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Future of Jays hinges on Halladay

Future of Jays hinges on Halladay

TORONTO -- The direction that the Blue Jays take this offseason depends on the future of Roy Halladay. Either the ace will be back to lead a more experienced rotation, or Toronto will have taken a major step in rebuilding its foundation.

The Jays entertained trade proposals for Halladay this past season and, given the current state of the organization, the club will likely continue to field offers over the winter. Toronto's financial situation may not allow it to pursue marquee free agents this offseason, leading manager Cito Gaston to wonder if seeing what is out there for Halladay might be the best option.

"If we don't add anybody or go get somebody that can help out, I doubt if we keep him," Gaston said. "That's just my opinion. I don't know that. Would it make any sense? Probably not."

Gaston's comments are based on the fact that Halladay is eligible to become a free agent following the 2010 season. The Jays would love nothing more than to keep the ace right-hander in the fold, but Halladay's desire to take the mound in the postseason might not make that possible. Toronto hasn't reached the playoffs since 1993, and the chances of making a run next year are slim.

For Halladay, being convinced that the Jays can contend quickly is his top priority.

"To me, it's based on being a contender," Halladay said. "Sometimes there's other ways to do it than just payroll alone, but I don't know. For me, it's going to be, 'How soon can we win?', and, 'How soon can we compete?' How do we go about it really isn't my concern, as long as I feel like we're going to be competitive and have a legitimate chance.

"I have a year left, so I'd like to win next year."

After the Blue Jays dismissed general manager J.P. Ricciardi on Saturday, Halladay said the GM was "probably the biggest reason I was here for the last eight years." That being the case, the star pitcher was asked if hanging the reins to new general manager Alex Anthopoulos might influence Halladay's decision to potentially sign an extension down the road.

"I don't think I can go that far right now," Halladay said. "I think you look at all that and evaluate it, but I'm not going to make a decision at this point based on that. I think there's still good people here. Obviously, I've enjoyed [interim president and CEO] Paul Beeston and think he's great. Alex has been great.

"It's not about evil replacing good or anything like that. It's somebody that you like that is gone and you just have to kind of look at the change and move on."

Anthopoulos indicated that he is going to chart out a plan and direction in the coming weeks before discussing what type of payroll the Blue Jays will have in 2010. The organizational direction will play a major role in Halladay's future.

Halladay's value will be higher this winter than it will be closer to the Trade Deadline next July 31, so exploring trade packages would seem to make sense. Then again, the Blue Jays believe their rotation will be stronger next year after injuries forced a youth movement in 2009. When Spring Training arrives, Gaston feels the pitching staff will be well ahead of where it was the previous year.

"Without a doubt," Gaston said. "Last year, we went out and got some older players to come into Spring Training to see if they could make the club. I don't think you really need to do that. I think you have enough kids, and hopefully you're going to get [Shaun] Marcum back."

Beyond Halladay's situation, Marcum's status will also have a major impact on the Jays. Over the offseason, Toronto needs to find a shortstop and a catcher, and the team would like to add a power bat to its lineup. However, it will be the possible returns of Marcum (right elbow), Dustin McGowan (right shoulder) and Jesse Litsch (right elbow) that could determine the team's 2010 fortunes.

Gaston is looking forward to seeing how Marcum bounces back. The experience gained by young pitchers Ricky Romero, Marc Rzepczynski, Brett Cecil, David Purcey and others in 2009 was important, but adding a tested arm such as Marcum to the mix for Opening Day could make the Jays that much stronger on the mound.

"It's a shame, I didn't get a chance to really see this kid be himself," Gaston said. "Even Doc told me, he said, 'Cito, you'll love this kid. He's not overpowering, but he knows how to pitch.' I never really saw that out of him last year, because he was never healthy.

"I'm hoping that he comes to Spring Training healthy and I get to see that Shaun Marcum that everybody talked about. If he comes in, he certainly can help this ballclub. That's where we need some help, the starting rotation."

Especially if Halladay is no longer in the picture.

Contract issues
Free agents: Rod Barajas, C; Michael Barrett, C; John McDonald, SS; Kevin Millar, 1B; Marco Scutaro, SS.
Eligible for arbitration: Jeremy Accardo, RP; Jose Bautista, UTIL; Shawn Camp, RP; Raul Chavez, C; Edwin Encarnacion, 3B; Jason Frasor, RP; Brandon League, RP; Shaun Marcum, SP; Dustin McGowan, SP; Brian Tallet, RP.
Non-tender possibilities: Jeremy Accardo, RHP; Jose Bautista, UTIL.

Catchers
• Rod Barajas, .226 BA, 19 HRs, 71 RBIs
• Raul Chavez, .258 BA, 2 HRs, 15 RBIs
• Kyle Phillips, .284 BA, 9 HRs, 30 RBIs (AAA/AA)
• J.P. Arencibia, .236 BA, 21 HRs, 75 RBIs (AAA)
• Brian Jeroloman, .217 BA, 6 HRs, 32 RBIs (AA)

The Blue Jays want to re-sign Barajas, but he may elect to test free agency. If he signs elsewhere, Toronto will receive a compensatory pick in the June First-Year Player Draft and the club will be in the market for a new starting catcher.

First base
• Lyle Overbay, .265 BA, 16 HRs, 64 RBIs, .372 OBP
• Brian Dopirak, .317 BA, 27 HRs, 102 RBIs, 42 2B (AAA/AA)

After another inconsistent season, Overbay will likely return as the Jays' starter at first base in 2010 -- the final year on his current contract. Toronto might explore trading Overbay, especially with Dopirak knocking on the door in the Minors.

Second base
• Aaron Hill, .286 BA, 36 HRs, 108 RBIs, 103 R, 37 2B

Hill came back in a big way after suffering a serious concussion in May 2008, sidelining him for the rest of that season. Hill made his first All-Star team, set club records for homers and RBIs for a middle infielder and might be moved to the No. 3 hole of the lineup in 2010.

Shortstop
• Marco Scutaro, .282 BA, 12 HRs, 60 RBIs, 90 BB, 100 R, .379 OBP
• John McDonald, .235 BA, 2 HRs, 10 RBIs
• Angel Sanchez, .305 BA, 6 HRs, 60 RBIs (AAA)

Scutaro and McDonald are both free agents, but the Jays will likely try to bring one or both back. Toronto does not have a replacement ready in the Minors, so finding a shortstop is a top priority. The Jays would receive two compensatory picks in the next Draft if Scutaro signs with another team.

Third base
• Edwin Encarnacion, .225 BA, 13 HRs, 39 RBIs (CIN/TOR)

The Blue Jays acquired Encarnacion from the Reds in the four-player trade on July 31 that sent third baseman Scott Rolen to Cincinnati. Encarnacion is in line to be the starter at third for Toronto in 2010 and the club is hoping he can provide some power to the lineup.

Outfield
• Vernon Wells, .260 BA, 15 HRs, 66 RBIs
• Travis Snider, .241 BA, 9 HRs, 29 RBIs
• Jose Bautista, .235 BA, 13 HRs, 40 RBIs
• Joe Inglett, .284 BA, 6 RBIs, 35 G
• Buck Coats, .302 BA, 6 HRs, 56 RBIs, 25 SB (AAA)

Wells struggled through a down year in 2009, and Snider experienced some issues of his own throughout his rookie campaign. The Blue Jays are hoping both can rebound in 2010, and the club might look to upgrade its offense with a corner outfielder over the winter.

Designated hitter
• Adam Lind, .305 BA, 35 HRs, 114 RBIs, 46 2B, .562 SLG
• Randy Ruiz, .319 BA, 35 HRs, 123 RBIs, 50 2B (TOR/AAA)

There is a chance that Lind will play the outfield in 2010, but he enjoyed a breakout showing as the Jays' primary DH this past season. Ruiz -- a 31-year-old career Minor Leaguer -- is trying to convince Toronto to give him a shot next year as a DH or part-time first baseman.

Rotation
• Roy Halladay, 17-10, 2.79 ERA, 9 CG, 208 K, 230 IP
• Shaun Marcum, 2.30 ERA, 15 2/3 IP, 5 GS (A/AA/AAA)
• Ricky Romero, 13-9, 4.30 ERA, 141 K
• Marc Rzepczynski, 2-4, 3.67 ERA, 60 K, 61 1/3 IP
• David Purcey, 1-3, 6.19 ERA, 39 K, 30 BB, 48 IP
• Brett Cecil, 7-4, 5.30 ERA, 93 1/3 IP
• Scott Richmond, 8-11, 5.52 ERA, 117 K, 138 2/3 IP
• Brad Mills, 2-8, 4.06 ERA, 72 K, 84 1/3 IP (AAA)
• Jesse Litsch, 0-1, 9.00 ERA, 2 GS
• Dustin McGowan, DNP, right shoulder injury
• Robert Ray, 1-2, 4.44 ERA 4 GS
• Reidier Gonzalez, 4-6, 2.90 ERA, 67 K, 93 IP (AA)
• Zach Stewart, 4-1, 1.89 ERA, 93 K, 105 IP (AAA/AA/A)

Behind Halladay, who might be dangled in trade talks this winter, the Jays have a wide assortment of arms in the mix for jobs next year. Romero appears to be a lock for a role, and Marcum (right elbow) will have a job if he returns healthy. It will be an open race for the other spots. Litsch (right elbow) is out of the picture until at least May or June.

Bullpen
• Scott Downs, 3.09 ERA, nine saves, 43 K, 13 BB, 46 2/3 IP
• Jason Frasor, 7-3, 2.50 ERA, 11 saves, 56 K, 57 2/3 IP
• Brandon League, 4.58 ERA, 67 G, 76 K, 74 2/3 IP
• Jeremy Accardo, 2.55 ERA, 26 G, 18 K, 24 2/3 IP
• Shawn Camp, 3.50 ERA, 50 G, 58 K, 79 2/3 IP
• Jesse Carlson, 4.66 ERA, 73 G, 51 K, 67 2/3 IP
• Josh Roenicke, 5.23 ERA, 24 G, 33 K, 31 IP (CIN/TOR)
• Brian Tallet, 7-9, 5.32 ERA, 37 G, 25 GS, 160 2/3 IP
• Dirk Hayhurst, 2.78 ERA, 15 G, 13 K, 22 2/3 IP
• Brian Wolfe, 2-2, 8.22 ERA, 14 G
• Casey Janssen, 2-4, 5.85 ERA, 21 G, 5 GS

The struggles of B.J. Ryan, leading to his release in July, forced Downs and Frasor to step up as Toronto's closers this year. They will likely share ninth-inning duties again in '10. With the acquisition of the hard-throwing Roenicke, the Jays feel they have a lot of talent in their 'pen for next season.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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