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.
Roy Halladay
Chris Carpenter
Ricky Romero
Shawn Marcum
Dustin McGowan
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.
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
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.
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.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.