Blue Jays focused on relief but prepared to wait


The Yankees never made an offer to reliever David Robertson. (Seth Wenig/AP)

SAN DIEGO –  The Toronto Blue Jays arrived at the Winter Meetings focused on ways of bolstering a thin bullpen, but unwilling to force the issue by rushing into a deal they might regret.

The pitching market has been particularly slow league-wide, which is one reason the Blue Jays have not yet strengthened their most glaring weakness. General manager Alex Anthopoulos has zero offers out to free agents.

“We like a lot of players, we just like them at a certain price,” Anthopoulos said. “So if we end up waiting, we end up waiting.”

Anthopoulos, who’s not a fan of trying to get work done at the Winter Meetings, says it’s telling that he hasn’t made firm offers.

“That’s not to say that things might not change tomorrow or the day after,” he said. “At this stage if we felt there was something that made sense for us we’d be aggressive for it, but clearly we’re not close to that point.”

Many in the industry expect Jon Lester’s decision could impact the entire pitching market, yet it’s not clear if the free agent will choose between his suitors before week’s end. Andrew Miller’s four-year, $36 million deal could create some movement in the market, but an elite reliever of his calibre doesn’t exactly have many comparables.

“You look at the season he had, I don’t know that there’s anyone you’d compare him to,” Anthopoulos said, citing Miller’s stuff, handedness and strikeout ability. “That’s why I think his contract is on an island.”

One potential comparable for Miller, free agent right-hander David Robertson, was linked to Toronto by Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, who wrote Saturday that the Blue Jays “love” him. Anthopoulos says that’s over-stating it.

“We don’t love anybody,” Anthopoulos said, before clarifying: “I love my wife and my kids.”

The Blue Jays like the idea of keeping left-handers Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup in setup roles, which is why they’re looking to add multiple relievers. While Steve Delabar and Ricky Romero have had success in the past, Anthopoulos acknowledges the Blue Jays can’t count on them in 2015.

Even if the Blue Jays choose to slow-play the relief market, they could look to address other needs in San Diego. They’d consider adding a starter “in the right case” after trading Sean Nolin, Kendall Graveman and J.A. Happ. That said, the rotation isn’t a priority in large part because Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris are big-league ready arms with upside.

After adding Russell Martin, Josh Donaldson, Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak, the Blue Jays like the way their lineup is taking shape. Second base remains a potential target area for the Blue Jays, who have approximately $119 million in salary commitments on the books for 2015.

The Blue Jays will also monitor options at first base in case an appealing player turns up. If there’s a deal to be had, Smoak could face competition at first. If not, Anthopoulos is comfortable relying on the group in place and adjusting in-season.

For now the GM will continue placing calls in case the right deal is out there. But after beginning the off-season with a flurry of moves, Anthopoulos seems prepared to wait and see for a change.

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