It’s been an uncharacteristically quiet winter for the general manager who once claimed 21 players in a seven-month span.
Alex Anthopoulos has pursued trades and talked with free agents, but there’s no escaping the fact that the Toronto Blue Jays roster looks more or less the way it did at the conclusion of last year’s 88-loss season. Based on the GM’s comments Thursday morning, it sounds as though the Blue Jays aren’t expecting to add a pitcher before opening day.
This isn’t what fans, agents and rival executives were expecting from Anthopoulos. It came as a surprise to no one when the GM predicted late last season that moves were on the horizon. “We need to make changes, I think that goes without saying,” he said.
But so far the Blue Jays have been among the quietest teams in MLB. Spring training has begun, and replacing J.P. Arencibia with Dioner Navarro and Erik Kratz has been the only major change. Instead of relying on outside help, the Blue Jays are encouraged by the progress of Brandon Morrow, Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek.
That’s far less action than the Blue Jays saw the previous winter, when they remade their roster with major trades and free agent signings, not to mention a steady string of waiver claims. The Blue Jays’ winter seems especially quiet when compared to the moves made by their division rivals. While the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles spent to acquire and retain top free agents, the Blue Jays stayed quiet, preferring to wait rather than spend.
Of course it’s not too late for the Blue Jays to add a starter, even as Anthopoulos downplays the possibility. Ervin Santana is still out there, and while the right-hander isn’t a perfect fit for the homer-friendly Rogers Centre, he’d help stabilize a group that combined to post a 4.81 ERA in 2013. Durable enough to log 200 innings on a consistent basis, Santana has posted an ERA below 3.50 three times since 2008.
He would help just about any team, and you won’t find a club better suited for a rotation upgrade than the Blue Jays. But adding Santana would require a significant investment from Anthopoulos, who indicated Thursday morning that he's not inclined to spend in free agency.
“As we sit here today with what the current cost would be, we feel better with what we have here internally,” he told reporters in Dunedin.
It’s now a question of values, as Sportsnet's Shi Davidi outlined Monday. If the Blue Jays can line up with Santana, J.A. Happ gets bumped to the fifth starter’s spot and the likes of Todd Redmond, Esmil Rogers, Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek, Marcus Stroman and Sean Nolin are in the bullpen or the minor leagues. No doubt most if not all of those pitchers will be needed at some point this year even if the Blue Jays bring in someone new. When it comes to depth, “you want to be greedy" as Anthopoulos acknowledged.
If Anthopoulos adds an arm at a reasonable cost before opening day, he’ll prove to his critics that the patience paid off. If not, the Blue Jays will still have enough intriguing arms to surprise some people. It would just leave the club with question marks in the rotation and a much different looking winter than the one expected from the typically active GM.