Blue Jays: What comes next after the Winter Meetings?

TORONTO, CANADA - NOVEMBER 2: Mark Shapiro speaks to the media as he is introduced as president of the Toronto Blue Jays during a press conference on November 2, 2015 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, CANADA - NOVEMBER 2: Mark Shapiro speaks to the media as he is introduced as president of the Toronto Blue Jays during a press conference on November 2, 2015 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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The Blue Jays added to their starting rotation during the Winter Meetings by signing Tanner Roark, but their work is far from done this off-season. What comes next?

If I’m giving some credit where it’s due, then I’ll give a small tip of the cap to Ross Atkins and the Blue Jays’ front office. I was one of many folks who felt like they couldn’t leave the Winter Meetings without a new starting pitching in their stables, and they managed to get Tanner Roark under contract for two years, and 24 million. Even if he’s not the ace that the team covets, he’ll certainly help over the next two seasons.

That said, there’s a palpable feeling that the Blue Jays are far from done when it comes to their roster build this off-season, and it remains to be seen how true that is.

If we’re asking where the Blue Jays go from here after the Winter Meetings, the direction really hasn’t changed much, even after Roark’s signing. They could still use another starting pitcher, and ideally they’ll be able to find an upgrade for centre field, someone to help shore up first base/designated hitter, and hopefully some added depth to the bullpen. That sounds pretty much like the off-season checklist did a week ago, although you can probably scratch off the need for “multiple” starters at this point after they agreed to terms with Roark, brought back Matt Shoemaker, and traded for Chase Anderson.

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There have been plenty of discussion around finding a more top-of-the-rotation starter, and the Blue Jays are reportedly in on the bidding for Hyun-Jin Ryu, who remains available. With both the Angels and Dodgers missing out on Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, the assumption is that both teams will make a serious bid for the Korean southpaw, and will likely do the same for Madison Bumgarner as well. That could wipe out the Blue Jays’ chances of getting Ryu to come north of the border, but I still think it comes down to the best contract, at least from the reports we’re hearing floating around the media.

If the Blue Jays miss out on Ryu, personally I’d like to see them make a serious pursuit of Dallas Keuchel as well, but he could be another highly coveted starter on the quickly dwindling market. In that case, it’s entirely possible that the Blue Jays turn to the trade market to look for one more starting pitcher, or perhaps to fill the other stated needs as well. Assistant GM Joel Sheehan told Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith as much on Thursday.

While it’s thrown an interesting variable into the off-season that the free agent market has been moving pretty quickly, there’s a good chance things could slow down until the new year now that the Winter Meetings are over. That doesn’t mean that the Blue Jays can sit back and wait for 2020 before they pick things back up, and this off-season has been far from predictable, so maybe the work needs to get done before the holidays in order to make a significant difference for the 2020 roster.

What will be interesting is seeing how hard the Blue Jays press for roster improvements from here. In theory, they could have a full outfield with Randal Grichuk, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Teoscar Hernandez and the rest of their depth, and they could fill out a rotation and a bullpen with what they have. That said, for all of the talk about significant improvement, it feels like sticking with the status quo from here shouldn’t be an option.

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In reality the Blue Jays have a little less than three months to add talent to the roster, and with a lot of moving parts across the league, there could be plenty of opportunities that haven’t materialized just yet. That said, if we’ve learned anything from the way the off-season has gone so far, chances are Atkins and Shapiro will need to look for answers to their roster questions sooner than later.

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