Shapiro: Rotation depth ‘a clear need’ for Blue Jays

Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro joins Prime Time Sports in studio to discuss the need for pitching depth within the organization and the type of player that would make them better.

Mark Shapiro believes the Toronto Blue Jays have a “championship-calibre team right now,” but that doesn’t mean they’re done adding.

The president and CEO of the Blue Jays joined Bob McCown and Arash Madani on Prime Time Sports Wednesday and was adamant that depth remains the team’s biggest need, especially on the mound.

“Because we do not have any triple-A prospect pitchers, how we figure out that depth scenario – trading for (Jesse) Chavez was a piece of that, the flexibility that (Drew) Storen gives us to look at other guys – we’ve got to creatively figure out how do we solve a depth issue,” Shapiro said on Sportsnet 590 The Fan. “How do we maintain enough of a starting pitching core that we can survive the grind of 162 games? I look at that as a clear need for us.”

Since taking over for Paul Beeston on Nov. 1, Shapiro and new general manager Ross Atkins have been busy adding arms to a pitching staff that lost starters David Price and Mark Buehrle to free agency. After re-signing Marco Estrada, the Jays traded for Chavez on Nov. 20, inked J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Nov. 27, and just last week acquired reliever Storen from the Washington Nationals in exchange to Ben Revere and a player to be named.

Shapiro says he’s happy with the players the Jays have, but is aware that avoiding injuries is all but impossible during the long MLB season.

“Depth is probably the overriding need for this team, because when you start to look at what do you do if you lose a guy for three, four weeks? There are a lot of spots where we don’t have the right championship-calibre alternative to keep that going,” he said. “I think that our team is good enough position-player wise that we can survive that — it happened last year at times — pitching wise, not so much. So it’s more urgent.”

Among the more intriguing pitchers still available is former Texas Rangers right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who became a free agent in November after declining a $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Rangers.

“He’s the kind of guy that would make us better. He’s the kind of guy you’d like to have,” Shapiro said when asked if Gallardo was the type of pitcher the Jays might be looking at. “Whether or not, from a resource perspective, we still have enough to make a move like that, I think that’s still a variable that exists. But we do have some flexibility still. Thinking about how we use those resources is still a question.”

The 29-year-old Gallardo went 13-11 last season with a 3.42 ERA over 184.1 innings in 33 starts with the Rangers. Due to the rejected qualifying offer, any team that signs Gallardo would be forced to give up a draft pick, which Shapiro acknowledged as a key variable.

“It doesn’t matter enough to say you’re not going to make a decision, it just matters that you factor that in,” he said. “You look at that as not necessarily a cash value, but we can put a value on that pick and we’re an organization that at this point has to be — outside of the winning at this moment — our focus has to be an obsessive focus on infusing talent.”

“To me it’s just a premium. That’s a premium you’re paying on top of the salary giving up that draft pick.”

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