Blue Jays’ core: Who’s here for how long?

Jose Bautista (Jon Blacker/CP)

Eric Hinske, Josh Towers and Russ Adams have all been viewed as building blocks for the Toronto Blue Jays at various points in the last decade. That in itself should tell you all you need to know about how quickly a team’s perceived “core” can evolve.

Yet the notion of a core prevails in baseball, a sport where winners distinguish themselves from losers with depth, and not necessarily superstars. Hinske and Towers never lived up to expectations, but then few general managers get to build around Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada.

As the Toronto Blue Jays attempt to re-shape their roster this coming winter, GM Alex Anthopoulos acknowledges that his team’s key players will inevitably evolve from year to year.

“The core changes,” Anthopoulos says. “And the core changes with performances from year to year.”

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By taking a look at the Blue Jays’ future salary commitments it’s not hard to identify their current core of players. Just as importantly, it’s possible to say how long the Blue Jays can keep them in Toronto (full list below).

Many of the team’s top players, including Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Brett Lawrie and R.A. Dickey remain under team control for at least three more seasons. Others, such as Colby Rasmus and Brandon Morrow, have just one more guaranteed year in Toronto.

Since so much of the Blue Jays’ core remains in place for three years—an eternity in the fast-paced world of MLB transactions—Anthopoulos is positioned to keep this team in place if he wants. If he prefers to re-shape the roster, as he did last winter with blockbuster deals with the New York Mets and Miami Marlins, then that option also exists.

“The core that we have in place from a contractual standpoint speaks for itself,” he says. “That’s not to say that we would rule anything out. No one has a no-trade clause. Clearly, with players that are productive if you move those players you don’t want to fill one hole to create one in another area. But I don’t think we ever enter any discussions saying we’re unwilling to discuss any player.”

The Blue Jays may consider trading players including Bautista this winter, but assuming the right fielder stays put along with Encarnacion, Anthopoulos can keep two of the top right-handed bats in MLB for the next three years. That’s a good starting point for any lineup.

The Blue Jays’ pitching staff needs work, though, so the front office must make changes leading up to the 2014 season, a reality acknowledged by Anthopoulos, manager John Gibbons and the Blue Jays’ players.

It’s now a question of how much change is required. If Anthopoulos wants to keep the core of this team in place, he can do so for another three years, supplementing the roster with starting pitching and a position player or two in the hopes of better health and results in future seasons.

And if the disappointment of 2013 has weakened Anthopoulos’ belief that the core currently in place will yield a winner, he can make larger adjustments such as the deals he made a year ago. Change is on its way one way or another, it’s just a question of how far the Blue Jays decide to go.

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How long the Blue Jays are under control

Here’s a look at how long the Blue Jays control the rights of the players on their roster who compiled at least 100 plate appearances or 20 games pitched in 2013. Keep in mind that while the Jays control the rights of these players, they will elect to trade and non-tender some before they reach free agency:

2013-14 free agents
Josh Johnson, SP
Darren Oliver, RP
Rajai Davis, OF
Ramon Ortiz, RP
Mark DeRosa, Util. – 2014 club option
Adam Lind, 1B – 2014 club option
Casey Janssen, RP – 2014 club option

Team control through 2014
Melky Cabrera, LF
Brandon Morrow, SP – 2015 club option
J.A. Happ, SP – 2015 club option
Sergio Santos, RP – 2015-16 club options
Dustin McGowan, RP – 2015 club option
Colby Rasmus, CF

Team control through 2015
Jose Bautista, RF – 2016 club option
Edwin Encarnacion, 1B – 2016 club option
R.A. Dickey, SP – 2016 club option
Ricky Romero, SP – 2016 club option
Maicer Izturis, 2B – 2016 club option
Mark Buehrle, SP

Team control through 2016
Brett Cecil, RP
Esmil Rogers, RP
J.P. Arencibia, C
Josh Thole, C

Team control through 2017
Jose Reyes, SS
Brett Lawrie, 3B
Steve Delabar, RP
Brad Lincoln, RP

Team control through 2018
Aaron Loup, RP
Munenori Kawasaki, IF

Team control through 2019
Anthony Gose, OF
Moises Sierra, OF
Kevin Pillar, OF
Ryan Goins, OF
Neil Wagner, RP

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