The deep freeze that slowed the trade market throughout the early part of the season is starting to thaw, and Alex Anthopoulos hopes to take advantage of increased chatter to bolster the Toronto Blue Jays’ pitching staff.
“We still need to make upgrades in the rotation and the bullpen, that goes without saying,” the Blue Jays’ GM told Jeff Blair and Kevin Barker on Sportsnet 590 The FAN Monday.
So will the Blue Jays look to upgrade a bullpen that ranks 16th in MLB with a 3.58 ERA or seek reinforcements for a starting rotation that ranks 23rd in baseball with a 4.40 mark?
“I’d love to land both,” Anthopoulos said. “What we come away with or don’t come away with I have no idea. Clearly we’re looking to be active. We’re looking to add and make the club a lot better.”
Left-hander Matt Boyd showed promise in his MLB debut Saturday, striking out seven Texas Rangers despite allowing three home runs. Even so, the Blue Jays lack certainty in a rotation currently missing Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman.
The Blue Jays expect Sanchez, currently rehabbing from a lat strain, to return as a starter, though they have the option of putting him in the bullpen should they acquire additional rotation help.
“I hope that we’re in a position that we don’t have room for him because the rotation’s doing so well or we’ve gone out and acquired some guys and we have that much depth,” Anthopoulos said. “We’re not there yet, but that’d be a great problem to have.”
As for Stroman, who’s rehabbing from a torn ACL, the Blue Jays are making caution the priority considering the 24-year-old’s future as a rotation fixture. That said, if he progresses enough by mid-August, the Blue Jays won’t rule out a 2015 return.
In the meantime, the Blue Jays hope to add from a trade market that’s started heating up in the last week or so. And while Anthopoulos prioritized value early in his tenure as the Blue Jays’ GM, his decision making has evolved over the years. Instead of seeking good deals at all costs, he has started embracing investor Warren Buffett’s idea of prioritizing quality.
“It’s better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price,” Anthopoulos said, quoting Buffett.
As the trade market takes shape, the Blue Jays intend to stick to those principles.
“You can get very emotional, you can get influenced, but the ability to stick to your philosophy and not bend,” Anthopoulos said. “As much as you have needs, I think I’m starting to learn it’s the right way to do it.”
OSUNA IMPRESSING: Rookie right-hander Roberto Osuna continues impressing the Blue Jays. The 20-year-old closed out another win Sunday, the latest shutdown performance in a season full of them.
“I don’t think it matters how old Osuna is. He’s got poise. He throws strikes, he’s got great stuff,” the GM said. “And he’s got guts. We call it something else, but I’m going to stick with guts on this show.”
Anthopoulos credited manager John Gibbons for a bullpen lacking established late-inning relievers.
“I haven’t necessarily handed him clear-cut choices for the ninth, the eighth, the seventh,” Anthopoulos acknowledged.
DONALDSON EXTENSION NOT A PRIORITY: The Blue Jays have reason to be thrilled with the production of Josh Donaldson, who looks like an AL MVP candidate so far this season. But the Blue Jays don’t have plans to discuss a long-term extension with the third baseman, largely because he’s under team control through 2018.
“There’s no sense of urgency since we still have him for a very long time,” Anthopoulos said.
AL EAST STILL STRONG: The AL East started slowly, but it’s now the only division with four 40-win teams: the Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles. By way of comparison, no other division has more than two 40-win clubs.
“I do think it’s the best division in baseball right now,” Anthopoulos said.