Atkins: Blue Jays still seeking pitching as spring training approaches

Ross Atkins joins The Jeff Blair show and believes his team has plenty of pitching depth but still thinks the Jays have to focus on acquiring pitching to strengthen the team.

As spring training approaches and the off-season comes to an end, the Toronto Blue Jays continue to look for pitching, according to GM Ross Atkins.

While the Blue Jays have “a ton of flexibility” that could theoretically allow them to add a position player, they’re relatively set on that front after signing shortstop Freddy Galvis earlier in the week.

“It’s never in isolation, but at the same time in order to add to our position-player group we’d have to subtract to have enough playing time, to make sure that there’s opportunities for players to get better and to have a nice balance,” Atkins told Jeff Blair on Sportsnet 590 The FAN Friday morning.

So far this off-season the Blue Jays have acquired big-league pitchers Matt Shoemaker, Clayton Richard and David Phelps plus Rule 5 pick Elvis Luciano and former Houston Astros prospect Trent Thornton. Asked to estimate how much of his off-season work is complete, Atkins suggested the Blue Jays are 75-95 per cent of the way there. That said, they’re still on the lookout for pitching.

“We have the numbers and we have solid depth, but there’s a lot more volatility there in performance and health,” Atkins said. “We’ll continue to look to add depth there. Whether that’s starting or relieving will depend on the variables I’ve mentioned previously: Acquisition cost, opportunity. We feel good about the depth that we have. We’ve acquired a massive number of pitchers in the last year and a half and we’ll continue to look to do that.

“In the past three-and-a-half years it’s all been about (general) talent acquisition and now we’re at the point where we really need to be focused on pitching in every potential acquisition.”

Pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 14, but as Atkins noted that’s not a hard deadline for the Blue Jays.

“There’s obviously a lot that could occur in spring training even, and things we could do throughout the season as we continue to try to build depth and make the organization better.”

The addition of Galvis on a one-year, $5 million deal means the Blue Jays don’t have to rush Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and it also has the potential to help Toronto pitchers keep runs off the board.

“That’s been an initiative of ours to improve our defence and Freddy will certainly do that,” Atkins said.

In recent years, Galvis has generally rated as a strong defender according to UZR and defensive runs saved.

While Atkins didn’t comment directly on the lawsuit that Kacy Clemens reportedly launched against a Houston bar, he said the Blue Jays have been in touch with the 24-year-old prospect.

“We will continue to support him in any way possible that we can as we learn more from a health and overall wellbeing standpoint,” Atkins said.

Clemens and fellow minor-leaguer Conner Capel are alleging that they were assaulted by staff members on New Year’s Eve and seeking $200,000 in damages.

“Kacy has been an exceptional, exceptional human being and teammate here,” Atkins added.

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