Blue Jays planning for 2016 season even as ALDS begins

Sportsnet Central’s Stephen Brunt sits down with Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos to talk about the Jays run to the MLB post season and all the things that went into putting together this magical season.

TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays remain in preparation mode for now, but once the ALDS begins Thursday Alex Anthopoulos isn’t exactly anticipating a relaxing time.

“I’m already stressed out of my mind as it is,” the GM said Tuesday at Rogers Centre. “I don’t know what it’s going to be like, but I’m going to try to sit back and enjoy it.”

Realistically most of Anthopoulos’ work is done. The window for acquiring impact players like Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin, Troy Tulowitzki and David Price ended long before the postseason started. Now it’s a matter of sitting back while manager John Gibbons makes moves.

What does that mean for the Blue Jays’ front office? They’re already starting to look beyond the ALDS at 2016, assembling depth charts and brainstorming possible trade ideas.

“We have a sense from July conversations of who might be available in trade, but there’ll be another wave of players that no one’s expecting as we talk to clubs that we’ll get a sense of. That can be exciting,” Anthopoulos said. “The off-season can come up fast on you, so you don’t end up shutting it down.”

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Not even when your team is playing October baseball for the first time in two decades. The process began in earnest Monday when the Blue Jays’ front office returned to Toronto after the team’s season-ending road trip. Anthopoulos, whose contract is slated to expire Oct. 31 barring an extension, enjoys the morning planning sessions.

“That’s always the fun part of the job,” he said.

Last year this time, the Blue Jays established groundwork for the deals that brought Marco Estrada and Liam Hendriks to Toronto. At the time those acquisitions generated little excitement among fans, but it’s hard to imagine that the Blue Jays would have won the AL East without the contributions of Estrada (3.13 ERA, 181 innings) and Hendriks (2.92 ERA, 64.2 innings).

In the coming months the Blue Jays face a wide range of decisions starting with the rotation. While R.A. Dickey’s option will presumably be exercised, David Price, Marco Estrada and Mark Buehrle will be free agents, and Drew Hutchison would likely earn $2 or $3 million if tendered a contract through the arbitration process. Even with Marcus Stroman around, the starting five remains a work in progress.

Most of Toronto’s position players are under control beyond 2015, but the Blue Jays must sort out a left field mix including Ben Revere, Michael Saunders and Dalton Pompey. The bench will need work and another lefty bat wouldn’t hurt. There’s lots of work ahead.

So far, the Blue Jays have yet to reach out to other clubs, but Anthopoulos expects to start making calls by the end of the week. Many of his counterparts are completely focused on 2016 by now, which can lead to productive trade talks. At the very least, opportunities emerge when teams clear 40-man roster space.

“This is the time of year when guys get peeled off of the roster and you need to be on top of it,” Anthopoulos said.

For example, the Blue Jays claimed third baseman Matt Dominguez last month in a move that provides depth for future seasons. Even as the postseason takes centre stage, the Blue Jays can take steps toward adding talent.

“You can still make trades in October if you wanted to,” Anthopoulos said. “You’re not going to stop. You’re trying to sustain this.”

Looking ahead has served the Blue Jays well so far. And at the very least it’s a welcome distraction from the stresses of the present.

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