6 Big Players the Toronto Blue Jays Should Pursue This Winter
Every year, the Toronto Blue Jays inch closer and closer to a playoff appearance.
That being said, there are two vast misconceptions in Toronto: Rogers Communications will spend the big bucks, and Toronto is rebuilding.
Let me assure you that both of the above speculations are false.
The boys of summer are hoping to finally elude the daunting American League East after missing the playoffs every season since 1993, but spending casino money isn't the solution (see Miami Marlins circa 2012).
Essentially, if it takes twenty years to get it right for Toronto, then so be it.
This winter, Toronto will be faced with even more challenges then there were last time around. With the emergence of certain rookies, the fall of others due to injury and contracts reaching the end of the road, it's about time Toronto finally made the big acquisition every Jays fan is waiting for.
In this slideshow, we'll look at the big-name players Toronto should seriously make a run at. These players will make an immediate impact on the club, because Toronto has ample talent in the minors already.
The Blue Jays need to pull the trigger on a couple of these guys this offseason, because 2013 is the year.
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This offseason, Shields is set to hit free agency, but he still has a $9 million club option with a $1.5 million buyout.
Toronto should make a run at Shields for the sole reason that he is a big-game pitcher.
Although he's been in a bit of a slump this season, he still sports a 13-8 record with a 3.88 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Also, if he can replicate his ability to go deep into games (11 CGs in 2011), he will make for a tremendous addition to the starting rotation.
On a plus side this season, Shields has only given up 22 home runs, which is the best in his career (and helps a Blue Jays' team who gives up a lot of long balls).
Shields would be the workhorse in a Toronto rotation that is scrambling for starting pitchers. Although the bullpen situation seems to be figured out, the Blue Jays learned this season they can't rely on the same players every night.
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To be completely honest, Curtis Granderson doesn't do anything extraordinarily well, but that's only because he's a five-tool baseball player.
Granderson hits for power (75 home runs in the past two seasons), hits for average (career .263), runs the bases (three seasons of 20-plus stolen bases), has a great arm from the outfield and plays awesome defense.
Although Toronto has Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista solidified; Rajai Davis as a reliable fourth outfielder; and a plethora of youngsters to fill the final outfield spot, that position is key for the Blue Jays to find an impact guy.
It's very difficult to assume a young player will make an immediate impact. It's possible, but Granderson is as sure a thing as they come, and by the time one of those rising stars is ready, the big club will be too.
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Justin Upton is a rising star in the majors, and although that might be tough to see with his .272/.350/.407 numbers this season, he is definitely someone worth pursuing.
At the Trade Deadline, Toronto seemed to be in the mix for Upton, who's name has been thrown around multiple times in terms of trade rumors. After a 5.7 WAR in 2011, he's dropped drastically to 1.3 this season.
The 2011 version of Justin Upton is the guy Toronto would hope to acquire. The 2012 version of Justin Upton is the reason his stock is so low right now.
That being said, it might be his price tag that scares Toronto away.
He's making just under $7 million this year, but next season the trouble begins. He's scheduled to earn $9.75 million in 2013, and skyrocket to $14.25 million the following season.
For a guy who's playing the way he is, the money may not be worth it. But if he can pick up his game, he should be a tremendous addition to the outfield, who again cannot rely solely on rookie talent to take them to postseason glory.
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Revisiting the subject of acquiring Josh Johnson might seem somewhat daunting for Toronto fans, more than it is for management.
CBS Sports' Jon Morosi tweeted that Toronto was interested in a vastly overpriced J.J. at the Trade Deadline, but picking him up would have caused major financial issues for the Blue Jays.
So at the end of the day, waiting on him isn't such a bad thing. Come wintertime, the wait will be over, and Toronto should pursue Johnson through and through.
J.J. isn't a rental player for Toronto, which is partially why they didn't pull the trigger on him. In the winter, however, Johnson would make a nice addition to the Blue Jays' crumbling starting five.
It's easy to say that his stuff isn't as great now as it used to be, and simply put, that couldn't be more true. He doesn't have the same velocity he used to, but his baseball senses have grown because of it.
He's got the ability to adjust to what pitches work best for him on any given day, which makes him a key asset. Although he isn't the top pick in the offseason, he is definitely an ace for any ball club he pitches for.
Johnson is definitely worth pursuing because he's a gamer who knows how to win, and Toronto needs that headline at the top of their staff.
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An underrated free agent this offseason, Jeff Keppinger would nicely fill the void at second base in Toronto.
With Kelly Johnson's contract expiring, and his numbers sliding every game (.191/.278/.325 since the All-Star break), the Blue Jays are in need of a productive second baseman.
Keppinger is versatile, and is very comfortable at second (has yet to make an error at second base in 107 innings this season). On top of playing great defense, he also hits very well.
His .328/.375/.443 numbers in 2012 are on track to be the best of his career, and with Kepp hitting the FA market in 2013, the Blue Jays should swipe him away from the pack.
That being said, if someone goes down with an injury, Keppinger is also able to play first, shortstop, third and any outfield position. He's a win-win for Toronto, and he should definitely be on the radar.
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Matt Garza is a tricky one to work around, and is something of a fragile topic.
It was almost a sure thing that the Blue Jays would steal away Garza at this year's deadline, but after going down with his season-ending injury, a change of heart was in order.
To be clear, Garza would not be the go-to guy for Toronto (although he has potential to be that guy later on), but he is a mound presence.
His determination on the diamond is amazing, exemplified by his 1.17 WHIP this season. Not only that, but Garza has experience pitching in the AL East, something many might undermine.
The Blue Jays should take a chance on Garza based on the fact that his stock is low right now because of his elbow problem. Although his contract might be chunky, he would fit in with Toronto.
The Blue Jays know what they're going to get from him (assuming he stays healthy), and he has the ability to take over the staff in a big way, taking them back to the playoffs.