Without a doubt, it has been a season of turmoil for the Toronto Blue Jays. They were once favored as the World Series champions, once won a franchise best 11-straight games and now find themselves 16 games back of the AL East division lead.
What is in doubt is who will be back playing baseball north of the border next season after such a disappointing showing. Certainly there will be some new faces, which means that players will be packing their bags. It may not be as many as some fans would hope, but change is surely coming.
With almost two months of nearly meaningless baseball left for the Blue Jays, it is time to ask the question that Blue Jays’ fans find themselves asking every year: who will stay and who will go?
The Melky Cabrera experiment in left field is over in Toronto. Well, not yet—but as far as I am concerned, Cabrera will not be back next year.
Cabrera has limped his way to a .279 batting average through various knee and leg ailments this season. He has been on and off the disabled list all season and has appeared in only 88 games so far.
As his injuries worsen, his defense becomes more porous, which has led to his benching on numerous occasions. He got a night off as recently as this week against the Oakland Athletics because manager John Gibbons was concerned about his ability to handle left field with a fly ball pitcher on the mound. Not exactly the kind of scouting report any team wants their left fielder to have.
It is not often the case that when a player goes on the disabled list, the team gets better by subtracting. But that was the case when Cabrera went down. It meant a defensive upgrade and a lateral move offensively.
His exit out of town is all but spoken for. The only question left in my mind is how the Blue Jays will get rid of his $8 million contract.
Josh Johnson has struggled mightily this season and has posted a 2-8 record with a 6.20 ERA.
Johnson is a free agent at the end of the year, and the Blue Jays have a few options.
If they truly want to resign him, they can make him a legitimate contract offer. He would be wise to accept since his market value will be well below the $13.75 million he made this season.
If the Blue Jays want to part ways with Johnson, they have two options. They can cut their ties and let him walk while getting nothing in return, or they can try to get a compensatory draft pick.
This last option is the toughest, because under the new collective bargaining agreement, teams must make a qualifying offer to the player in order to receive a draft choice. If he rejects the qualifying offer and elects to test free agency, the Blue Jays receive a draft choice. Unfortunately, if he accepts it then the Blue Jays will have him under contract for at least another year.
My guess is that the Blue Jays let him go to free agency without a qualifying offer and save themselves some money.
2014 may be the season that the revolving door at second base finally closes. The Blue Jays will either make a move to acquire a second baseman in the offseason, move Brett Lawrie to second full time after an entire spring training there, or will roll the dice on Maicer Izturis full time.
Bonifacio has hit .221 this season and is not under contract next season. Meanwhile, Izturis is under contract until 2015 and has hit 20 points better than Bonifacio at the plate.
The Blue Jays need to ask themselves if resigning Bonifacio for the two or three million that his arbitration will determine is worth it for the defensive depth. My guess is that he will play one season and one season only with the Blue Jays.
Casey Janssen was arguably the most productive Blue Jays player this season, so surely he can not be on his way out, right? The Blue Jays closer is a free agent at the end of this season and there is a good chance it may be his last.
The Blue Jays have a $4-million option on his contract—nearly exactly what he got paid this year. However, they will still have Sergio Santos under contract next season who will assume the closing duties. Santos is a very capable closer, having saved 30 games in 2011.
Although Janssen has been with the Blue Jays for seven years and has become a fan favorite, it may be in the best interest of the team to let him walk and use the money saved to upgrade at other positions.