The Jays made another low risk, high reward signing on Tuesday, inking right-hander Victor Zambrano to a Minor League deal that includes an invite to Spring Training. The contract also has a club option for 2008. This deal won’t have as immediate of an impact as the Tomo Ohka or John Thomsons signings do, though.
Zambrano is only eight months removed from reconstructive elbow surgery and it could take him until April, May, or later until he’s available to pitch. The bottom line is Toronto was willing to give Zambrano time to rehab, and if he comes back healthy, the club’s rotation depth could get another boost. Zambrano would provide another arm that acts as a contingency plan later in the season if someone gets hurt.
The Jays want to make a run at the division this year and part of that means not having to relying on so many young, unexperienced players. Sure, young players will need to fill a hole here or there, and that’s fine, but it’s not ideal for a team in contention to be overloaded with young guys. Think about last season for Toronto. The Jays had to lean on a number of rookies when A.J. Burnett and Gus Chacin got hurt. The pitchers did a good job, for the most part, but Zambrano could provide a more experienced, better prepared arm in a similar situation this year.
Of course, that means that Jays fans probably won’t see much of Casey Janssen or Dustin McGowan this year if other guys stay healthy — they’ll likely remain at Triple-A for much of the year. John Thomson and Tomo Ohka are leading the pack of pitchers vying for the Nos. 4-5 rotation spots, with Shaun Marcum nipping at their heals. Marcum could also possibly contend for a long relief role in the bullpen. It’s less likely that Josh Towers would be put into a relief role, and he seems to be a long shot to crack the rotation — though stranger things have happened. After all, he did win 13 games two years ago.
Toronto still has three arbitration-eligible players — Alex Rios, Reed Johnson and Scott Downs — left unsigned. One thing to keep in mind is that the Jays haven’t gone to an arb. hearing with a player since 1997. Last night, Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi didn’t have nay updates, except to say:
"Today, we’re probably going [to arbitration] on all three. Tomorrow, we could be getting close to getting a deal done. I don’t really panic on these at all. It’s just a process you have to go through. But, you know what? All three of them will be in Toronto this year playing."
So, no real updates, but any Jays fans still worrying about any pending trade involving Rios or Johnson can let out a sigh of relief. Although, when Toronto added Thomson and Ohka, it seemed very unlikely that the Jays were still aggressively pursuing trades. Ricciardi has said he’d rather add to what’s already in place anyway.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE CURRENT ROSTER?
If the season started today, here’s what the roster probably would look like. How do you all think it stacks up with others around the league?
1B Lyle Overbay LF Reed Johnson C Gregg Zaun
2B Aaron Hill CF Vernon Wells C Jason Phillips
SS Royce Clayton RF Alex Rios
3B Troy Glaus OF Matt Stairs
UT John McDonald
UT Jason Smith DH Frank Thomas
1. Roy Halladay LR Scott Downs CL B.J. Ryan
2. A.J. Burnett LR Shaun Marcum (?) SU Brandon League
3. Gustavo Chacin MR Jason Frasor
4. John Thomson MR Brian Tallet
5. Tomo Ohka MR Jeremy Accardo