Commentary

Jays in position to contend in AL East

Originally Published: November 6, 2007
By Sean McAdam | Special to ESPN.com

In many ways, 2007 was a lost season for the Blue Jays. Injury-plagued from the beginning (B.J. Ryan, Reed Johnson, Brandon League), the Jays stumbled early and quickly fell out of contention and finished third in the division, a step backward from their second-place finish in 2006. But as the season progressed, the Jays saw some young pitchers (Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan, Jesse Litsch) gain valuable experience and achieve moderate success at the big league level. Maybe the season wasn't a lost cause after all.

Primary needs

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Blue Jays GM: J.P. Ricciardi
Manager: John Gibbons
'07 record: 83-79, 3rd AL East
'07 payroll: $79.9M, 17th MLB
Runs scored: 753, 10th AL
Runs allowed: 699, 2nd AL
OPS: .746, T-9th AL
ERA: 4.00, 2nd AL
Fielding percentage: .984, T-7th AL
1. Some protection at designated hitter would seem to be in order, since it's unknown how well Frank Thomas will hold up over the course of another season.

2. Depth in the starting rotation is another goal, so a reasonably priced veteran pitcher -- if such a thing exists -- could be a target.

3. The Jays may move athletic backup catcher Curtis Thigpen elsewhere, so figure that a backup catcher will be on the shopping list.

Free agents

C Sal Fasano, LHP Joe Kennedy, OF/DH Matt Stairs, RHP Victor Zambrano.

Troy Glaus

Glaus

Trade bait

Troy Glaus, who has a year and an option remaining, could be moved -- if he can avoid any legal complications stemming from his alleged HGH involvement and agree to waive his no-trade clause. If the Jays could set themselves up for the future by moving one of their pitchers, they might be so inclined.

Farm aid

Thigpen, a catcher by trade, could be moved to another position (third base?) to take advantage of his athleticism and get his bat into the lineup sooner. Lefty David Purcey has been throwing well in the Arizona Fall League and could make an impact by the middle of the season. Left-handed pitcher Brett Cecil, the Jays' top pick in the 2007 draft, could come along fast.

Outlook

The Blue Jays have been building for a number of years toward 2008 and believe only some minor tweaking is necessary this winter to make a strong run for a postseason spot. General manager J.P. Ricciardi has assembled a blend of veterans (Thomas, Glaus and Lyle Overbay) and younger players entering their prime (Alex Rios, Vernon Wells, Aaron Hill) and the Jays could challenge in the East. If they stumble out of the gate, however, the fire sale could commence in a hurry.

Sean McAdam of The Providence (R.I.) Journal covers baseball for ESPN.com.

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