It has been a year of excitement and disappointment for the Toronto Blue Jays.

The fans witnessed history at the Rogers Centre when Jose Bautista became the 26th player in Major League history to hit 50 home runs in a season.  Bautista‘s incredible, feel good story has been one of the highlights of the Blue Jays this year, as well as the emergence of Brandon Morrow and the other young starters on the squad. 

It has been disappointing to once again fall to fourth in the American League East, and staying far out of reach of the playoffs.  But even that wasn’t unexpected, in fact the Jays performed much better than expected this year, especially with their surprising capacity for hitting home runs.

Now that the season is tailing down, thoughts towards the future come to the forefront.

Will the pitchers build upon their breakout year to become one of the best rotations in the American League?

Which of the free agents will leave and what kind of draft picks will the Jays receive because of it?

Will the team figure out other ways to score if they can’t repeat their success with the long ball?

First things first, there are certain players who are the core of this team and are therefore signed long term.  Their chances of being traded in the offseason are slim to none.  Players such as Vernon Wells, Adam Lind, Aaron Hill, and Ricky Romero are all signed long term, and form the core which this team is built around.

A good portion of the starting rotation is likely to be back. Shaun Marcum has excelled this year coming off an injury and the trade for Brandon Morrow looked better and better throughout the year.  Those two, along with Brett Cecil, who also had a breakout year, will likely be signed to new contracts if they can continue to progress.  Those three with Romero will form most of the Blue Jays rotation barring injury or a deep regression in form.

The question of the fifth starter is completely open on the other hand.  Various pitchers can fill that slot, but it is tough to say who will be the best fit.  Jesse Litsch is hampered by injury once again, but has the most experience of the candidates.  Marc Rzepczynski has had experience as well but has struggled at the Major League level.

The X-factor in the rotation is Kyle Drabek, who has had two starts so far with the Jays this year, and showed some good control and focus.  He was the Easter League pitcher of the year in Double-A and many have pronounced him ready for joining the Jays.

Jose Bautista will go through arbitration this summer and will stay under Jays control, so the GM Alex Anthopoulos will likely wait to see how he performs next year before deciding whether to offer him a big contract.  He will likely continue to play both right field and third unless a more permanent player can be filled in either slot. 

It is unlikely that the Jays will settle on having Edwin Encarnacion as their regular third baseman, so some infield moves could be a possibility.  There has been some talk about moving Hill to third on the chance that Adeiny Hechavarria is ready next year, in which case either him or Yunel Escobar would play second.

The other infield spot up in the air is first base, with Lyle Overbay becoming a free agent.  Adam Lind has played a few games at first, and catching prospect J.P Arencibia has the potential to play some games both behind the plate and on first.

Speculation has popped up the press lately that Lind and Arencibia aren’t ready yet to take over for Overbay and catcher John Buck, who is also a free agent.

It seems unlikely that they would be re-signed, since Buck has made it clear he wants to play full-time and Overbay is likely looking for a multi-year contract.  This doesn’t seem to create any progress or move the team forward, so those two leaving as free agents still seems the most likely.

Catcher Jose Molina could be kept on to mentor Arencibia on defense and game-calling and continue his work with the pitching staff.

Unless there are some big trades or free agent acquisitions, which seem unlikely, the roster could very well look like this:

Outfield:  Fred Lewis, Vernon Wells, Travis Snider.

Infield:  Jose Bautista, Yunel Escobar, Aaron Hill, Adam Lind.

Catcher: J.P. Arencibia.

On the Bench:  John McDonald, Jose Molina.

Encarnacion is too expensive to be a bench player, so he would either have to be dealt or given third base full-time.  Other bench roles could be filled by Jarret Hoffpauir, DeWayne Wise, and Mike McCoy unless someone from Triple-A or a free agent comes in.

Starting Rotation:  Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, Kyle Drabek.

Kevin Gregg, Scott Downs, and Jason Frasor are all free agents this summer, but since the Jays favour veteran players in the bullpen, there is a chance that at least one of them will be retained.  Of course, the benefits of acquiring draft picks if they leave, as free agents might be too good to pass up.

Bullpen:  Kevin Gregg, Rommie Lewis, David Purcey, Brian Tallet, Jesse Carlson, Shawn Camp, Josh Roenicke.

Read more MLB news on