After three years at the helm of the Toronto Blue Jays, Alex Anthopoulos has put his personal stamp on the organization. Unfortunately, the fruits of his labors have been in building one of the league’s best minor league systems.
During the long winter heading into the 2013 season. Anthopoulos is going to have to put an emphasized effort into rebuilding the major league club as well.
Specifically, the Toronto general manager is going to have to focus on the starting rotation, and building it into a weapon that will support a fairly strong offensive ball club.
“The focus is really on the rotation,” Anthopoulos recently said. “It doesn’t mean we’re not going to look to get better, offensively or in the bullpen, but you see teams that have pitched but didn’t score as many runs and [remained] in contention.”
Unfortunately, this winter featured a lackluster field of available starting pitchers. I’ve already had my say about Toronto’s need to not only pursue, but win Zack Greinke this offseason. However, outside of Greinke, the field is drowning with guys like Ryan Dempster (37-years-old), Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse, Hiroki Kuroda, and Anibal Sanchez. Dan Haren could also become a viable target if the Angels choose to decline his $15.5 million option, as they are expected to do.
Not exactly a field that inspires much excitement.
With that in mind, Anthopoulos may need to revert back to his trading ways and improve the rotation by sacrificing some of the talent he has built up in the minors.
Matt Garza is a name that will pop-up this winter, especially since the Cubs were trying to move him at the deadline prior to an injury ending his season. Theo Epstein may be asking for the sky here though, and the Jays may be relunctant to pay a high prospect-price for one season of Garza. Still, he has had success in the American League East and could bear watching this winter.
Like Garza, Josh Johnson is another pitcher that will get a lot of trade buzz. The Marlins were in full fire-sale mode at the deadline, but no teams could meet their price on Johnson. He’s due $13.75 million in 2013 and then becomes a free agent, making it unlikely that he’ll return to Toronto. That makes his adequate trade fodder.
Mariners lefty Jason Vargas quietly put a solid campaign together in 2012, comfortably hidden behind the shadow of Felix Hernandez. The Mariners are not going to move King Felix, but with some quality young arms coming up in the system, they may float Vargas out there for potential suitors. It would be pure speculation to determine whether Vargas can translate the success at Safeco to much friendlier confines of Rogers Centre, but adding a solid, innings-eater like Vargas to the rotation may be a solid move, yet cost-effective move for Anthopoulos, even if it lacks headline appeal.
Undoubtedly, more arms will become available as we push into the winter, and Anthopoulos has shown a knack for squeezing a quality trade out of thin air. It’ll all come down to what the Blue Jays want to spend to improve.
Now, it’s just a matter of transforming speculation into action.