Restoring the rosters: No. 9 – Toronto

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
No. 18 – Oakland
No. 17 – St. Louis
No. 16 – Florida
No. 15 – San Francisco
No. 14 – Texas
No. 13 – Cleveland
No. 12 – Minnesota
No. 11 – Arizona
No. 10 – Los Angeles (AL)
Coming in ninth is one of the game’s model franchises from the 1990’s. Fortunately, there’s still plenty of talent left over from the era.
Rotation
Roy Halladay
Chris Carpenter
Ricky Romero
Shawn Marcum
Dustin McGowan
Bullpen
Brandon Lyon
David Weathers
Brett Cecil
Kelvim Escobar
Brandon League
Casey Janssen
Alfredo Aceves
As one might expect given recent history, it’d be a deep pitching staff with everyone healthy. Of course, Carpenter, Marcum, McGowan, Escobar and Janssen have all missed huge chunks of time the last couple of years with arm problems. Alternate fifth starter Jesse Litsch is in the same boat, and while Dave Bush hasn’t undergone shoulder surgery yet, he’s been a wreck lately. If you want to replace McGowan with someone who isn’t such an iffy bet going forward, you could plug Cecil or Mark Rzepczynski into the fifth spot. Rzepczynski and Mark Hendrickson were next in line for bullpen spots.
Even with so many others hurt, Halladay and Carpenter counted for an awful lot here. The bullpen, on the other hand, couldn’t be rated very highly with so many question marks.
Lineup
LF Gabe Gross
SS Aaron Hill
DH Adam Lind
3B Michael Young
1B Carlos Delgado
CF Alex Rios
RF Vernon Wells
2B Orlando Hudson
C Robinzon Diaz
Bench
1B-3B Casey Blake
INF Cesar Izturis
OF Reed Johnson
C Kevin Cash
The Jays have had plenty of failed catching prospects over the years, and the inability to develop even a quality backup has dropped them a couple of spots in these rankings. 2007 first-round pick J.P. Arencibia was the one alternative to the Diaz-Cash duo, but he’s hit .227/.275/.416 this year in a terrific environment for hitters at Triple-A Las Vegas. Also, he’s an unexceptional defender.
The rest of the lineup is pretty impressive, even if there’s no real leadoff man in the bunch. Gabe Gross, who is getting on base 36 percent of the time for the Rays, seemed like the best choice, if only because I wanted Young hitting in the middle of the order. Rios would be another option when he has his act together.
Failing to make the team, even though there were good cases for both, were Felipe Lopez and Travis Snider. I think Hill would be a solid shortstop, but if we’re using him there, then it made sense to carry the more defensive-minded Izturis as the backup. Snider is well on his way to becoming a better player than Gross, but Gross has the advantage right now and Johnson can serve as his platoonmate.
Summary
This Blue Jays squad looks very good now, but it’s well worth noting just how much of the talent was brought in before J.P. Ricciardi took over after the 2001 season. Hill and Lind are the only two legitimate position players Ricciardi has developed so far, though Snider is well on his way to being the third. Ricciardi has done a better job at bringing in talented pitchers, but he and his field staff can’t seem to keep them healthy. Unless that changes and a few of the quality arms turn into strong rotation regulars, then the Jays won’t find themselves still in the top 10 the next time these rankings are updated.

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Joe Nathan plans to pitch in 2016

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan throws against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”

Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.

Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.