Blue Jays in position to contend beyond 2015

Toronto Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker joins Prime Time Sports to talk about having David Price and company in the lineup.

TORONTO – The simplistic and trite cliche “all-in” got thrown around a fair bit last week to describe the deadline deals pulled off by Alex Anthopoulos, implying that the Toronto Blue Jays put the franchise’s future on the line with a reckless one-time gamble on 2015.

To be fair, with a total of 11 minor-league pitchers moved in four trades, including gilt-edged prospects Jeff Hoffman and Daniel Norris plus lefty Matt Boyd, who outduelled Johnny Cueto for his first big-league win Wednesday, such an impression is understandable.

Anthopoulos spent some very significant prospect capital.

At the same time, the Blue Jays have a core that can remain largely intact for the next few years, creating the potential for an extended window of contention, though some deft touches will be needed.

The rotation is the primary area with the potential for glaring holes in 2016, as David Price, Mark Buehrle and Marco Estrada are all pending free agents. Hoffman, Norris and Boyd may be missed then, but with Marcus Stroman due back from injury and the ability to stretch out one or both of Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna, the Blue Jays do have a few controllable options.

That’s one reason why Anthopoulos felt he could move so many pitchers, and combined with the opportunity in the standings for the 2015 club’s gifted offence, the time was right to make a push.

“You try to do what’s right for the organization,” he said after the deal for Tulowitzki and Hawkins. “That’s probably the greatest challenge. If anybody asks you (about) being a GM, managing the short and the long term, it’s real, real tough.”

Managing the long-term means having assets in the farm system, and while the Blue Jays have been significantly thinned out, prospects remain. With all that in mind, here’s a look at how the big-league club is positioned in years to come, along with who is in the minors coming up.


In the Majors

Russell Martin – The marquee catcher is under club control through 2019 and will continue to carry the load, due $15 million in 2016 and $20 million in each of the three years after that.

Dioner Navarro – The excellent backup and occasional DH is eligible for free agency at season’s end after completing an $8-million, two-year deal.

In the System

Josh Thole – The knuckleball specialist who has spent most of the season at triple-A Buffalo is finishing up a $4.25-million, three-year deal but still has a final arbitration season remaining.

A.J. Jimenez – Long considered the club’s catcher of the future, his progress continues to stall because of injuries, this time June surgery to clean up cartilage in his left wrist cutting his season short.

Max Pentecost – A first-round pick in 2014, his season hasn’t started after a second shoulder surgery in February sidelined him at the beginning, and he’s sitting right now with biceps tendonitis.


In the Majors

Edwin Encarnacion – The team holds a $10-million club option on the elite slugger for 2016 that will be exercised, after which he’ll be eligible for free agency. His long-term future is a question the club must address.

Justin Smoak – Will be eligible for arbitration a second time in the fall but will platform off his non-tender number of $2.8 million last year, rather than his $1-million salary. With his cumulative power numbers, his salary could shoot up into the $4-million range, making him a potential non-tender candidate again.

Chris Colabello – The December waiver claim picked up to rake for triple-A Buffalo has been a pleasant surprise and is a 0-3 service time player who won’t be eligible for arbitration until after the 2016 season, at the earliest.

In the System

Rowdy Tellez – The imposing 20-year-old slugger graduated from low-A Lansing to high-A Dunedin by delivering the type of pop expected from his 6-foot-4, 245-pound frame.

Second Base

In the Majors

Devon Travis – The only blemishes on an excellent rookie season are his two stints on the disabled list and he’s seen as a potential fixture at the keystone with five years of team control remaining.

Ryan Goins – The gifted defender who can play all infield positions and left field, too, is a 0-3 player who won’t be eligible for arbitration until after 2017 at the earliest.

In the System

Jon Berti – The Blue Jays sent him to the Arizona Fall League last year, signalling that he was on their radar, and he’s recently graduated to triple-A Buffalo this season.

Lane Thomas – The fifth-round pick last year has showed well at short-season A Vancouver to push himself into the prospect conversation.


In the Majors

Troy Tulowitzki – The five-time all-star acquired at the deadline is under contract for the next five years, due $20 million from 2016-19 and $14 million in 2020.

In the System

Richard Urena – The 19-year-old has a chance to be a two-way shortstop with some pop, earning himself a promotion to Dunedin from Lansing this season.


In the Majors

Josh Donaldson – MVP candidate is under club control for next three years but as a Super 2 will be arbitration-eligible for second time this off-season, when he’ll have a chance to earn $10 million-plus.

In the System

Mitch Nay – Is still looking to leverage his raw power more consistently as a swing adjustment hasn’t generated the pop expected during a sideways season at Dunedin.


In the Majors

Jose Bautista – The team holds a $14-million club option for 2016 on the superstar slugger that will be exercised, after which he’ll be eligible for free agency. Like Encarnacion, his long-term future will be a key question this off-season.

Kevin Pillar – After stops and starts the previous two seasons Pillar established himself as an everyday centre-fielder. As a 0-3 player, won’t be eligible for arbitration until after the 2017 season.

Ben Revere – The speedster acquired at the deadline is under club control for two more seasons after this one but is headed for his third turn through arbitration in the fall, platforming off a $4.1-million salary.

Michael Saunders – Still has one more season of club control after a sprinkler head ruined his first year in Toronto, and is arbitration eligible.

In the System

Dalton Pompey – Broke camp with the big-league club but struggled, was sent down to double-A New Hampshire, rebuilt himself and is now the club’s only on-the-cusp prospect. Remains a big part of the team’s plans.

Anthony Alford – Made major strides in his first full season devoted to baseball, has impressed with his plate discipline and hitting at both Lansing and Dunedin. Like Pompey, a potential five-tool player.

Roemon Fields – The undrafted free agent continues to be a late bloomer, earning two promotions this year, joining Buffalo on Tuesday. Is a plus runner and defender.

D.J. Davis – The 2012 first-rounder remains abundantly talented but remains raw, showing some progress at Lansing but not enough to graduate yet from his second year at the level.


In the Majors

David Price – The recently acquired ace will be one of the premier free agents available this fall, sure to be all the more coveted because the Blue Jays can’t give him a qualifying offer.

Mark Buehrle – The pillar of stability is wrapping up a $58-million, four-year deal he initially signed with the Miami Marlins and retirement is a possibility.

Marco Estrada – A revelation since his promotion to the rotation from the bullpen, the right-hander is setting himself up well for his looming free agency.

R.A. Dickey – The team holds a $12-million option for 2016 on the knuckleballer that it’s likely to exercise so he can provide a stabilizing presence for what’s likely to be a young rotation.

Drew Hutchison – The soon-to-be 25-year-old will be arbitration eligible for the first time this off-season, platforming off what’s been a strangely inconsistent year to this point.

Marcus Stroman – Expected to pitch at the front of the rotation after a knee injury cost him the season, but he returns as a 0-3 player with five more years of club control.

In the System

Sean Reid-Foley – The 2014 second-rounder advanced from Lansing to Dunedin and while he continues to post big strikeout numbers, his walk totals must improve.

Connor Greene – A seventh-round pick in 2013, the right-hander has been up to 97 this season in advancing from Lansing to Dunedin, earning notice in the front office along the way.

Jon Harris – The 2015 first-rounder opened his pro career at single-A Vancouver and has had his ups and downs but is still considered someone who can move through the system quickly.

Also: Matt Smoral, Ryan Borucki, Evan Smith, Tom Robson, Clinton Hollon and Shane Dawson


In the Majors

Roberto Osuna – The 20-year-old rookie has been exceptional in a relief role, and will get some consideration for the rotation next year. He’s under club control for five more years.

Aaron Sanchez – The 22-year-old rookie opened the year in the rotation and was making gains there until a lat injury sidelined him for nearly two months and he returned as a reliever. He’ll be another candidate to start next year.

Mark Lowe – The 32-year-old deadline acquisition is a looming free agent and hits the market after a strong rebound season of back-end bullpen work.

LaTroy Hawkins – A veteran of 21 big-league seasons, the well-regarded right-hander plans to retire.

Brett Cecil – The left-hander has gone from closer to set-up man to closer to lefty specialist/set-up man during an up and down season, and has one more year of arbitration before being eligible for free agency.

Bo Schultz – A waiver claim last October, the hard-throwing righty has progressively earned himself more responsibility, and is a 0-3 player that won’t be eligible for arbitration before the 2018 season.

Liam Hendriks – Reborn as a reliever this season, the right-hander employed a spike in his velocity to great effect out of the bullpen and is still a 0-3 player who won’t be arbitration eligible until after next year.

Aaron Loup – The usually reliable left-hander is struggling through a tough season. He’ll be arbitration eligible for the first time after the season.

In the System

Ryan Tepera – Another converted starter, the rookie right-hander has impressed this season and should be back as a September call-up at the latest.

Steve Delabar – The former all-star right-hander is another victim of the numbers game, performing well during a big-league stint earlier this year. He’ll be arbitration eligible but could be a non-tender candidate depending how the off-season shapes up.

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