February 28, 2010
Every day in spring training until we're finished with the entire league, Big League Stew takes a brief capsule look at each team we visit in Florida and Arizona. And now, the once-proud Toronto Blue Jays, rebuilding again under a new general manager.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
2009 RECORD: 75-87/4th in AL East
BIG ACQUISITIONS Not new to the organization, right-hander Shaun Marcum(notes) is simply healthy again. ... Right-hander Brandon Morrow(notes), a big talent, starts anew. ... They already had plenty of decent relievers, but Kevin Gregg(notes) has more ninth-inning experience than the others.
BIG DEPARTURES Umm ... the name is on the tip of ... Oh, yeah, Roy Halladay(notes). ... Marco Scutaro(notes) was a key free-agent signing for the Red Sox. ... Desperate for more, more, more catching depth, the Mets lured away Rod Barajas(notes).
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FIVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BLUE JAYS:
1. Is Alex Anthopoulos the man to turn the Jays around? If he is properly enabled by ownership, I think, yes. Obviously the proof will be in the drafting, the trading, the talent-evaluating, and Anthopoulos is just getting started. Adding Morrow was shrewd in the shadow of the Halladay deal, which brought top-notch talent for a guy the team couldn't keep — no matter how much fans wanted him to stay.
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2. How much longer will Cito Gaston manage? In these Ed Sprague-less times, he just seems out of place. The Blue Jays were their most enjoyable with Kelly Gruber and Fred McGriff at the corners, but nobody is calling for them to play anymore. This is easier said than done, but Anthopoulos needs to find his own version of Joe Maddon to run the team.
3. Can Vernon Wells(notes) spare a dime? He's entering the mid-point of the seven-year, $126-million anchor of a contract he signed before the 2007 season. Because of injuries, he's produced a .743 OPS — below average — in the first three seasons of the deal. The Jays want him to act more like a leader, especially with Halladay gone. If he's luckier with his health, Wells can start by making himself appealing to other teams for a trade ASAP. Hey, it happened with Alex Rios(notes).
4. When will Brett Wallace(notes) replace Lyle Overbay(notes) at first base? The best the Jays can probably expect this season is to beat out the Orioles for fourth place, so they will try to move Overbay by the trade deadline. A slugger-in-waiting, Wallace came over with right-hander Kyle Drabek(notes) via the Halladay move; Wallace's and Drabek's performances will be a way to evaluate Anthopoulos' early performance.
5. Is Ricky Romero(notes) an ace? It's been a zig-zag path to the majors for the former high first-rounder, but Romero pitched some beautiful ball games as a rookie. His overall performance in the second half was poor. He's got to improve his command and throw more strikes. But even if he turns into a solid No. 3, that'll work.