Blue Jays likely to be buyers at Trade Deadline
Toronto expected to add pieces as it makes push in competitive AL East
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have a lot of tough decisions to make in the weeks leading up to this year's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Faced with a starting rotation that has been decimated by injuries, general manager Alex Anthopoulos must decide whether to add pieces for a potential run at the postseason, or maintain the status quo with a developing core of young talent.
Anthopoulos has never been one to mortgage the future for a short-term fix, and there's no reason to believe that will change this season, but just how aggressive he will become in a seller's market remains to be seen.
"It's challenging, there's no doubt about it," Anthopoulos said recently. "But I'm sure if you sit with the other 29 GMs ... they have their own challenges. Other teams have had their position players go down. At the end of the day, you just put your head down and accept the challenge and do what you can.
"We can't get it fixed overnight. We're going to continue to try. I don't know when the next transaction will take place, but you have to continue to move forward."
Toronto's pitching staff actually began the year as a major strength for the club. Bolstered by a hot start from right-hander Brandon Morrow, the Blue Jays posted a 3.79 ERA in April as the offense was still trying to find its groove.
The strong production continued the following month, but by June, things took a turn for the worse. Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison were all lost to the disabled list within a span of four games, which left the Blue Jays without three-fifths of their starting rotation.
The sudden rash of injuries led to speculation Anthopoulos would do everything he could to bolster his starting squad. But just like anything else, those improvements would come with a cost, and it doesn't seem likely Anthopoulos would part with any of his top prospects to acquire a short-term rental.
That should eliminate the likes of Philadelphia's Cole Hamels and Milwaukee's Zack Greinke if either pitcher becomes available. Instead, the Blue Jays are expected to target pitchers who still have more than one year of control on their contract.
Anthopoulos doesn't discuss specific rumors with the media, but in recent weeks, Toronto has been linked to Chicago's Matt Garza and Houston's Wandy Rodriguez. Neither might be an intended target, but both are under contract through 2013, and they would be the type of pitcher that Anthopoulos would be more inclined to make a move on.
"The way the roster is constructed, we have, for the most part, control over our players," Anthopoulos said. "We have a core in place. Ideally you'd love to make a transaction for a player you'd have beyond 2012 that will allow you to do your best to win in 2012, but also have opportunities beyond that.
"That being said, we wouldn't rule out a good player who was only under control for 2012. In a perfect world, I would always prefer to take on a player with more control. It just fits more with what we're doing. But we aren't ruling out short-term players as well."
Anthopoulos is notoriously busy at this time of the year. In 2010, he pulled the trigger on a trade with Atlanta for shortstop Yunel Escobar. Last year, Anthopoulos orchestrated a complicated three-team deal to acquire outfielder Colby Rasmus from St. Louis.
Both players helped fill an obvious need, but also became part of the long-term future. Making a similar move for a pitcher will prove to be an even more daunting challenge, with the Blue Jays just one of multiple teams looking to add help before the Deadline.
Whatever Anthopoulos ends up deciding to do, it likely won't include a sell-off of his assets. The Blue Jays currently have club options on both outfielder Rajai Davis and veteran left-handed reliever Darren Oliver, which alleviates the concern of them departing as free agents without compensation.
Designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion is expected to be extended a qualifying offer at the end of the season, as the club looks to keep him in the fold with a multiyear deal. That leaves just Kelly Johnson and Jason Frasor as the key pending free agents, but the Blue Jays won't be pressed into making a move for either.
Which means all signs point to the Blue Jays becoming buyers at this year's Deadline. Anthopoulos won't deplete his farm system to do it, but with plenty of Minor League depth to work with, he'll at least be in on every deal involving a pitcher as the third-year GM explores each option.
"Expanded the pool -- I say yes, there's no doubt," Anthopoulos said. "Because we have more opportunities, there are more players down. There are certain players we would have committed to in that rotation either way, a lot of these guys because they're so young, they certainly have options.
"We'd get someone and option them to the Minor Leagues, but there's no question with these guys being out, it definitely opens up the pool a little bit. There may be some players that we would have looked at, but not been as serious about."