Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos took to the radios in Toronto today to discuss the Blue Jays’ current woes. He also shed some light on what to expect for the coming offseason
It has come to that point in Toronto. The injuries have piled up to a point where the games have begun to lose meaning. Today, the Blue Jays fielded a lineup with just one opening day starter (Edwin Encarnacion) and just three opening day members of the 25-man roster (Encarnacion, Jeff Mathis, and Rajai Davis). Incredibly, the makeshift Blue Jays’ lineup put together 10 runs against the New York Yankees. However, such production will not endure with so many injuries.
Despite all of the injuries, the Toronto Blue Jays are weakest in their starting rotation. Part of that is because of injury, but most of it is a result of below average talent. Outside of Brandon Morrow – who, of course, has been out for two months with an oblique injury – no one has stood out among a group of young starters, not even staff veteran Ricky Romero. The Blue Jays currently rank fifth from the bottom in all of baseball in starters ERA at 4.55. Without a question, the Jays primary weakness lies in the rotation, and today, Alex Anthopoulos addressed the obvious.
Anthopoulos acknowledged that the team is lacking in the starting rotation and indicated that his goal of the offseason will be to bolster the rotation (phew, he doesn’t think that J.A. Happ is the answer).
The offense is fine. Before the recent rash of injuries, the Blue Jays ranked first in the majors in runs scored. Even now, they have scored the sixth most runs in baseball. The hitters are both young and talented.
The bullpen – recently upgraded – is also fine. It appears that Anthopoulos has decided against the oft-used ‘patchwork’ bullpen framework, opting instead for a stable of controllable young power arms mixed in with a few sturdy veterans. Perhaps as early as September, that bullpen could also include 2012 first-round draft pick Marcus Stroman. Steve Delabar and Brad Lincoln have great stuff and are under control until 2018. Sergio Santos has club options through 2017. Casey Janssen has a club option through 2014. Darren Oliver is signed for next year. Marcus Stroman, Aaron Loup, Chad Jenkins, and perhaps John Stilson could all become full-time additions to the bullpen for next season.
So the team needs starting pitching. Anthopoulos will not be pursuing options around the diamond, nor will he have holes in the bullpen to fill. His resources will be directed towards the starting rotation. Both Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero figure to be back. Henderson Alvarez and J.A. Happ are also quite likely to have spots. Of course, we cannot expect that Kyle Drabek or Drew Hutchison will be able to perform effectively, if at all, next season. That leaves one hole at the top of the rotation; none of these four have demonstrated that they can be a staff ace. Morrow fits the bill of a #2 starter, (the good) Ricky Romero is an excellent #3 on a contending team, where Henderson Alvarez and J.A. Happ are a decent, though unspectacular, back-end.
The Blue Jays cannot wait for 2014 (at the earliest) when their upper tier pitching prospects might be ready. With Jose Bautista coming to the tail end of his prime years, it would behoove the Jays to take seriously the notion of becoming a contending team. Not all of the Blue Jays’ high upside pitching prospects will reach their potential. If they did, there would not be room for all of them in the major league rotation. Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino, Daniel Norris, Matt Smoral, Adonys Cardona, and Roberto Osuna all come to mind as prime pitching prospects to act as a catalyst in a trade for a big-ticket pitcher.
However, something unexpected arose from the Anthopoulos discussion: the possibility of an increased presence in free agency. Anthopoulos hinted at the notion that he believes the team is nearing the point where it is just a player or two away from contention.
We should remain skeptical until anything concrete arises, but it is not often that Anthopoulos speaks in specifics. Expect a cautiously optimistic attitude entering the offseason from fans of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Charles Davis is a baseball writer for RantSports.com with a specific focus on the Toronto Blue Jays, their farm system, and prospects league-wide. Read his articles here and follow him on Twitter @CPDavis90.