to make a contribution to the Blue Jays this season? Given the fact that he makes so much money and Toronto is in desperate need for a starter, does he have a shot to make the big club this spring?
-- Jemel J., Clifton, N.J.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos has been asked about candidates for his starting rotation multiple times this offseason, and it's rather telling that Romero's name is rarely brought up. More often than not, Anthopoulos hasn't mentioned Romero, unless it was in response to a direct question about the Blue Jays' former No. 1.
That certainly doesn't mean that Romero can't pitch his way onto the team this spring, but he has to be considered at least somewhat of a long shot. The early favorites for the fifth spot in the rotation appear to be either Esmil Rogers, Todd Redmond or Drew Hutchison, with Jeremy Jeffress, Dustin McGowan and No. 3 prospect Marcus Stroman possibly receiving consideration as well.
Romero appears headed for Triple-A Buffalo, and the only thing that could realistically change that is if he returns to form during Spring Training. But for anyone that wants to completely write off Romero's future, Anthopoulos is also quick to point out examples like Scott Kazmir as reasons for optimism. Kazmir was out of the Major Leagues for almost two full years before making a triumphant return with the Indians in 2013.
Where do the Blue Jays stand on Colby Rasmus? Are they going to extend his contract further or will this be his last year with the club? In saying that, what does the future hold for Anthony Gose and the Blue Jays?
-- Joel W., Thorold, Ontario
There has yet to be any indication that the Blue Jays have seriously explored the possibility of extending Rasmus' contract. Rasmus is just one year away from free agency, but by all accounts, the organization will take its chances of re-signing him later in the year or receive a compensatory Draft pick should he sign with another team instead.
The belief is that the organization would like to see more consistent production before locking up Rasmus to a long-term contract. Rasmus is coming off a breakout season at the plate and was one of the Blue Jays' most reliable performers in 2013, but his previous track record isn't quite as trustworthy. Another strong year at the plate could change that line of thinking, just like it did with Edwin Encarnacion in 2012.
Whether it's the Blue Jays or not, there's very little doubt that Rasmus is going to be in line for a very lucrative contract at the end of the 2014 season. If he's able to stay healthy and consistently perform, the contract demands are only going to increase and certainly could eclipse the six-year, $85.5 million contract that Adam Jones signed with Baltimore midway through the 2012 season.
If that seems excessive, consider Jacoby Ellsbury recently signed a seven-year deal with the Yankees worth more than $150 million. Rasmus won't approach that number, but an average of $15 million per season is within reach under the right circumstances. Taking all of that into consideration, I'd be surprised if the Blue Jays will be able to lock up Rasmus. My guess is that he leaves as a free agent after the end of 2014, which would then make Gose the everyday center fielder, depending on how he performs this year.
Am I right or wrong to think the Blue Jays don't need to sign any starting pitchers? They re-signed Rogers, they have Redmond, plus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez are pretty close to being ready.
-- Chad M., Lethbridge, Alberta
I'm going to have to politely disagree with you on this one. If everything goes right, the Blue Jays might be able to get away with their current group, but in my opinion, there is a glaring need for at least one more reliable arm. The overall depth isn't an issue, but the quality of those pitchers in the mix for jobs certainly is.
R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow and Mark Buehrle represent a solid starting three, but another high-end starter seems rather necessary for this team to be considered a legitimate contender in the American League East. That would also allow the likes of Hutchison, Rogers, Redmond and Stroman to be used when a starter inevitably gets injured at some point during the season.
The lack of depth became a really big problem in Toronto last year, as Sanchez, Ramon Ortiz and Dave Bush all saw time in the rotation. There shouldn't be a similar issue this season, but that doesn't change the fact that someone needs to emerge as a reliable option to combine with the top three.
Is there any truth to the recent media report on the relaxed environment during Spring Training? Do you expect that the Spring Training philosophy will change this year after last year's disappointing season?
-- GK, Washington, D.C.
To be honest, I think a lot of that was overblown. There are a few areas that need to be rectified this spring, but the same thing could have been said about former manager John Farrell's first Spring Training with the Blue Jays back in 2011. Adjustments are made every season, and with so many fresh faces, it was rather understandable that current skipper John Gibbons took a hands-off approach as players began to settle in.
This spring, I'd expect to see a few minor adjustments. The workout days might be a little longer, and the pitchers will have bigger pitch counts to work with, but outside of that, I wouldn't expect major discrepancies from last year. With the exception of the days being about 30 minutes shorter, Toronto's Spring Training was run very similarly to previous years and resembled ones that I've witnessed with other ballclubs.
The real issue with last year's Spring Training was the World Baseball Classic. Dickey was in a rush to get ready for the international tournament, catcher J.P. Arencibia departed camp to play for his country, which unfortunately impacted how much he could work with Toronto's staff, and Brett Lawrie suffered an injury. When those three issues are combined with prolonged absences from Encarnacion and Jose Reyes, it's a little easier to see why Spring Training was perceived to be a failure for the Blue Jays. That won't be an issue in 2014.
The Blue Jays got off to a terrible start last year. Mark DeRosa, and perhaps others, indicated many players had trouble adapting to fielding on the AstroTurf. Given that may be an issue, should the Blue Jays head north earlier to get used to the turf at home?
-- Jim M., New Glaskow, Nova Scotia
The Blue Jays aren't going to leave Florida early to begin working on the AstroTurf because they have to follow the Grapefruit League schedule, but you still raise a very good point. It has been very common for players to complain about the turf during the first couple weeks of the season, in part because they didn't have enough time to work out at the facility in advance.
It's worth noting that the Blue Jays do have an infield practice field with AstroTurf at the club's Minor League complex in Dunedin, Fla., but it's still almost impossible to compare that with the real thing at Rogers Centre. It's a problem that can't be fully resolved until the Blue Jays move to a natural grass surface at Rogers Centre in the coming years.
But there is an added benefit this year with the Blue Jays heading to Montreal at the end of camp. Toronto will play the Mets in two exhibition games at the end of March, and while it's not identical to the surface in Toronto, it will still ease the adjustment at least a little bit.