Blue Jays Notebook: Still ‘trying to improve’

Goins’ career OPS over five minor-league seasons is .706. (Mark Blinch/CP).

Throughout the off-season, I’ll provide commentary and links related to the Toronto Blue Jays and MLB every weekend.

Spring training officially begins this weekend for the Toronto Blue Jays, yet their roster still looks remarkably similar to last year’s 88-loss club.

By now we’ve heard Paul Beeston and Alex Anthopoulos answer questions about their starting rotation on countless occasions. It’s clear that they’re seeking upgrades, and that they are determined not to overpay. So would Beeston be content to rely on the group that posted a 4.81 ERA last year instead of bringing in a newcomer?

“You put it all together, are you happy? I don’t think you can ever be happy,” Beeston told Bob McCown and Stephen Brunt on Prime Time Sports. “I don’t think anyone who’s involved in sports with a team is ever totally committed to say ‘this is it, this is finished, there’s nothing we can improve.’”

As the Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles continue exploring the pitching market, there’s no guarantee Toronto lands a prominent arm. The Blue Jays president said “I don’t know if I’d be surprised,” if the team holds off on making any signings.

The Blue Jays are confident that pitchers including Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison and Brandon Morrow will rebound from injury-plagued 2013 seasons. Those reinforcements and arms like Marcus Stroman and Sean Nolin give the Blue Jays depth, if not certainty.

“They may not have the pedigree yet, they may not have the results, but there’s some good promise there,” Beeston said.

The team president also sees promise in Ryan Goins, the 25-year-old infielder who’s tentatively slated to start at second base. Yet Beeston acknowledges that he’d ideally like to get contributions on both offence and defence from the position.

“Do you always want something better? I suspect, but I don’t think anyone could deny that defensively he can play in this league right now, and strangely enough, with good defence it helps pitchers’ ERAs and if you’re not giving up a lot of runs, you don’t have to score as many yourself,” Beeston said.

As long as Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez are available, there’s still a chance that Goins will have some additional help keeping those runs off of the board.

SEARCH FOR SPRING HOME: The Blue Jays and Houston Astros signed a letter of intent to explore the possibility of sharing a spring home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida last fall, but that possibility fell through.

“We’re nowhere right now,” said Beeston, adding that discussions ended “for a number of reasons.”

While the Blue Jays’ lease at their Dunedin, Florida facility runs through 2017, they’re already considering alternatives. Just don’t expect the Blue Jays to leave Florida for Arizona.

“No, absolutely not. I think it would be the silliest thing this organization could ever do,” Beeston said. “We owe it to our fans to be in Florida.”

FIRM ON FIVE-YEAR POLICY: Though Anthopoulos has indicated that the team’s policy of limiting contracts to five years would be flexible for the right player, Beeston says it would be unproductive to set a policy only to break it. Doing so could even irk other players who were told the five-year limit was firm.

“You just can’t be changing your mind mid-stream on some of these things,” Beeston said.

Could he foresee any exceptions?  “Not as long as I’m here.”

NOTES: Ticket sales have dropped off this off-season, according to Beeston. “We’re behind where we were last year. There’s no question. But we’re ahead of where we were in 2012, which is the good news” … The Blue Jays won’t have a new playing surface in 2014, and they won’t have grass in Rogers Centre before 2018. Adding grass takes three to four years, Beeston said… Fans aren’t the only ones confused by the Blue Jays’ lack of activity. Many agents wonder why Anthopoulos hasn’t been more aggressive in completing deals. Of course agents want all GMs to spend aggressively since it benefits their clients.

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