The Jays currently have about $60MM locked up for next year, as of today, according to Cots. They had a total payroll of $83.7MM in 2012, and AA has claimed that payroll is going up. Even if the Jays don't go out and spend a shitload of money on an expensive free agent, they'll be hard-pressed to start this coming season with a payroll smaller than the $83MM, thanks to arbitration raises and the extensions of Brandon Morrow and Edwin Encarnacion.
First, we'll take a look at where that $60ishMM that is already locked up is going, then we'll look at arbitration raises, and then non-tender candidates.
- Jose Bautista ($14MM), Brandon Morrow ($8MM) and Edwin Encarnacion ($8MM) are all practically guaranteed to be back to start the year.
- Ricky Romero ($7.5MM), Casey Janssen ($3.9MM), Sergio Santos ($2.75MM) and Jeff Mathis ($1.5MM) are all fairly likely to come back as well, though I suppose AA might look to ship Romero somewhere given his struggles last year, and either Santos or Janssen could be moved if both are looking to close this year. JP Arencibia and Travis d'Arnaud could theoretically play Mathis out of a job.
- Adam Lind ($5.15MM), and Yunel Escobar ($5MM) have had some trade rumors swirling around their heads.
- Dustin McGowan ($1.5MM) and Adeiny Hechavarria ($2.75MM) are under team control for multiple years; DMcG is signed through 2015, Hechavarria will be arbitration eligible after this coming year.
- The Jays hold options on Darren Oliver and Rajai Davis, both of which are incredibly likely to be exercised. Buyouts on those two deals are $500k each. Naturally, Oliver could retire, and any number of the above names could be moved in a trade.
Free Agents (last year's salary in brackets): All potential free agents are under exclusive negotiating rights for the 5 days immediately following the end of the World Series.
- Kelly Johnson ($6.375MM): Probably going to leave, and will likely need to take a paycut, given his performance over the second half of the year. I struggle to believe KJ will get more than $5MM on the free agent market, though the 2B pool is rather shallow, and he's a nice shot at a bounce-back, after probably playing hurt for the last 3 months. The acquisition of Mike Aviles is probably a contingency plan of sorts.
- Brandon Lyon ($5.5MM): This one probably depends on the price he's looking for, but middle relievers no longer get the 3-year, $15MM contracts that Lyon got a few years ago. He's probably going to be in the market for something like a 1-year, $4MM deal, possibly with an option. I'm sure AA will be interested.
- Jason Frasor ($3.75MM): Frasor is entering his age-35 season, and has morphed before our eyes from a back-end reliever to a run-of-the-mill one. The crazy thing is that as Frasor's numbers have declined over the past few years, one thing that has improved is his K-rate, striking out almost 11/9IP. Naturally, he's walking more batters as well, so take it or leave it. Frasor seems to be universally loved in Toronto, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him back next year on a similar deal to what he signed last time around.
- Carlos Villanueva ($2.2775MM): I assume Villanueva will be playing elsewhere this year, since the Jays just don't seem committed to him as a starter. He'll probably find a multi-year deal somewhere, and my best guess is that he'll be beating up NL Central batters somewhere.
Arbitration-eligibles and Non-tender Candidates
- Colby Rasmus: Rasmus is arbitration eligible for the second time. Last year, he signed a $2.7MM deal to avoid arb, and will probably get something in the area of $4.5MM this year. The Jays have kicked around the idea of extending Rasmus, so there's no way he'll be non-tendered, especially after hitting 23 HR's as a CF and showing signs of the potential that they were hoping he might be when they acquired him.
- JA Happ: Happ made $2.35MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility. I believe that the Jays will tender him a contract and give him one shot at proving himself as a reliever/contingency swingman. He'll probably make close to $4MM, which is approaching irresponsible. He struck out 10+/9IP over his 40 innings as a Jay last year, so there's definitely something to be harnessed there. He's probably destined to come out of the bullpen.
- Brett Cecil: If the Jays are going to non-tender any of their arbitration players, it's going to be Cecil, but as a first-timer, his arbitration pricetag shouldn't be too expensive. Cecil sort of stinks, as we all know. Like Happ, the rest of Cecil's major league career should be bullpen work. There isn't really anything about his stats that suggests anything other than the idea that he's not very good, but maybe some tweaks to the delivery or something could allow a re-birth as a LOOGY.
- Mike Aviles: The only way the Jays could lose the John Farrell trade would be to non-tender Aviles before he ever sets foot in a Jays uniform. Obviously that's not going to happen. Aviles will probably get something in the area of $2.2MM in his second trip through arbitration, and seems pretty likely to see plenty of time at 2B if Kelly Johnson doesn't return.
All of these guys should get contracts again. They're all making the league minimum as members of the 40-man roster with fewer than 3 years of service time. Even the bad players are cheap enough that they're worth keeping around. For rounding purposes, each of the entry-level contracts are going to be worth 500k on my back-of-the-envelope math.
- Brett Lawrie may as well be grouped together with Bautista, Encarnacion and Morrow up top, and if he can prove that he isn't an injury waiting to happen, could be an extension candidate.
- JP Arencibia is a trade candidate, but if Travis d'Arnaud starts the season in the minors, JP will probably stick around a while.
- Henderson Alvarez will be fighting for a rotation spot, but I'm sure that he would have been sent to AAA at some point last year if there weren't so many injuries. A little time in Buffalo to learn some secondary pitches would do Hendy some good. He's still young and can throw pretty hard, so someone might want him in a trade.
- Steve Delabar performed well down the stretch last season, and will probably return to the bullpen in '13, at least until he proves that he doesn't otherwise deserve it. Same with Brad Lincoln.
- Luis Perez, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison are all out with arm surgeries, and won't be involved in the early-season plans.
- David Cooper is better than Adam Lind, but isn't making $5MM so it's sort of easy to justify giving Lind AB's over Coop.
- Mike Mccoy, Yan Gomes, Moises Sierra and Anthony Gose are probably going to find themselves either in the minors or on the bench again. Aaron Loup, Chad Beck, and Chad Jenkins could fight for roster spots, but are probably destined for the minors.
By my count, that's about $80MM, not including coaches and non-40-man minor league salaries. This doesn't account for any free agents, obviously, or any non-tenders. There are some holes on the roster that will need to be addressed, such as filling out the bullpen and 2b/backup IF, depending on how they use Aviles. Frasor and Lyon are free agents and probably won't both be back, and HOLY SHIT WE NEED ANOTHER STARTER.
Just grabbing another reliever or two and not non-tendering anybody is going to raise the payroll, assuming Yunel Escobar and/or Adam Lind don't get traded. Is the front office willing to add $20MM to the payroll? Is AA willing to move some prospect depth? All of a sudden, I'm not incredibly optimistic about this offseason.